NEWARK, DEL. — Delaware's defense had come through time after time Saturday. It only made sense it would need to once again on the game's final play.
Three seconds remained on the clock as the Blue Hens clung to a six-point lead over visiting New Hampshire, setting up one game-deciding play from the 22-yard line. As New Hampshire quarterback Max Brosmer's pass fell safely incomplete out of the right side of the end zone, it secured a 16-10 CAA win for Delaware before 16,730 fans at Delaware Stadium.
“It's definitely an effort that we're able to produce each week,” defensive tackle Cam Kitchen said after the Blue Hens allowed only 251 yards of total offense. “We have a lot of guys that are very hungry.”
Incomplete. No. 23 Delaware beats No. 24 New Hampshire, 16-10. pic.twitter.com/lxhU9fHtbk— Sean Grogan (@Sean_CecilWhig) October 19, 2019
The two previous New Hampshire drives in the fourth quarter ended with Delaware takeaways. Kitchen forced and recovered a fumble with 4:56 left in the game on what proved to be the Wildcats' penultimate possession. On the New Hampshire drive before that, the Wildcats moved 53 yards down to field to the Blue Hens' 12-yard line, only for freshman cornerback Amonte Strothers to record an interception.
“Defensively, we just rose to the occasion on numerous occasions. Obviously, the big interception by Amonte Strothers was about as big as if not the biggest play of the game down there in the red zone,” head coach Danny Rocco said. “Cam probably played his best game of the year – a strip sack, another sack, a batted ball. We were more disruptive defensively today, we were in their backfield a little bit more today and had a few more negative plays against their offense.”
Kitchen's fumble recovery set up a 29-yard field goal from Jake Roth that brought the score to its 16-10 final with 2:46 left. Roth also made a 33-yarder in the third quarter. Those two kicks accounted for all the second-half points either team managed.
“It was an ugly game in a lot of ways,” Rocco said. “We wanted it to be that. We said at the beginning of the week that we were going to get get big and run the ball.”
Delaware had two running backs surpass 100 yards rushing Saturday, led by 103 from DeJoun Lee. Will Knight finished just behind Lee with 101 yards.
“A lot of people ask how it is to play with Will and have that 1-2,” Lee said. “We're back and forth. It's selfless. We want to win. We want to drive the ball the best we can. When one of us is tired, there's no hesitation to go out. It's 'I'm tired, I'm going to get myself out and get Will in.' Or Will is tired, get me in. It's constant and I feel like it batters the defense because you have two backs that are solid and that can continuously go 100 percent right at you.”
Lee scored the Blue Hens' lone touchdown of the game with 1:11 left in the first half. His 9-yard touchdown run was set up by a 39-yard rush from Knight two plays prior. Delaware's five-play, 74-yard drive followed the Wildcats' only touchdown of the game. New Hampshire's 10 points followed second-quarter interceptions thrown by Hens backup quarterback Pat Kehoe on consecutive drives.
With starting quarterback Nolan Henderson injured, Lee knew the heavy workload he and Knight would receive.
“It was going to be a dog fight. We were going to pound it,” Lee said. “Will and I talked about, 'If we have a good game, this team has a good game.' Obviously, the O-line had a great game. It helped us really do a good job. I went in there and really congratulated those guys because they did a helluva job. We knew what we were getting into. We talked about it and were excited about it. That's what football's about.”
Delaware had lost its two previous games, including a demoralizing 42-7 blowout at the hands of conference rival Elon one week earlier.
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig