Blue Hens expect to be more than Devlin
By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Newark, DE (Sports Network) -
OK, now, the Delaware offense consists of quarterback Pat Devlin and, well, uh, um ...
Yes, the answers don't necessarily roll off the tongue.
Don't be mistaken, however, UD will be much more than PD this season. In fact, the Blue Hens will have to be if they are going to accomplish their goal of being an elite team again in CAA Football and, ultimately, the Football Championship Subdivision.
Last year's trying season of injuries and youthful mistakes has led to a seasoned lineup for ninth-year head coach K.C. Keeler. After his squad shook off the early rust that often goes with a season-opening game, Devlin threw for three touchdowns and the Blue Hens shut out Division II West Chester for the second straight year, 31-0 before 19,421 sweaty fans Thursday night at Tubby Raymond Field.
Quite frankly, the game ball belonged more to Delaware's defense, which was smothering in allowing only 115 yards on 57 West Chester plays. Sixth-year senior linebacker Matt Marcorelle returned from injury and the veteran secondary of Anthony Bratton, Anthony Walters and Tyrone Grant was ridiculously good with three interceptions.
But everyone around UD is so anxious for the All-America Devlin to play like the next Joe Flacco that the intrigue around the team is how much the rest of the offense can support Devlin's starring role. Against West Chester, it looked like the unit has come of age a year after the Blue Hens went 6-5 and two years after - gulp - the low point of Keeler's tenure, a 4-8 record in 2008.
"I think we know each other better," said Devlin, the Penn State transfer who is one of 17 returning starters. "I think that turns into better chemistry on the field. And I think we're having more fun when we're out here just because we're kind of in each other's heads and we know what each other person is going to do.
"Just overall, there's more confidence in the offense, more confidence in the guys around me. I think everyone believes that everyone is going to get their job done."
The Blue Hens' offensive line features four returning starters, led by right tackle Kevin Uhll and his 27 straight starts. New tailback Andrew Pierce is a grayshirt freshman, but was on campus last spring, impressed in the spring game and has raced past last year's talented freshmen, David Hayes and Leon Jackson, on the depth chart. The receiving corps is so deep that it's hard for anybody to focus on just one or two of them.
"We did want to come out strong today, and I think we did that overall," Devlin said. "I think there are some things that we can improve on (two lost fumbles, six penalties) and we'll learn that in film.
"I think a lot of the guys showed it tonight. You know, Rob Jones is not only a good wideout, he can return punts, return kicks as well. Mark Mackey is a really good player on the outside, just as Phil Thaxton is. You saw that, make a 5-yard catch and turn it into a touchdown."
A half dozen or so NFL scouts were in attendance to watch Devlin (three have put in requests for all seven Delaware home games). He was out of the game in less than three quarters, a relative peace offering to West Chester when the score was 31-0.
Devlin completed 14 of 23 passes for 163 yards and spread the wealth with touchdowns to Nihja White (7 yards), Tommy Crosby (15 yards) and Thaxton (23 yards). Meanwhile, Pierce rushed for 119 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown, on 13 carries in his first career start.
"We gave A.P. (Pierce) an opportunity today and he was as advertised," Keeler said. "We really felt during the course of training camp he was proving that he needed to be our number one back. Gregg Perry, the running back coach, was really adamant about we need a guy that we can give the ball to 25 times a game. And A.P. is that kind of guy - 200-pounder, great speed, catches the ball in the backfield, doesn't make a lot of mistakes. So for a grayshirt freshman, he had a pretty good day."
"I've been waiting for this day to happen," Pierce said. "My line blocked great today. I ran well. I'm just happy for that, I'm happy for this win.
"I've talked about it before," Pierce added. "Playing with a guy that has a good chance of going to the NFL is going to be a great opportunity, teaching me things that I didn't know. It's just a great opportunity for me."
Delaware put the game away late in the second quarter with a third touchdown that flashed images the Blue Hens hope to see all season. Flashed was the optimum word because the three-play drive lasted a mere 46 seconds.
On the second play, Pierce sprinted for a 34-yard, across-the-field run to the West Chester 15. On the next play, Devlin tossed a 15-yard out pattern to Crosby in the end zone for an easy score and a 21-0 Blue Hens' lead.
It was impressive, quick and more than just Devlin.
Delaware, ranked 16th in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25, will get a much bigger test next Saturday when ninth-ranked South Dakota State comes across the country for a big non-conference showdown.
Rest assured the Jackrabbits will be familiar with plenty of Blue Hens besides Pat Devlin. They'll need to be.