2021 Delaware vs Rhode Island

Dominant Delaware, Red Hot Rhody Set For Spring Showdown

Dominant Delaware, Red Hot Rhody Set For Spring Showdown

The last time Delaware and Rhode Island met, it was an instant classic. Now, the Blue Hens and Rams meet at Meade Stadium for a spring showdown.

Mar 27, 2021 by Kyle Kensing
All-Access: Delaware

When Delaware and Rhode Island last met, in September 2019, the Fightin’ Blue Hens and Rams went to three overtimes in an instant classic. 

HIGHLIGHTS: Delaware at Rhode Island

The bar is set high for their rematch at Meade Stadium, but the spring 2021 edition already comes with an angle that separates it from past matchups: The winner takes sole possession of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association North division. 

Should their encounter go to extra frames again, Rhode Island is well-prepared. The Rams have gone to overtime in each of their first two, both wins on the road against ranked opponents in Villanova and UAlbany. 

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“We’ve been very fortunate to come out on the right end of things,” Rams coach Jim Fleming said. “You’re only a couple plays from being 0-2. But we’ve been down that road, too. Last season, which seems [like] seven years ago, there were four or five football games that were lost in the last 50 seconds.” 

Rhode Island dropped five games in the 2019 season by a touchdown or less, including a run of three in a row early in the campaign. The first of those heartbreakers came in that triple-overtime epic against Delaware. 

URI jumped out to a 13-0 lead in that game, the program’s first under the new Meade Stadium lights. Delaware answered back with a pair of touchdowns, and it was a back-and-forth from there. 

While the memories of that contest certainly linger, to Fleming’s point about feeling like seven years ago, much has changed in the almost 19 months since. 

In the case of Delaware, which has arguably been the most impressive CAA team to start the 2021 spring season, the difference from 2019 is maturation. The Fightin’ Blue Hens finished 5-7 in ‘19, an uncharacteristic finish for a program that ranks among both the most winning in college football history and is a regular contender in the Colonial. 

“Last year, we went through a season here with a lot of younger players getting experience, getting battle-tested,” said Blue Hens coach Danny Rocco. “Now people are starting to know who some of these guys are.”

Indeed, running back Dejoun Lee made his presence known from the jump with a season-opening kick return for a touchdown. Nolan Henderson, who did not come on as Delaware’s QB1 until after the Rhode Island game in 2019, has played outstanding in the Blue Hens’ two blowout wins over Maine and Stony Brook. 

Defensively, Delaware returned some more established names like linebacker Johnny Buchanan, who came on strong at the end of 2019; and Kedrick Whitehead, a hard-hitting defensive back who garnered preseason All-American recognition. 

But the UD defense also features Andrew Pawlowski, who in one game against Stony Brook this season racked up almost as many tackles as the previous three seasons in his entire Blue Hens career. 

Rocco and his staff have steadily built and cultivated an experienced roster on both sides of the ball that appears capable of winning a conference championship — and perhaps even more. 

Rhode Island’s undergone its own roster facelift in the past year-plus. 

“With Jim, he’s got a lot of new names,” Rocco said. “Some of his marquee names are gone, but he’s been able to replace them with some talented transfer athletes.”

Replacing one of the most talented wide-receiving corps in CAA history, with Aaron Parker, Ahmere Dorsey and Isaiah Coulter, one could fairly anticipate a giant step back in production. 

But with dual-threat quarterback Kasim Hill and running back Kevin Brown Jr., the Rams’ headline transfer additions, URI showed plenty of offensive punch in putting up 40 points on Villanova. Add them with a veteran like wide receiver Ivory Frimpong, who Rocco noted as an emerging star filling the void last season’s trio receiving trio left, and scoring points isn’t an issue for the Rams. 

On the flipside, holding an explosive UAlbany offense that ranked third in the conference in points scored in the 2019 campaign to just 10 points in last week’s win shows Rhode Island to be an all-around threat. 

Another transfer may not have been on the field when Rhody and Delaware went to three overtimes in 2019, but the Blue Hens know Coby Tippett well. At Towson in ‘19, Tippett had seven tackles, an interception and a broken-up pass in the Tigers’ win over the Blue Hens. 

Even with new faces and a lengthy layoff between meetings, the Rhode Island-Delaware follow-up could be every bit as good as its predecessor. 

Fleming wouldn’t be surprised. 

After two overtime contests already, he quipped: “That’s kind of the way CAA football seems to be.”