By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Delaware Blue Hens have never met an ugly sweater or pointless fruitcake that they've re-gifted.
The Blue Hens don't like to give anything away.
Especially a lead.
One of the chief reasons the Blue Hens will extend their holiday past New Year's at the FCS championship game is their propensity to play keep-away on the scoreboard. The Blue Hens didn't trail against Georgia Southern on Saturday in their 27-10 semifinal-round win at Tubby Raymond Field, rendering yet another opponent helpless.
Incredibly, over 89 percent of the season Delaware has been tied with or led an opponent. The Blue Hens (12-2) have surrendered a lead only against James Madison, William & Mary and Lehigh, and they wound up winning two of those three games.
The Blue Hens have followed the lead of their 17-member senior class, from quarterback Pat Devlin to linebacker Matt Marcorelle to their all-senior starting secondary of cornerbacks Anthony Walters and Tyrone Grant and safeties Anthony Bratton and Darryl Jones.
"We all take it as we're 17 captains," said Walters, who started as a redshirt freshman on the 2007 UD squad that lost to Appalachian State in the FCS championship game. "We all have a voice, and we all make our voice heard on the practice field. And off the practice field."
It didn't help Georgia Southern, the winningest team in FCS playoff history, to giftwrap the fruitcake, er, football for Delaware. The Eagles (10-5), who had been on a six-game winning streak, committed five turnovers without gaining any from the Blue Hens.
The biggest blow to GSU's upset bid occurred at the cruelest of places: Delaware's 1-yard line. The Southern Conference squad was on the verge of capping its first drive with a touchdown when quarterback Jaybo Shaw fumbled a snap and the football bounded to the goal line, where defensive end Chris Morales scooped it up and returned to the UD 18.
A GSU touchdown -- and a rare Delaware deficit -- could have made for an intriguing game, especially with the Eagles running their vaunted triple option. Instead, the Blue Hens scored two series later on the first of quarterback Pat Devlin's two touchdown passes -- a six-yarder to a wide open Mark Schenauer in the back of the GSU end zone -- and never trailed. Mike Perry's 21-yard field goal (his 17th of the season) extended the lead to 10-0 by halftime.
"Turnovers are going to be big, especially when you play a good team. You can't have turnovers," GSU first-year head coach Jeff Monken said.
"They have a tendency to fumble a lot, especially in that offense," said Delaware outside linebacker Paul Worrilow, who forced two fumbles. Teammate Chris Morales, an end, recovered a pair. "One little mistake and we can turn the ball over from them. And we just took advantage of that."
After GSU pulled within 17-10 on Robert Brown's six-yard touchdown run with 7:37 left in the fourth quarter, the Blue Hens needed only three plays to go 60 yards, score on David Hayes' seven-yard touchdown run and win going away.
They didn't let up, and rarely do.
Afterward, Walters and teammates Nihja White and Phillip Thaxton made a beeline for the Delaware student center and jumped into the stands to celebrate like the college kids that they are. Keeler later passed on his opportunity to do the same, instead slapping hands with some of the faithful.
There's still business at hand and perhaps one more postgame celebration for Delaware: the FCS title game against Eastern Washington (12-2) on Friday, January 7 in Frisco, Texas.
"It's why I came here," Devlin said of the opportunity.