So much of life has occurred on Zoom in the past year for so many. From classes to office meetings to Delaware football team meetings, as emphasized by Blue Hens head coach Danny Rocco, the platform has been central to virtually gathering and staying up to date through the start of the reshuffled FCS spring season.
It was oddly fitting, then, that Delaware running back and kick returner Dejoun Lee zoomed 87 yards to the house on the inaugural game’s opening kickoff — both to make history (with the first season-opening house call by a Blue Hen since 1933) and to snap visiting Maine into the reality of the March 6 CAA North opener at Delaware Stadium. The quick strike of a score whipped the UD sideline into a new fervor and rocked the Black Bears back on their heels before promising sophomore quarterback Joe Fagnano could even touch the football.
When he did, Maine failed to get much going whatsoever, ultimately dropping a stunning 37-0 decision while amassing just 112 total yards. It was a startlingly stark contrast to the red-hot offense CAA defenses encountered when playing Maine late in 2019 as the Black Bears made a push for the playoff bubble.
The chronic offensive inefficiency snowballed into a time-of-possession nightmare for the crew from Orono, Maine, as Delaware out-possessed Maine 38:14 – 21:46 while limiting the Black Bears to just 2-of-14 on third down.
The balanced Blue Hen defense “really never felt threatened,” Rocco said postgame while remaining complimentary of Maine’s traditionally strong program anchored by senior linebacker Deshawn Stevens, who has returned to the starting lineup from injury this spring. Stevens next leads Maine into a home matchup with Albany, which took down New Hampshire in a ranked showdown last week.
The Black Bears will need to get back in 2019-style rhythm on offense to keep pace with Jeff Undercuffler, Karl Mofor, and the potent Great Danes attack. Improved ball security would not hurt, either, as Maine partially did itself in at Delaware by committing a pair of muffed punts, both of which were recovered by UD and sapped any remaining spirit on the visiting sideline.
The Stony Brook Seawolves take to that sideline this Saturday when they challenge Delaware, which rose from No. 25 to No. 19 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 following the shutout of Maine. Stony Brook endured an 0-1 start to the spring via a tough 16-13 defeat to preliminary North favorite Villanova.
On Monday’s CAA coaches Zoom press conference, Seawolves head coach Chuck Priore said all five of his team’s tight ends missed the first 12 team practices due to contact tracing, headlining offensive personnel limitations present versus Nova. SBU will have to muster more depth against Delaware, as the Blue Hens expect to return multiple offensive linemen of their own who were previously unavailable, Rocco communicated this week about his squad’s roster composition.
As was the case in Week 1, the stakes of each Saturday in the CAA North are remarkably high due to the nature of the spring campaign. With No. 1 James Madison surviving a scare at Elon after inserting Gage Moloney at quarterback (Curt Cignetti named him the Dukes’ starter on Monday), JMU remains on track to run the table in the South division, putting the squeeze on North counterparts aiming for what could be just one at-large slot afforded to the CAA in the abbreviated spring playoff format.
With No. 6 Villanova a heavy favorite to improve to 2-0 Saturday when it hosts Rhode Island, which will be playing its season opener with numerous new faces, including new coordinators since the Rams and Wildcats last met in 2017, the pressure is on Delaware and Albany to keep up with the ’Cats and on Stony Brook and Maine to avoid a potentially insurmountable deficit in the divisional standings.
The South standings are in for a twist after this Saturday due to the COVID-19-protocol-induced postponement of William & Mary and JMU’s game. That leaves Richmond at Elon as the division’s standalone game for the week. With a win, the Spiders can position themselves to be relevant in the Top 25 conversation, specifically in terms of the “others receiving votes” category, ahead of pivotal dates with rival JMU.
These moving puzzle pieces and storylines will continue to be in play as CAA battles march on and the national landscape takes shape. The W&M/JMU postponement embodies the week-to-week nature of the season, in which just about anything, including fans in the stands, can change weekly. After having no guests from the general public in the Maine game, Delaware will host at 10% capacity versus Stony Brook as it seeks to maintain the momentum initiated by Lee’s electrifying, but not electronic, zoom.