Oct. 2, 2010

Courtesy of Delaware Athletics

On a day when University of Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin played just two snaps and Andrew Pierce found rushing yards tough to come by, it was the reliable Blue Hen defense that rode to the rescue once again.

The No. 5 ranked Blue Hens remained unbeaten (5-0, 2-0 CAA) thanks to a superb defensive effort in the second half and two fourth-quarter field goals by Mike Perry, the second 28-yarder down the middle with just three seconds left to play, on their way to a hard-fought 13-10 Colonial Athletic Association football victory over No. 3 James Madison at sunny Bridgeforth Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Delaware, which won for the first time at James Madison since 2001 and for the first time in four trips to Bridgeforth Stadium under head coach K.C. Keeler, posted its third victory over a top-five ranked opponent this season and put itself in the CAA drivers seating heading into conference home contests with Maine and Rhode Island the next two weeks at Delaware Stadium.

James Madison (3-1, 0-1 CAA), which posted a victory over nationally-ranked Virginia Tech earlier this season, lost for the first time this season and had a seven-game win streak dating back to last season snapped.
This all came down to a one-snap ball-game,” said Keeler, who improved to 16-10 all-time vs. Top 10 opponents and led his team to its fourth CAA road win in the last five outings since last season. You had two great football teams battling today and our kids showed a lot courage in pulling this one out. You take the fact that we were playing with our number two quarterback (Trevor Sasek) and they really got after us, but we responded and rallied around him. It was a tremendous effort by our guys to come down and in here.”

Sasek, the Hens redshirt freshman quarterback, was pressed into action early when Devlin, a Walter Payton Award candidate, was hit hard after handing off on only the second offensive play of the day for Delaware and suffered a concussion, ending his day. But Sasek, who led the Hens to a 30-6 win over Duquesne earlier this season with Devlin out with a fractured write, rose to the occasion once again. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 124 yards and engineered the winning drive that saw the Hens go 69 yards on 14 plays to set up Perrys game-winning kick.

This feels amazing,” said the 6-6 Sasek, who shook off two early fumbles by scoring the Hens only touchdown of the day when sneaked in from one-yard out to give UD a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. I was definitely more confident (during the last drive) than I was in the beginning of the game. That first drive didnt go so well, but my teammates calmed me down and really backed me up. I just knew I had to come and do my job.”

Perry, in his first year as the Blue Hen kicker, also did his job in a big way. After missing three extra points and two field goal attempts earlier this season, the junior was perfect on Saturday. His career-long 47-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter capped a 39-yard drive and knotted the score at 10-10. His winning kick marked the first time since Oct. 10, 1987 that Delaware had won a game on a kick in the final minute of regulation. The previous honor belonged to Don OBrien, who helped Delaware post a 37-34 victory over Massachusetts at Delaware Stadium on another 28-yarder with seven seconds remaining.

I just stayed focused and followed through,” said Perry of his winning kick. Its all just muscle memory. It was just my turn to step up today and Im glad I did. Hitting the first one maybe gave me a little bit of confidence, but I knew I just had to do my job.”

While Sasek and Perry stepped up to do their part, once again top honors went to the Delaware defense, which entered the game ranked No. 1 among all NCAA Division I teams with a paltry 5.5 points allowed per game as well as a No. 1 ranking in interceptions (10) and a third place ranking in total defense (231.2 yards per game).

The Hens, who got 11 tackles from strong safety Anthony Bratton, 10 stops and an interception from free safety Darryl Jones, and 10 stops from linebacker Paul Worrilow, allowed James Madison just 69 of its 283 total yards in the second half. All the Dukes could manage on the day was a one-yard scoring run by Scott Noble that tied the game at 7-7 with 9:43 left in the second quarter and a 20-yard field goal by Dixon Wright just 59 seconds before halftime.

Nobles touchdown was set up by a 47-yard jaunt down the middle to the Delaware six-yard line by Jamal Sullivan, who finished with a game-high 93 yards rushing but managed only 11 of that after the break. James Madison, which struggled offensively in a 10-3 win over Liberty a week ago, gained more than nine yards on just one play in the second half and never got closer than the Delaware 49-yard line during four second-half possession.

James Madison quarterback Drew Dudzik completed 12 of 20 passes for 122 yards and had a key turnover early in the fourth quarter when he overthrew a receiver and Delawares Jone easily picked it off at the Blue Hen 21-yard line. Two possessions later the Hens put together the winning drive.

Delaware, which managed just 206 total yards itself for the game, had the chance to score early but wasted a golden opportunity when James Madisons Kerby Long muffed a bouncing punt just in front of his own goalline. The ball bounced right into the hands of Delaware freshman coverman Jake Giusti, giving the Hens the ball at the three-yard line.

However the Hens could not capitalize as Pierce was dropped for a two-yard loss and Sasek followed an incomplete pass with a fumbled pitch. James Madison was whistled for an offside penalty on the play to give Delaware another chance, but Sasek fumbled again on the next play and the Dukes Ronnell Brown recovered. JMU then drove to the Delaware 30-yard line but could not capitalize themselves as Wrights 47-yard field goal attempt was wide to the right.

Later in the second half, the Hens had another good opportunity to score when they drove the ball to the JMU 16-yard line but could not convert as Sasek, looking for a heavily-covered Rob Jones, was picked off by Jakarie Jackson in the end zone.

Delaware, off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 2007 and for the 12 time in school history, will look next week to improve to 6-0 the first time since the 2003 squad started out 9-0 on the way to winning the national championship. The Hens will host CAA foe Maine at 1 p.m. at Delaware Stadium.