Playing in the national championship game is nothing new for Delaware. The Fightin’ Blue Hens have six national titles to their name. They won the top trophy in 1946, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1979, and 2003. Obviously, no one on this year’s team has won a crown (they most recently played for a championship in 2007), but winning is a tradition at Delaware.
When you talk about the Blue Hens (12-2 this season), you have to start with their defense. Delaware has the top scoring defense in the country, allowing just 11.5 points per game. That also translates into a limited number of yards allowed as well. The Blue Hens give up only 277.4 yards per contest (166.4 through the air; 111 on the ground). That's the fifth lowest total in the FCS.
The defense is paced by linebackers Paul Worrilow, Andrew Harrison, and Matt Marcorelle. The three have combined for 271 tackles and 21.5 tackles for loss (including three and a half sacks). The Blue Hens have dangerous defensive backs to compliment the corps of linebackers. Keep your eyes peeled for Anthony Bratton (92 tackles; two interceptions), Tyrone Grant (76 tackles; five interceptions), and Anthony Walters (67 tackles; seven interceptions).
The Delaware offense is potent as well. The Fightin’ Blue Hens are guided by All-American quarterback Pat Devlin (he transferred from Penn State two years ago). The senior has thrown for 2,812 yards, 22 touchdowns, and just two interceptions this season. Devlin is one of the most accurate passers in the country, completing 68.3 percent of his throws. A top-notch QB is nothing new at Delaware. The Blue Hens have produced several NFL quarterbacks, including Rich Gannon and Joe Flacco.
The biggest offensive star for the Blue Hens is freshman running back Andrew Pierce. Many publications and websites have named him the national Freshman of the Year after he ran for 1,513 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Pierce is also dangerous as a receiver, bringing in 28 catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns. Expect to see David Hayes (44.5 yards per game) and Leon Jackson (23.2 ypg) get carries for Delaware as well.
The Fightin’ Blue Hens don’t have a standout wide receiver; instead they like the spread the wealth. Nijah White leads Delaware with 55 catches for 679 yards. Phillip Thaxton (45 receptions for 503 yards), Tommy Crosby (38 for 461), Mark Schenauer (34 for 492), and Rob Jones (28 for 391) all play a role in the air attack as well. Don't be surprised if you see tight end Colin Naugle get a target or two. He caught 13 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown this year.
Head coach K.C. Keeler uses a no-huddle, spread offense, so you should expect a quick pace of play in this football game. His name is being tossed around for the vacant job at the University of Connecticut, so Keeler is highly respected in the FCS ranks.
The Fightin’ Blue Hens pose plenty of problems for Eastern Washington (click here to read my EWU preview), but tough teams are nothing new for the Eagles. The Big Sky is ranked as one of the top conferences in the FCS every season and it was no different this year. Take from this what you want: Delaware has only lost twice this season; one of those defeats came against Villanova on November 20th. Eastern beat Villanova 41-31 three weeks ago to advance to the national championship.
Kickoff between Delaware and Eastern Washington is scheduled for 4pm on Friday. You can watch the championship game on ESPN2. We’ll have full coverage (highlights and postgame reaction) from Frisco on KREM 2 News at 10pm and 11pm. I’ll also be tweeting from the sideline during the game, so be sure to follow me @TLKREM2.
Enjoy the game!