Final Score: Spiders 46 Blue Hens 43; Attendance 15,817
Weather: Cloudy, low 50’s; Ticket Price $13, Groupon, Parking $10
“Almost FBS Ready” by Tree
Disclaimer: I know that UD is not yet FBS, but I was being proactive in making a visit to see the Blue Hens. I had heard from a couple of reliable sources that a jump from FCS to FBS is inevitable for the venerable program.
Delaware Stadium is one of the largest in the FCS but would be very small by FBS standards, the MAC notwithstanding. Nonetheless, the Blue Hen fans compensate by filling the joint every weekend. Or at least that’s the rumor. It was about ¾ full the Saturday I was in attendance. To be fair, I scheduled this visit precisely because of that fact. The couple of other dates I had looked at were sold out and I didn’t want to pay a ticket premium for a FCS game. I scooped up a half-price ticket on Groupon of all places and ended up on 30 yard line towards the top of the stands. In a stadium that size, it would not have mattered where I sat. Every seat would have had a good view of the field.
It was bench seating and I had brought my stadium chair. There was a reasonably good video screen in one end zone. At first glance, the concessions looked decidedly small time with no souvenir cups. I warily picked up a cheesesteak but was happily surprised by a sandwich greasy enough to ruin the beat up cargo pants I was wearing. I found my seat was occupied by a rowdy group of DE fans. Rather than try to move someone out, I just grabbed an empty seat on the other side of the aisle. My chosen seat was closer to the 50 yard line anyway. Unfortunately the fans around me were not very sociable and I found myself wishing I would have squeezed in with the boisterous fans on the other side. They were definitely having a good time.
I was surprised that a program as strong as Delaware (6 National Championships at various levels) didn’t seem to have more traditional cheers and mannerisms. There was nothing that stuck out in terms of chants, cheers or gestures. The band was very good and the horn section hit each of the section of the stands in the third quarter. The fans were into the game, but I have attended more intense environments. Of course, the pitiful play of the Blue Hen defense may have had something to do with the lack of enthusiasm.The Logistics:
Delaware Stadium is on the fringe of the University of Delaware campus in Newark, DE. I was coming from the D.C. area and I was happy to have only hit stop and go traffic twice as I headed up I-95. That traffic corridor is about as reliable as Amelia Earhart’s navigation. I had only plugged in Newark into my GPS, assuming that there would be signage to the stadium. I saw none and instead found myself in the middle of Newark. As I was looking for a place to park, I looked up and saw the 5 and 10. A friend and UD alum had told me that it was the place for the best deals on Blue Hen gear. Since I always try to get some sort of memento from every stadium, I immediately parked and went inside. I found a sweet blue UD hoodie on the clearance rack and I was in business. As a bonus, the clerk was able to direct me to the stadium and off I went. I had researched the lots on the internet and knew that the cheapest “official” lot was $15. When I came across the Boy Scouts selling spots at the Amtrak lot for $10, I jumped on it. It was then a short walk to the stadium. As I strolled to the stadium, there was a healthy tailgating scene, especially for a cool and overcast Saturday.
The Fighting Blue Hens came in the game with still having a shot at the playoffs. The Spiders arrived with a losing record and I thought this game might be a blowout. Instead, Delaware’s paper thin defense made sure this game came down to the wire. Richmond passed its way to a 22 – 3 lead early in the second quarter. UD finally responded with a long drive for a touchdown. Miraculously, the Hens defense then held the Spiders to a three and out. When Richmond came out to punt I could not help but notice that they had huge splits on the punt team. Blue Hen special teamer, Wes Hills, blew through the line and ran unabated to the punter for the block. With the ball on the 21 yard line, it took Delaware six plays to score. At less than a minute to play in the half, the Spiders led 22 -17 and the game was tight again. Unfortunately, it took Richmond all of 36 seconds and a 50 yard bomb to score right before the half. I hope someone called Shriners Hospital at the half as the Blue Hen DBs had already been burned for nearly 300 yards. Note the time of that drive, as it is a for-bearer of things to come.
After trading a couple of punts to start the second half, Richmond cashed in on another couple of long passes to stretch their lead to 19. The plucky Blue Hens kept fighting and scored two touchdowns to cut the lead back to five. The Spiders responded with a field goal to get up by eight. Delaware kept coming and scored again but failed on the two point conversion. Amazingly, the Blue Hens defense responded a second time and held the Spider offense. Delaware drove 60 yards to have first and ten from the 11 yard line with about a minute left. On the next play, they scored on an end around run. The ‘Coop went bonkers. The Hens were up by two with only 45 seconds left. But, it was just too much time for the pass happy Spiders. Sure enough, Richmond steadily ran their two minute offense. All of sudden, it was first and goal from the Delaware 3 yard line with 7 seconds left. Appropriately enough, Richmond scored on the next play with a short pass. Game over, stadium deflated and the Hens’ post season hopes had flown the coop.
It was a shame the game ended the way it did. However, it certainly was an entertaining product. And with that, I would recommend the University of Delaware ‘Coop as a venue worth attending.
It was Senior Day for the Blue Hens. I recall my Senior Day in college as being extremely emotional. As a player who rode the pine for his entire collegiate career, I thought the game would be like any other. After all, I had been through Senior Days in high school and they were not a big deal. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The coaches held all the seniors back in the locker room before the game started. I don’t remember who started it, but somebody began sniffling and before we knew it the whole group of us, coaches and players, were blubbering away. To this day, I cannot really explain it but it was an experience I will never forget. I can only imagine how those Blue Hen seniors felt after such a gut wrenching loss.