3 & Out: Delaware gets in the mud with Saint Francis, comes out on top in home opener

Managing Sports Editor

As nonconference games go, this one had the edge of a storied rivalry.

The chippy play would have been befitting for some decades-long series, not one confined to matchups one can count on one hand.

Saint Francis and Delaware, in just their third meeting all-time, pushed and shoved to the finish, which favored the Blue Hens by a 42-14 score. Perhaps the pushing was figurative, too, as Delaware potentially pushed SFU’s buttons in the final minutes by continuing to throw the football downfield with freshman Daniel Lipovski in at quarterback and the score 42-14.

Delaware’s response to intense extracurriculars in its home opener leads off this edition of The Review’s 3 & Out series.

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Halftime address ignites Hens after slow start, big brawl

Delaware’s first 15 minutes played in Delaware Stadium this fall were scoreless, as the Red Flash took away the Blue Hens’ tries in the vertical passing game. With Zach Marker unavailable, starting quarterback Ryan O’Connor was in for the long haul Saturday night, but struggled to find much in the way of open receivers early. Delaware’s first two drives ended with Ryan Kost punts from Blue Hen territory.

“It’s a common theme against us,” Delaware Head Football Coach Ryan Carty said postgame of Saint Francis’s defensive approach at the start. “Because of what we do on offense, we got extremely different looks from them than they had shown on tape all of last season, against us last season and in the first two games [of 2023]. And so it took us a second to kinda settle in and figure out what they were doing.

“They were playing a lot more zone, a lot deeper, especially on first downs, than they had shown against other people. I think they were worried about our speed, which eventually showed up when we were running the ball.”

Delaware’s best run of the first half was tailback Marcus Yarns’ 30-yard sprint to the end zone that gave the Blue Hens their first points. They trailed 7-0 at the time.

“I think we had to get that started first,” Carty said about the running game. “And it wasn’t what our plan was going out.”

After the 30-yard score, Yarns was pushed from behind by an SFU defender, and the late hit past the goal line drew an unnecessary roughness flag enforced on the ensuing kickoff.

The incident was foreshadowing, as Yarns’ second touchdown, coming on a four-yard shovel pass from O’Connor, preceded a melee in and past the back of the end zone.

The brawl drew coaches onto the field to pull their players from the scrum that hit the turf, and it appeared that Carty at one point moved a Saint Francis player out of his and his players’ way. The officials’ rulings on flags thrown were offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties by each team, but Delaware got the brunt of the call with the ejection of running back Kyron Cumby on a flagrant foul. 

When asked about anything said or adjusted at halftime in the home locker room, given Delaware’s uptick of offense in the second half that began with the third quarter’s 14-0 Hens run, Carty took the opportunity to throw shade on the officiating of the game’s dirtier moments.

“There were some things said,” Carty said after a pause and a breath. “…I think there were some things that went on on the field out there that I wasn’t extremely happy about. I think there were some plays made against our guys that weren’t necessarily being handled well, and so there were some things said at halftime that I think riled the troops up a little bit, enough to go out there and play under control and be smart and make sure that we were the ones that were the beneficiaries of that energy.” 

Carty was snubbed of a postgame handshake by Saint Francis coach Chris Villarrial. Instead, Carty said, he was left only to shake with Red Flash defensive coordinator Scott Lewis.

Villarrial made no effort to approach midfield as the teams, including Carty, converged there. When asked how long he remained in limbo with his postgame escort in some kind of anticipation of a head coach greeting, Carty was matter-of-fact.

“I was looking for the band,” Carty said. “I wanted to go sing the alma mater.”      

Yarns seemingly cementing RB1 status

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For the third game in as many weeks, Yarns found paydirt for Delaware with a touchdown scamper of at least 30 yards. With the streak, Yarns has established his identity as a threat to score from well beyond the red zone.

University of New Hampshire Head Football Coach Rick Santos’s team is the next squad tasked with containing Yarns.

“He’s a complete package,” Santos said in describing Yarns on Monday. “He’s strong at the point of attack. I think the one thing that’s evident, he has really good vision, so he knows when to kind of be patient, wait for his blockers, but then he only needs a little bit of a crease, and he has a home-run threat.”

Yarns’ 110.7 rushing yards per game rank second in Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) Football. His five touchdowns on the season have him scoring 10 points per game for the Blue Hens, which is third-best in the conference. 

“He has top-end speed, short-range quickness and elusiveness,” Santos said.

Yarns’ 12 carries against Saint Francis netted 139 yards for an average of 11.6 yards per rush. His aforementioned average YPG on the season are eighth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Yarns’ season yards per carry of 11.4 would contend for first in the FCS if he met the NCAA leaderboard’s total run attempt minimum of 30 (for those who have played three games) to qualify. Yarns stands at 29 rushing touches through Delaware’s first three tilts. 

On Saturday, Yarns benefited from the path cleared by Delaware’s offensive line consistently. The experienced starting unit up front has improved in run-blocking over the course of Carty’s tenure.

“They’ve always had big, massive, kind of physically imposing offensive linemen,” Santos said about Delaware in his scout of Yarns. “That’s been a staple of Delaware over the years, and nothing’s changed based on the tape-watching I had yesterday.”

Familiar foe (among coaches, at least) on the way for Top 25 showdown

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In New Hampshire’s impending visit, its first to Newark since 2019, Delaware’s staff has something of a reunion on tap. After graduating from Delaware, Carty began his coaching career at UNH, serving as the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for six of his 11 years in Durham, New Hampshire. Carty’s prior roles under UNH head coach Sean McDonnell included position coaching of wide receivers and tight ends.

“No shock that the program is where it is right now,” Carty said Monday about No. 11-ranked New Hampshire “kind of continuing in the footsteps of Coach McDonnell and putting [Santos’s] own spin on it.”

The Blue Hens enter Saturday’s game eight spots behind UNH in the STATS Perform FCS Top 25. A Delaware win could vault it into the poll’s top 15, where the Hens could then be set up to reside throughout October, judging by their schedule. A bye week follows the contest hosting the Wildcats.

All that, though, is several bridges too far for a Delaware team that has just one CAA game under its belt, a 37-13 win at struggling Stony Brook (which is now 0-3 overall) in Week 1.

Blue Hens quarterbacks coach Sean Goldrich played QB for Carty at New Hampshire, adding to the Hens’ UNH-coaching-tree flavor. 

After an emotional game putting away a rough Saint Francis bunch, Delaware stares down another home bout, this one packed with FCS playoff implications.

“Every game, especially at home, should be an emotional game,” Carty said after the SFU win. “I don’t care who you’re playing. And that’s what we need to get across to our team and our fans and everybody that wants to come in here and play us because this is a place where you’re gonna have to fight for four quarters if you wanna come get a win in Delaware Stadium.”

Jacob Letnaunchyn/THE REVIEW

Delaware’s game against fellow nationally ranked CAA Football member New Hampshire can be heard live on 91.3 FM WVUD. Daniel Steenkamer and Sean Fox have the call beginning at 5:45 p.m. for the 6:00 p.m. kickoff. Saturday’s contest also marks Band Day at Delaware Stadium with local high school bands joining the University of Delaware Marching Band on the field at halftime.

Follow @udreview on Instagram for updates on gameday.

Jacob Letnaunchyn/THE REVIEW

Originally posted 2023-09-18 21:05:30.