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Elon quarterback Davis Cheek wasn’t himself last week against New Hampshire. That was obvious to anyone who watched the game, or even looked at the game’s final statistics.
Cheek had thrown 240 passes without being intercepted until he had a pass picked off late in the third quarter of a loss to James Madison. Then, the following week, he was intercepted four times — three times in the first half — in a 26-10 loss to New Hampshire. Two of his three first-half interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
“It’s poor decisions,” Cheek said following the New Hampshire loss. “It’s understanding when to drive the ball versus when to hang it up, and it’s young-guy mistakes, not older-guy mistakes. Gotta clean it up.”
Elon fans are undoubtedly hoping Cheek will look like his old self when the Phoenix travel to 15th-ranked Delaware for a Colonial Athletic Association game Saturday. Elon (2-4, 1-2 CAA) will be trying to end a three-game losing streak.
Cheek, who sustained a season-ended torn ACL in the first quarter of a 28-16 loss to Delaware last season, enters Saturday’s game having completed 88 of 161 passes for 1,109 yards and nine touchdowns this year.
DYK:@NolanHendersonn set a program record with 9️⃣8️⃣ straight pass attempts without an INT to start a career. Andy Hall has the previous record of 96. #BleedBlue302 #BlueHens pic.twitter.com/9bZyPdDsfV— Delaware Football (@DelawareFB) October 9, 2019
“Their quarterback is really, really good,” Delaware coach Danny Rocco said. “Statistically, he may have had his worst game here just this past week, but I think that’s an outlier. Just kind of throw it out, flush it down. He’s really good. Really talented.”
Delaware (3-2, 1-0 CAA) has a quarterback who knows how to protect the football as well. Since winning the starting job for Delaware’s game against Penn — the team’s fourth game of the season — redshirt sophomore Nolan Henderson has completed 48 of 78 passes for 532 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
Henderson, who played in three games last season, holds the school record for consecutive passes without an interception (98).
“He’s athletic,” Elon head coach Tony Trisciani said. “He’s a winner. He comes from a great program. He’s been extremely efficient — seven touchdowns, no interceptions. He’s a good quarterback.
“This game is big. It’s the next game.”
The Long Way Home
Of Elon’s 18 offensive scoring drives this season, 15 have been at least 69 yards. Thirteen of the 18 drives have been 75 yards or longer.
“It’s staying balanced run/pass-wise,” Trisciani said when he was asked about his team’s ability to put together long drives. “It’s staying on schedule. It’s avoiding the negative plays, and also overcoming the negative plays. We’ve been able to overcome some penalties and some sacks on those drives.
“When you watch (Delaware’s) film and you’re looking for explosive plays against them, it’s a pretty short cut-up. Those guys do a great job on that side of the ball.”
The Delaware offense, meanwhile, has 17 plays of 25 yards or more this season, an average of nearly four per game.
“Defensively their scheme (3-3-5) makes them challenging,” Rocco said. “They’ll do a lot of different things with that three-man front and create a lot of different types of pressures and combinations of rushers. They’ve always been disruptive defensively.”
The Delaware program has 701 victories. Yale (907), Harvard (876), Penn (856), Princeton (833), North Dakota State (730), and Dartmouth (707) are the only other FCS programs with at least 700 wins. Overall, there are 34 Division I programs, including 27 at the FBS level, that have won at least 700 games.
- With the exception of Delaware, Elon has defeated every team in the Colonial Athletic Association since it joined the conference in 2014. Elon is 0-3 against Delaware.
- Delaware, which didn’t play last weekend, has been penalized a league-low 13 times for 146 yards this season.
- Elon and Delaware are both even in turnover margin. The Phoenix has seven takeaways (one fumble and six interceptions) and the Blue Hens have five (two fumbles and three interceptions).
- Delaware ranks last among the 124 FCS teams in sacks with one. Every other team has at least three. The Blue Hens have allowed 19 sacks, which is the most of any CAA team. Elon has surrendered 18 sacks.
- Elon is ranked 12th (last) among CAA teams in total offense (293.8 yards per game). Elon is 11th in both scoring offense (20.8) and scoring defense (32.0).
- Delaware is 11th in the CAA in pass defense (264.0) and total defense (448.0).