NEWARK, Del. - Facing the number one-ranked defense in NCAA FCS on the road proved to be a daunting task for the Tigers as #5 Delaware (8-1, 5-1) shut down the Tigers' offense en route to a 48-0 shutout Colonial Athletic Association over Towson (1-8, 0-6) before a Homecoming crowd of 21,603 at Delaware Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Hens, who came into the contest as the number one-ranked scoring defense allowing 9.1 points per game, posted their second shutout of the season as they dropped their defensive scoring average to 8.1 points per contest.
The Delaware defense, which was allowing 93.7 rushing yards and 259.1 total yards per game, limited the Tigers to 80 yards rushing and 158 yards of total offense. The Tigers managed only eight first downs against the UD defense.
"I am not much of a prognosticator," admitted Towson Coach Rob Ambrose. "But, I've seen a lot of very good football teams this season so I think I can say this - Delaware has a very good chance to play deep into the playoffs. That defense is so good. I think their back seven is all seniors and it's hard to beat that kind of experience."
The Blue Hens, who had outscored opponents by 67-3 in the first quarter this season, continued its season-long first quarter domination against the Tigers.
In the opening period, the Delaware defense held Towson to one first down and 18 yards of offense while taking a 7-0 lead.
On the opening drive of the game, the Blue Hens marched deep into Towson territory. On the third play of the drive, quarterback Pat Devlin completed a 35-yard pass to Phillip Thaxton at the Towson 27-yard line. Facing fourth down at the Towson 24-yard line, Devlin completed a 12-yard pass to sophomore Nihja White, moving the Blue Hens to the 12-yard line.
However, the Tiger defense held and forced the Blue Hens to settle for a field goal. When junior Mike Perry's 21-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar, the game remained scoreless.
On their first drive of the game, the Tigers picked up a first down when quarterback Bart Blanchard completed a short pass to Erron Banks. But, the Blue Hens forced the first of ten Tiger punts and took over at their own 28-yard line.
Devlin directed an efficient 72-yard, nine-play drive to give the Blue Hens a 7-0 lead. On the march, Devlin completed four of five passes for 54 yards. He gave Delaware the lead when he scored on a five-yard touchdown run with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
Despite the Tigers' offensive struggles, the defense continued to play well into the second quarter, forcing punts on the next three possessions.
"I give a lot of credit to our defense," said Ambrose. "They did a good job against a very solid, consistent offense. We had a few chances to pick up a loose ball and we couldn't do it.
"Our defense was on the field a long, long time," he added. "They kept us in the game until they got fatigued."
Late in the second quarter, freshman Andrew Pierce broke loose for a 24-yard touchdown run off right tackle, capping a 59-yard, seven play drive to give the Blue Hens a 14-0 lead with 2:27 left in the half.
After the Delaware defense forced another "three-and-out," the Blue Hens received another excellent scoring chance.
Punting from the Towson 28-yard line, D.J. Soven made a touchdown-saving play. After the center snap went over his head into the end zone, Soven retreated, picked up the ball in the end zone, avoided a Blue Hen tackler and punted the ball to the Towson 38-yard line. Although he received credit for only a ten-yard punt, he did save the Tigers from giving up a lot of points.
The Blue Hens cashed in on their great field position. With the help of a personal foul penalty on the Tigers, Delaware moved into field goal range. With 12 seconds left in the first half, Perry kicked a 29-yard field goal as the Blue Hens took a 17-0 lead at halftime.
Playing without suspended quarterback Chris Hart, who started six games, the Tigers had only 58 total yards and two first downs in the first half. Their longest drive reached their own 37-yard line.
"Of course, it was difficult without Chris Hart," said Ambrose. "We knew we could do some things schematically. But, we had trouble executing. We must have dropped five passes."
After forcing another Tiger punt on the opening drive of the third quarter, the Blue Hens started to put the game out of reach.
On their first drive of the second half, the Blue Hens marched 58 yards in only five plays, taking a 24-0 lead when Pierce scored his 12th touchdown of the season on a three-yard run with 11:33 left in the third quarter.
On their next possession, Delaware upped its lead to 27-0 when Perry capped off a 44-yard, nine-play drive by kicking a 22-yard field goal.
