Delaware was dealt a blow last weekend in more ways than one.
Not only did the Blue Hens suffer a 42-7 setback against Elon, but they also lost starting quarterback Nolan Henderson in the process. Henderson was sliding after a short run when he took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Elon’s McAllister Ingram in the first quarter. Ingram was ejected and Henderson did not return to the game.
Henderson, who began the season as the backup to Pat Kehoe, is not listed on Delaware’s two-deep chart for Saturday’s home game against New Hampshire. Kehoe is the No. 1 QB on the depth chart.
“We certainly should have handled it (Henderson’s loss) better than we did,” Delaware coach Danny Rocco said. “I think they (Henderson and Kehoe) do do things uniquely different. They’re used differently. Early in the season when we were using Nolan as kind of a role player we were doing specific things with him and we kind of had another system catered more to what Pat was doing. We didn’t have our whole menu in terms of what we practiced all week when Nolan went down, but we certainly should have responded better than we did.”
Kehoe completed 14 of 24 passes for 175 yards with one touchdown and an interception in his relief appearance. His interception was returned 42 yards for a touchdown. Kehoe also lost a fumble after Delaware (3-3, 1-1 Colonial Athletic Association) drove to the Elon two-yard line late in the first half.
Processing the loss and looking forward to playing in Delaware Stadium, Coach Rocco breaks it down in the Week 8 edition of Under the Lights, presented by @Chevrolet. #BlueHens pic.twitter.com/P1SRkN3qNr— Delaware Football (@DelawareFB) October 17, 2019
Turnovers have helped UNH overcome an 0-2 start. The Wildcats (4-2, 3-0) didn’t have a takeaway in those two losses, but have created nine turnovers in the four games they’ve played since then and are 4-0 during that stretch.
“The last month we’ve done such a good job at creating turnovers,” UNH interim head coach Ricky Santos said. “We were just waiting for them to happen.”
“Turnovers are a big thing for us,” UNH linebacker Michael Balsamo added. “It allows us to give the ball back to the offense, so they can do what they do well. It starts up front getting to the quarterback. Getting him uncomfortable back there and forcing him to make bad throws. That’s been the emphasis -- get pressure on the quarterback.”
UNH is ranked No. 22 in the STATS FCS Top 25 and No. 23 in the FCS Coaches’ Poll. Delaware is No. 24 in both polls.
Delaware will be facing a UNH defense that leads the CAA in points allowed per game (16.2).
“They’re really physical,” Rocco said. “I think defensively they’re playing ... I don’t want to say the best, but probably as well as anyone is playing defensively (in terms of) points per game. Structurally they’re really good. They’re very aggressive and physical as a defense.”
Following a ho-hum spring in 2004, Santos was the fourth quarterback on UNH’s depth chart. He moved up a spot when Matt Skoby transferred to Mississippi State to pursue a baseball career, and ascended to No. 2 when back-up Hassan Noble sprained his ankle during the preseason.
Then Santos, a redshirt freshman at the time, was thrust into action when starting QB Mike Granieri went down with a torn ACL in the second quarter of the opener at top-ranked Delaware. Santos completed 10-of-11 passes to pull off a 24-21 upset. It didn’t go as smooth as some think, however.
“Obviously I didn’t know I was going to play before that game,” Santos said. “I was backing up going into it. Mike Granieri hurts his knee just before halftime and there was nobody left so they threw me in. Actually didn’t know where my helmet was at the time. It was on the training table, so I put it on, scrambled to run out there, called the play the wrong way and had to burn a time out on my first collegiate play.
“Then I remember settling into it. We did a good job of winning a game late and that just gave us a ton of confidence. Great memories from that.”
The Wildcats will be without one of their top players Saturday as well. Senior safety Pop Lacey broke his foot in practice last week and did not play in last weekend’s 20-14 victory over Stony Brook. Lacey had surgery Monday and is expected to miss at least three more weeks.
“He’s going to go back in two weeks right after the bye and we’re going to reassess that,” Santos said.
Lacey recorded 35 tackles (25 unassisted) in UNH’s first five games. The Wildcats also used him to return punts.
- UNH has outscored its opponents 47-10 in the first quarter. The Wildcats have scored points on their opening drive in four of their six games.
- Delaware is last in the CAA in pass defense (264.5), sacks (one) and sacks allowed (21).
- UNH’s Jason Hughes has made 11-of-14 field goal attempts this season, five of which were from beyond 40 yards. The Wildcats haven’t made more than 11 field goals in a season since 2013, when they made 15-of-20 attempts.