NEWARK — For six weeks, the Delaware football team has been walking a tight rope.
Even when the Blue Hens have won, coach Dave Brock has reminded people that their margin for error is paper thin.
That was obvious two weeks ago when Delaware finished with some big statistical advantages over William & Mary but still needed a game-ending field to edge the Tribe by a point.
It then turned around and bit the Hens on Saturday when they couldn’t overcome their own mistakes in a somewhat shocking 20-0 loss to previously-winless Rhode Island.
The setback clearly showed that the Hens (1-2 Colonial Athletic Association, 2-4 overall) have a lot of work still to do with an open date this Saturday.
“A frustrating, frustrating day,” coach Dave Brock called it on Monday. “We’ve got to fix it this week in the off week.
“We just never got any momentum. We never did anything that caused ourselves to get on a roll. We battled like crazy on defense. ... We had a good week of practice. The kids were ready to play. I didn’t feel like we had any effort issues. We didn’t play very well, which is disappointing. We need to fix that.
“The bye week certainly is welcome,” he added. “We need to get healthy. We’re very, very banged up.”
Delaware actually ran for a solid 192 yards in the first half against URI. But the Hens also missed a pair of field goals while quarterback Joe Walker threw two of his three interceptions as the Hens trailed 10-0 at intermission.
That’s the biggest halftime Delaware has faced this season — including the North Carolina game when it was behind by just six after two quarters.
Brock said the Hens “pressed” in the second half, especially after an interception return for a touchdown put the Hens down 17-0 in the third quarter.
With inexperience both at QB as well as wide receiver and tight end, Delaware’s passing-game production continues to be an issue.
Out of the 123 teams in Division I FCS, the Hens are second-to-last in passing yards per game at 76.5. They now have five interceptions against just two TD passes — one of which was thrown by receiver Diante Cherry.
Brock said that two of the interceptions, which went off receivers’ hands, “really should have been caught.”
But Brock also said that Delaware made too mistakes in the running game on Saturday.
“We didn’t play very well on the perimeter in the run game,” he said. “We lost too many one-on-one situations from a tackling perspective at running back — which we hadn’t lost in a couple weeks. We want to run the ball and be a line-of-scrimmage team. To do that, you’ve got to get the ball down in the red zone, you’ve got to get it in the end zone.
“Our margin of error is very, very small and we made a lot of errors. It makes it very, very hard for us to win a game when we don’t play well.”
It didn’t help that the Hens were also called for a season-high nine penalties totaling 120 yards.
The thing that was especially painful about the loss to URI was that Delaware – if it had won — could have been 2-1 in the CAA, 3-3 overall with a lot to play for heading into the second half of the season.
Now the Hens have to win four of their last five contests just to finish with a winning record.
And Delaware still has to face No. 19 New Hampshire and then No. 5 James Madison.
With only four seniors in the playing rotation, though, it’s not like the Hens are going to give up.
“I think the attitude is going to be very good,” said Brock. “We’re going to take this as a teachable moment. We’re going to move on and we’re going to put a team on the field that’s ready to win against New Hampshire.”
In four of its five games vs. FCS teams, Delaware’s defense has surrendered just one touchdown. ... Sophomore linebacker Charles Bell now has 51 tackles, 22 more than anyone else on the squad. ... Despite making the game-winner against William & Mary, kicker Frank Raggo has missed four of his last five field goal attempts. The redshirt freshman made his first six attempts of the season.
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or email@example.com.