Midway through the third quarter, the Tigers staged their best drive of the game. With sophomore Brian Potts and Blanchard alternating at quarterback, the Tigers reached the 34-yard line. Facing a fourth down-and-five, Anthony Walters intercepted Blanchard's pass that was intended for Tom Ryan and returned it to the Delaware 47-yard line.
Two plays later, sophomore tailback Leon Jackson burst up the middle and outraced the Tiger defense to the end zone for a 63-yard touchdown, giving the Blue Hens a 34-0 advantage.
Early in the fourth quarter, Delaware extended its lead to 41-0 by marching 61 yards in 11 plays. Devlin capped off the drive by throwing a six-yard TD pass to White with 11:42 left in the game.
Playing before a number of NFL scouts, Devlin completed 29 of 38 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 25 yards on seven carries and one TD.
With less than five minutes remaining in the game, the Blue Hen reserves added an insurance touchdown. A 30-yard pass from third-string quarterback Tim Donnelly to junior Bobby Russo ignited a 72-yard, six-play drive for a final touchdown. Walter Davis, a "red shirt" freshman, ran for 42 yards on the drive and scored the first touchdown of his career on a ten-yard run with 2:07 left in the game.
Jackson led the Blue Hens' rushing game by running for 88 yards on 11 carries with one TD. Pierce, the leading rusher in the CAA, picked up 79 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns. Davis added 58 yards on six attempts as Delaware rushed for 241 on 44 attempts.
White led Delaware receivers with nine catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.
While compiling 589 yards of total offense, the Blue Hens scored a seasonal high 48 points.
Making his third start of the season, Blanchard completed 10 of 24 passes for 59 yards. Potts threw for 19 yards while completing three of eight passes.
Banks was the Tigers' top receiver as he caught a career high six passes for 34 yards. Ryan had three receptions for 19 yards.
Senior Hakeem Moore, the CAA leader in all-purpose yardage, had 107 all-purpose yards against Delaware, significantly less than his seasonal average of 138.1 yards per game.
Walters led the Delaware defense with five tackles, including an interception and one pass breakup. Freshman cornerback Jake Giusti also made five tackles.
Sophomore safety Jordan Dangerfield led the Tiger defense with a game high 11 tackles. He also broke up one pass. In nine games this season, Dangerfield has made 84 tackles, tops among all CAA defensive backs. It was his fourth double-digit tackle game of the season.
Senior cornerback Jeremy Gardner added nine tackles while senior linebacker Donte Blakey made eight tackles, including two tackles for lost yardage. Sophomore defensive end Frank Beltre also made eight tackles.
Defensive tackle Yaky Ibia had four tackles against the Blue Hens, including two for lost yardage. Ibia now leads the Tigers with 11 tackles for lost yardage.
The Tigers, who have lost seven games in a row, will close out their home schedule on Saturday, November 13 against Maine at 2:00 p.m.
TIGER TALES: The win was the Delaware's fourth straight win over Towson dating back to the 2007 season ... Delaware now leads the series, 8-4 ... The Blue Hens' 48-point margin of victory was the largest of the series ... The crowd of 21,603 was the fifth-largest crowd ever to see Towson to play.
Sophomore defensive end Matt Morgan made five tackles, including a quarterback sack ... It was his team-leading fourth sack of the year ... A converted wide receiver, Justin Harris made his second consecutive start at cornerback for the Tigers ... He had three tackles against the Blue Hens.
For the fourth game in a row, the Tigers started three "red shirt" freshmen on the offensive line ... Doug Shaw replaced an injured Steve Jordan at center while Anthony Davis replaced ailing left guard Dan Hurley ... Eric Pike, another "red shirt" freshman, started at left tackle for the ninth consecutive game.
The Tigers' loss to Delaware was their fourth loss to a CAA team ranked in the top ten ... Earlier, Towson lost to #1 Villanova, #8 Massachusetts and #7 James Madison ... The Tigers also dropped a decision to #16 Richmond.
With their eighth victory of the season, the Blue Hens virtually assured themselves of a berth in the NCAA FCS playoffs for the 20th time in school history.