NEWARK, Del. — All week long, coach Danny Rocco talked about enjoying the journey that the University of Delaware football game was on.
The Blue Hens are certainly going to enjoy Saturday night after a thrilling 28-16 upset of No. 6 Elon in front of nearly 20,000 on a beautiful afternoon at Delaware Stadium.
"We've been talking a lot as a team about home field dominance and those who have been around the game for a long time know how real that can be. We talked about how it starts with our student-athletes and the energy they bring and it carries into the crowd and that was certainly the case tonight," Rocco said. "Our crowd was phenomenal tonight. The energy in that stadium was absolutely felt on the field by our coaches and our players. What a tremendous night for Delaware football."
Senior Troy Reeder led a stifling defensive effort with 15 tackles, including a career-high five for a loss. Classmate Charles Bell wrapped up 10 tackles, while Ray Jones and Colby Reeder each finished with seven apiece. The Blue Hens defense limited the Elon rushing attack to just 113 on the day and 289 total on the afternoon. The Phoenix were only able to find the endzone on one of their 15 drives in the contest.
"We wanted to set the tone tonight and we knew we had to bring energy all night long," Reeder said. "Elon's an incredibly talented team that can hurt you in all facets so we talked about locking in as a defense and really executing our game plan."
Junior Pat Kehoe finished 16-of-30 for 144 yards passing and three TDs, including two to senior Charles Scarff, who finished with five catches for 43 yards. Senior Kani Kane was the hammer for the Blue Hens, pounding his way to 124 yards on 19 carries and a TD. Classmate Vinny Papale led the way with 58 yards receiving, including what ended up being the game-winning TD.
"All year long, we've talked about the importance of responding and finishing and tonight was no different," Papale said. "When they got the field goal in the third quarter to take the lead, we knew we had to stick to the game plan and respond and that's exactly what we were able to do."
Elon would take momentum early, picking up three first half turnovers and jumping out to a 10-0 lead. A huge stop deep in Elon's own territory late in the first half set up Delaware for a scoring drive heading into the half.
That's exactly what the Blue Hens would do, driving 53 yards on six plays in just 51 seconds, capping off with an unbelievable leaping catch from Scarff to make it a 10-7 game at the break.
Delaware would keep momentum by taking its first possession of the second half for 69 yards on seven plays, and yet again another Scarff TD to grab its first lead of the day at 14-10.
Elon would respond with two field goals of their own, but once again the Blue Hens would show their resilience.
With under 10 minutes to play in the game, Kehoe ushered a drive of six plays, 68 yards in just 2:44, capped off with a beautiful throw to the corner of the endzone to Papale to push the Blue Hens in front, 21-16.
Reeder and the defensive unit would lock in from there, forcing a three and out from the Phoenix and Kane went to work, handling the heavy work load on a six-play, 53 yard drive, which ended with his two-yard TD run and a 28-16 lead for the Blue Hens.
That was all the defense needed as the Phoenix would not get into Delaware territory the rest of the contest en route to the upset victory.
The Blue Hens head on the road to take on the Wildcats of New Hampshire in Durham. Game time next Saturday is set for 3:30 p.m.