The Tribe’s season opener lacked suspense but more than made up for it in fireworks, as the University of Delaware defeated the College 49-31 in a record-setting shootout under the lights at Zable Stadium.
p. Preseason All-American running back Omar Cuff lived up to his billing, as the Delaware senior used a combination of quickness and power to exploit the Tribe’s young defense for 296 total yards and seven total touchdowns, setting CAA records for rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, and total points in the process. Cuff’s performance also tied the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision record for total touchdowns.
p. “Cuff is a very good back,” Tribe head coach Jimmye Laycock said. “When you put [Cuff] against a defense that has to grow up a little bit and get older and more mature and more physical … we tried everything we could.”
p. The Tribe’s defense appeared up to the task of stopping Cuff early on, as the College forced Delaware to punt on their first possession. But the game slipped away from the Tribe as the Blue Hens found their stride on offense immediately afterward, scoring touchdowns on their ensuing seven possessions.
p. “The difference in the game was Delaware’s strength and physicalness up front,” Laycock said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage and our defense. Once they did that, we were playing catch up all night.”
p. The College looked sharp and polished on their first possession of the season as junior quarterback Jake Phillips marched an efficient Tribe offense to Delaware’s three yard line, where the drive stalled. Sophomore kicker Brian Pate nailed a 20-yard field goal, the first of his career, to give the Tribe an early 3-0 advantage. The drive, which covered 83 yards on 20 plays, was the Tribe’s longest drive of the past two seasons, eating up 8:30 of clock while keeping the potent Blue Hen offense on the sidelines.
p. Phillips, who emerged as the Tribe’s starting quarterback following an off-season of uncertainty concerning the position, set a Tribe single-game record with 433 passing yards. Phillips’ performance was highlighted by a 50 yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Drew Atchison on the Tribe’s opening possession of the second half. Atchison’s grab pulled the Tribe within 11 points, but the College’s defense failed to hold Delaware, as the Blue Hens responded by marching right back down the field for another score.
p. “We had some opportunities which we couldn’t cash in on but we were moving the ball pretty well,” Laycock said.
p. Pate missed a 35-yard field goal at the end of the first half and the Tribe failed to get any points out of a trip to the Delaware red zone midway through the third quarter. On fourth and goal from Delaware’s 14 yard line, Laycock elected to go for the touchdown. Phillips delivered a strike down the middle to streaking junior wide receiver D.J. McAulay, but the ball sailed just out of McAulay’s reach.
p. “It wasn’t a bad [pass],” Laycock said. “If [McAulay] had busted through the coverage, which is what [Phillips] was thinking he was going to do, we would have had it.”
p. McAulay led the Tribe receivers with seven catches for 162 yards and a touchdown in senior wide receiver Joe Nicholas’ absence. Nicholas missed the game due to an injury but is expected to be ready for next week’s contest against VMI. Atchison caught six balls for 139 yards and a score. Redshirt freshman running back Courtland Marriner, in his first game for the Tribe, ran the ball four times for 21 yards and returned six punts for 137 yards.
p. The game, which marked the inauguration of the Colonial Athletic Association’s football conference, was viewed by 11,639 fans.