Delaware Set To Host Maine In CAA Opener
Delaware Set To Host Maine In CAA Opener
Maine will travel to Delaware to meet the Blue Hens for the first time since 2017 in what will serve as the spring '21 opener for both teams.
Although Maine’s Nick Charlton and Delaware’s Danny Rocco will be operating on different sidelines when their teams meet in the Colonial Athletic Association opener for each team Saturday, each head coach had the same philosophy with regard to preparation for Saturday’s contest.
Charlton and Rocco both said the focus has been more on their team than their opponent for the Week 1 matchup, which will be played at Delaware’s Tubby Raymond Field (noon). It will be the first time the programs have met since the 2017 season, when the Blue Hens beat the Black Bears 31-17.
“We’ll do our due diligence and we’ll try to maintain that normal flow and routine of the week when it comes to opponent study and tendencies and all those kinds of things, but this is probably one of those moments in time when your focus needs to be inward and making sure you’ve covered all of your bases with your preparation,” Rocco said.
Charlton also said getting his team up to speed for the opening game of a unique spring season has been his priority. He said he feels like his Black Bears are “a week short in terms of a lot of things” because COVID-19 protocols have sometimes limited what can be accomplished during practice.
“You have to make a lot of it about you and what you do well,” he said. “It’s been a long layoff (Maine vs. Delaware), but there’s a lot of crossover tape that you see. We haven’t played them in four years, but we have a familiarity with them.”
Delaware returned 15 starters from a team that finished 5-7 (3-5 CAA) in 2019. Quarterback Nolan Henderson and defensive back Kedrick Whitehead are among the returnees. Henderson tossed nine TD passes and was intercepted once during the 2019 season, when he appeared in nine games and completed 71 of 126 pass attempts.
“The quarterback is dynamic,” Charlton said. “They have some very good skill players. They’re going to be tough and physical up front (and) run the ball. Defensively, Whitehead is probably one of the more impressive players I’ve watched on film. There’s a reason he has all of the accolades that he does. They’re going to be stout defensively up front as well.”
Sophomore quarterback Joe Fagnano will direct the Maine offense. Fagnano played in eight games (six starts) during the 2019 season and completed 121 of 184 passes for 1,835 yards and 17 TDs. He tossed at least two TD passes in five of his six starts and averaged 229.4 yards passing per game.
Maine went 6-6 (4-4 CAA) in 2019.
“Certainly a very talented quarterback back,” Rocco said. “They were dynamic last (season) throwing the football. Big play after big play. They have a great scheme. They believe in what they’re doing. Defensively they’ve been athletic and aggressive. If you just take a look at the last couple years they’ve put an outstanding product out there on the field.”
Maine linebacker Deshaun Stevens and Delaware linebacker Colby Reeder are both healthy after missing all or most of the 2019 season because of injury.
Reeder was the CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, but hasn’t played in a game since the 2018 season. He had back surgery in 2019.
Stevens was an All-CAA Second Team selection in 2018, when he led the Black Bears in tackles with 120. He recorded 17.0 tackles for loss, had 9.0 sacks, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, two pass breakups and an interception that season. He sustained a season-ending injury in Maine’s opener against Sacred Heart in 2019.
“It’s all about your players and Deshaun is obviously a very talented player that we missed,” Charlton said. “His leadership and presence out there is extremely important. When you look at any success that we’ve had -- that anybody’s had -- it’s about the leadership of your players. There’s not much more of a larger presence on this team than Deshaun Stevens.”
More pressure needed
- Delaware recorded an FCS-low six sacks in 2019.
- Defensive tackle Austin Chambers is among the new faces on the Maine roster. Chambers, a graduate student, transferred to Maine after playing three seasons at Brigham Young University.
- This will be the first game for each team since Nov. 23, 2019.
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