Villanova has probably locked up an FCS playoffs bid with nine wins this season already, while the Blue Hens most likely aren't going to be in the playoff, even with a win. That won't matter much for either team on Saturday, however, as it will be the final game for Delaware's seniors, and the key rivalry game for both groups. Anything can happen, as Andy Talley has repeatedly said, and despite their 6-5 record, the Blue Hens are a better team than they appear on paper.
An overtime win over James Madison, currently sitting pretty at third in the CAA, adds credibility to what the Delaware Blue Hens are capable of. Losses to Towson and Sacred Heart at home, however, will sting a lot at the end of the season.
To help us get caught up on the Blue Hens, we reached out to Delaware beat reporter Kevin Tresolini (@kevintresolini) of the News Journal and DelawareOnline.com to answer a few questions.
(1) You wrote back in October about declining attendance at UD, but they are still second in the CAA in attendance. Do you see the change as being more a product of wins-and-losses on the field, or a greater trend in FCS football?
Delaware never measures its attendance in comparison to the CAA, where it had always been the clearcut leader until JMU enlarged Bridgeforth Stadium. They've been Top 10 nationally for the last 17 years, including five years in the top three. But their average home attendance this year 15,453 is lower than every overall season attendance figure since 1969. It should get a little boost with Villanova visiting. Delaware still does rank seventh nationally in FCS attendance this year, so it does reflect, in part, a national trend. But Delaware fans have been grumbling for several years about some added costs associated with attending games and now a few years of losing has soured them further.
(2) At 6-5, Delaware is probably outside of the playoff picture going into their rivalry-week game with Villanova -- what sort of development have the Blue Hens gone through this season, and what is the prognosis for the team in the final weekend?
Delaware could have been in the playoffs this year but the Hens lost two games they should have won - at home to Sacred Heart and Towson - and that could, ultimately, cost them a playoff spot, regardless of the Villanova outcome, considering what JMU, which Delaware beat, has become. Considering the number of seniors they had playing, 17, they should have been better. At the same time, they were also playing a ton of freshmen so it's easy to see why their margin for error was so small.
(3) Dave Brock was brought in to replace KC Keeler and immediately had to go through a rebuilding mode, who are the key young players that he is building around?
Brock inherited one class from K.C. Keeler, who was fired in January after he'd gotten an entire class of verbals. Brock only has one class of his own in. It's a good one, and all the defensive players in it have already seen action. That last Keeler class featured running back Wes Hills, who has rushed for 100-plus yards four times. Starting center Brody Kern and defensive tackle Blaine Woodson are also studs from that group. Brock's initial class has a bevy of potential standouts. One, outside linebacker Donte Raymond, has started the last 10 games. But plenty of others, especially on defense, have bright futures.
(4) Andy Talley really expects Delaware to play their best game of the season this weekend. Who needs to perform well for the Hens to slow down or stop John Robertson?
Delaware needs to tackle well, which it doesn't always do. The Hens have had some success getting pressure on opposing QBs, especially with DT Woodson and DE Derrick Saulsberry. MLB David Mackall will also need to have one of the best games of his career.
(5) Villanova has given up yardage to its opponents in the air -- ranking dead last in the CAA in pass defense, but also leads the way in number of interceptions. How do Trent Hurley and his receiver corps stack up against that?
Villanova's defense has frequently had that kind of playmaking ability. Delaware passes best when it runs well, and with backs such as Hills and Jalen Randolph it can do that. That'll open up the passing game, but Hurley will have to be protected well, make smart decisions and accurate throws for the Hens to have a chance. Those three things qualities haven't always been there this year.
(6) Bonus Question: Which game will have more points scored, this weekend's football game, or the next weekend's basketball match-up in Philadelphia?
I think we can count on Jay Wright's and Monte Ross' guys to take care of that for us at the Wells Fargo Center.