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UD football showdown with Richmond has NCAA playoff ramifications

There have been more than four Colonial Athletic Association football teams selected for the FCS playoffs just once since the bracket was expanded to 24 teams in 2013.

If Delaware cannot beat Richmond in this Saturday’s showdown, the Blue Hens will be on the bubble hoping the NCAA digs a little deeper than normal into the CAA for playoff qualifiers.

The Blue Hens (7-2 overall, 4-2 CAA) and Spiders (7-2, 5-1) kick off at 1 p.m. at Delaware Stadium in a mammoth showdown between Top 25 teams. NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus will air.

Delaware's Johnny Buchanan (33) and Jake Reed (68) celebrate Buchanan's fumble recovery during a 49-17 victory against Monmouth at Delaware Stadium Saturday.
Delaware's Johnny Buchanan (33) and Jake Reed (68) celebrate Buchanan's fumble recovery during a 49-17 victory against Monmouth at Delaware Stadium Saturday.

Victory would likely sew up a postseason berth for the Blue Hens. A defeat would drop 17th-ranked Delaware into fifth or even sixth place depending on what happens in other league games and imperil the Hens’ postseason hopes.

A season-opening win over FCS Navy, which takes a 3-6 record against Notre Dame this week, certainly boosts Delaware’s chances. The Blue Hens close the regular season Nov. 19 at Villanova, which is 5-4 after a 27-3 loss to Towson Saturday.

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The 24-team FCS playoff field will be announced the next day. The only time more than four Colonial teams qualified was 2018, when Delaware was among six.

“It’s really just this Saturday and this Saturday only,” Delaware wide receiver Jourdan Townsend said of how he and teammates view the situation. “We can’t look into the future because you can’t get to the future if you don’t live in the present. We’re just taking it week by week.”

No. 12-ranked Richmond handed New Hampshire its first league defeat Saturday, scoring the game’s first 24 points and hanging on for a 40-34 win.

“They’re a really good team and so are we, so it’s gonna be a good game,” Townsend added.

The pressure that comes from playing with such high stakes against a high-caliber foe “is a privilege,” Delaware coach Ryan Carty said, and one he expects the Blue Hens to embrace.

“Hopefully we understand that it’s a big game because it’s the next game,” Carty said, “because we came to this university to play in meaningful November games. We’re in one and it’s pretty awesome that we get a chance to be in situations like this.”

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After limiting one of the CAA’s most potent offenses to two touchdowns Saturday, Delaware’s defense has another tough test Saturday.

The Blue Hens have given up league lows of 273 yards and 14.2 points per game. Richmond arrives having averaged 32 points and 438 yards per game, with a passing offense that’s No. 1 in the CAA with 290.2 yards per game.

Spiders quarterback Reece Udinski, who sparked VMI to the 2021 spring FCS playoffs and played at Maryland last fall, leads the CAA with 2,574 passing yards keyed by an almost-preposterous 76.2 completion percentage. His 22 TD passes are topped only by Nolan Henderson’s 25 for Delaware in the CAA.

It’ll be quite a challenge for a Blue Hens unit that is first against the pass in the CAA, allowing a league-low 116.9 air yards per game.

Delaware Blue Hens' quarterback Nolan Henderson (2) looks for a long pass during the football game against CAA newcomer the Monmouth Hawks at Delaware Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. Delaware won 49-17.
Delaware Blue Hens' quarterback Nolan Henderson (2) looks for a long pass during the football game against CAA newcomer the Monmouth Hawks at Delaware Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. Delaware won 49-17.

“I’d say what makes us so good in pass defense is the brotherhood we kinda have in the [defensive backs],” said red-shirt freshman safety Ty Davis. “ … For this week, kinda keep on going with that. Doing what we know, doing our fundamentals right, not having to stress too much or press too much. Just doing our job and getting the job done, staying on our man and covering well.”

Delaware trounced Monmouth 49-17 on Saturday at Delaware Stadium. The 49 points were the Hens’ most since the 56-14 win over Delaware State in the 2016 season opener.

Henderson was named CAA Offensive Player of the week after completing 22 of 28 passes for 323 yards and five touchdowns. The Smyrna High grad became the first UD quarterback to throw five TD passes in a game twice. He also ran 2 yards for a TD.

Carty and Richmond coach Russ Huesman agreed the two teams are similar in having powerful, pass-oriented offenses and strong defenses. Delaware and Richmond are 1-2 in the CAA in scoring and total defense.

“Hopefully we can just go out there and keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Carty said. “Practice really hard, try to play as fundamentally sound as possible and match the intensity, if not have more intensity, than whatever opponent we play.”

Hen scratch

Delaware linebacker Johnny Buchanan still leads FCS in tackles (112) and tackles per game (12.4). … Blue Hen Touchdown Club MVPs from the Monmouth game were Henderson (offense), Chase McGowan (defense) and Dillon Trainer (special teams). … Quarterbacks coach Sean Goldrich and lacrosse coach Ben DeLuca will speak at Friday’s weekly Blue Hen Touchdown Club luncheon at noon at the Carpenter Center. Information at bluehentdclub.com.

Have an idea for a compelling local sports story or is there an issue that needs public scrutiny? Contact Kevin Tresolini at ktresolini@delawareonline.com and follow on Twitter @kevintresolini. Support local journalism by subscribing to delawareonline.com.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Saturday showdown could make or break UD football's postseason chances