2021 Villanova vs Delaware

Delaware Tries To Upset Villanova In 55th Battle Of The Blue

Delaware Tries To Upset Villanova In 55th Battle Of The Blue

After winning its first installment of the rivalry in a decade during the spring season, Delaware can play spoiler and start its own winning streak.

Nov 19, 2021 by Kyle Kensing
Delaware Tries To Upset Villanova In 55th Battle Of The Blue

For Villanova coach Mark Ferrante, a top-8 seed in the FCS Playoffs awaits—if the Wildcats can get past rival Delaware in the 55th installment of the Battle of the Blue. 

Delaware-Villanova isn’t the CAA’s longest standing rivalry, but the first meeting between these programs (1895) predates the history-rich South’s Oldest Rivalry between Richmond and William & Mary by two years. 

Just 45 miles separate the two campuses, and as a result, the rosters feature recruits who came up in the same area. There are even familial ties, like current Blue Hens defensive end Tommy Walsh, whose brother Fran played at Villanova. 

Between the ancient history of playing each other in the sport’s early days, to the regional bonds today, this series is a true rivalry. 

“It’s just got a little extra to it,” as Villanova coach Mark Ferrante put it. 

In modern times, the Battle of the Blue has often been the last regular-season hurdle before the Playoffs for one or both teams. This year is no exception, with Villanova bound for the postseason. 

After winning its first installment of the rivalry in a decade during the spring season, however, Delaware can play spoiler and start its own winning streak in the Battle with a win. 

Gamechangers On The Ground

This installment of the Battle of the Blue features two of the CAA’s most explosive ball-carriers in Delaware’s Dejoun Lee and, back in the lineup from a two-game layoff, Villanova’s Justin Covington. 

Covington torched Stony Brook last week for 142 yards on just 13 carries, one of which went for 83 yards. 

“It’s great to have Cov’ back,” Ferrante said. “He looked fresh when he was in there.” 

Covington comes into Saturday’s game 10th all-time in career rushing yards at Villanova. He’s just shy of 2,200, 611 of which have come this season. 

And, Covington appears to be hitting his highest gear at the most opportune time for the Wildcats. 

“I’m sure the rest definitely helped him,” Ferrante said. “I said it really even since the spring, compared to where he was in ‘19 and where I think he is today, he looks even faster to me. He’s had more, longer runs since the spring and his 83-yard this weekend.” 

The spring season’s CAA Offensive Player of the Year Dejoun Lee keys the running game on the opposite side. Lee is approaching 800 yards for the season and has scored four touchdowns. 

A heavier portion of the workload is on Lee than Covington this season. Lee’s 165 carries are more than triple the amount totaled by Delaware’s next-most active rusher; Covington’s been part of a multifaceted rotation also featuring Jalen Jackson and DeeWil Barlee. 

Villanova bottled up Lee in the matchup last spring, holding him to 2.5 yards per carry. The Blue Hens will have to find ways to get him loose to move the ball on the stout Wildcats defense. 

Pitts Stop

Generating points against the CAA’s top defense is a challenge on its own, but Delaware comes in with the added difficulty of injuries having limited its looks much of the season. 

The Blue Hens have an important piece back in the rotation for the Battle, however, with big-play wide receiver Thyrick Pitts returning with a splash from his brief absence. 

Pitts missed the Nov. 6 matchup with William & Mary, but went off for 169 yards and a touchdown last week against Richmond. 

“We missed him when he wasn’t available,” Delaware coach Rocco said. “There was a little bit of uncertainty [about Pitts’ readiness to return at all strength] -- on my part, anyway, not his...But Thyrick was making plays, there’s no doubt about that. He was going up and getting the ball.” 

Pitts’ presence opens up the offense for a Delaware side that’s had to make changes with Nolan Henderson sidelined. 

Villanova counters with perhaps the most talented secondary in the country, including CAA interceptions leader Christian Benford. 

The Wildcats have allowed fewer passing yards per game than Pitts caught for on his own last week, holding opponents to just 162.9 per game. 

Starting Strong, Finishing Strong

Villanova’s two strongest quarters on average this season are the first, outscoring opponents a combined 84-31, and fourth. The Wildcats have a cumulative edge of 89-27 in the last period. 

Delaware comes in off a loss to Richmond in which it was outscored 14-0 in both the first and fourth quarters. Last week continued a season-long trend in which the Blue Hens are scoreless in the first period every time they lose.