For the first time in history, the University of Delaware Blue Hens face off with the North Dakota State Bison on the football field.
As if a regular trip into the well-lit Fargodome isn’t difficult enough, the Blue Hens will be the visitors for NDSU’s Homecoming game on Saturday. The Bison have a streak of seven wins on Homecoming and an overall record of 55-37-3.
The Blue Hens enter Saturday’s contest on the heels of a two-game win steak after dropping their opening game against Colonial Athletic Association foe Rhode Island. The Rams offered the most difficult test for Delaware, and the Blue Hens came up short 21-19.
Since, Delaware has faced two opponents with no wins between them. First came a 37-0 romp of Lafayette before dispatching Cornell last week 21-10.
First-year starter Pat Kehoe runs the offense for Delaware. The redshirt junior has struck for six touchdowns in the early goings of the season, averaging 245 yards per game. Kehoe became the first quarterback in Delaware’s history to throw for over 200 yards in each of his first three games.
To make it four straight, Kehoe will be forced to take on a daunting Bison secondary. The Bison have allowed just one total touchdown in two games this season. The solo touchdown came in garbage time against North Alabama last weekend.
NDSU has allowed just 116.5 yards passing per game this year.
But as tough as the Bison secondary has been, the front seven has been even better. The Bison pass rush has been in the opponent’s backfield early and often this season. NDSU averages 4.5 sacks, and Cole Kracz ranks seventh in the nation with 3.0 sacks.
To complement the pass rush, the Bison have bottled up the rush, allowing a mere 2 yards per run attempt.
The Blue Hens have a backfield timeshare between Kani Kane and DeJoun Lee. Kane has two touchdowns this year, averaging 75 yards per game, with Lee adding another 57.
On the other side of the ball, the NDSU offense still is yet to fully click. The rushing attack was devastating in the opener against Cal Poly with 458 yards. However, the passing game was nearly nonexistent with just 54 yards.
Last week against North Alabama, the Bison struggled early on the ground. Late rushes by the second-team inflated the numbers and brought the rushing total to 192 yards. In the air, NDSU tallied 174 yards.
Senior Bison quarterback Easton Stick has completed just 53.8 percent of his passes early in a passing attack that is still looking for playmakers.
Dallas Freeman has emerged as a potential big-play receiver alongside Darrius Shepherd on the outside. The former collected 4 catches for 117 yards last week.
But the staple of the Bison attack still sits on the ground. The backfield tandem of Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn has three touchdowns each already this season. As if those two were not enough, NDSU will sprinkle in a healthy dose of Ty Brooks, who has not yet found the end zone despite 61 yards per game, and the mobile Stick.
Delaware has given up an average of 77.7 yards per game on the ground, but that figures in the negative-18 yards against Lafayette. Against Rhode Island, the Blue Hens gave up 160 yards on the ground.
NDSU have had issues with turning over the ball in the early goings. A pair of lost fumbles stalled drives and wiped scoring opportunities off the board.
The Blue Hens have two forced fumbles and three interceptions to their credit.
One achievement of note heading into Saturday revolves around senior kicker Cam Pedersen. His final point-after attempt on the Bison’s penultimate touchdown tied Adam Keller with 191 PAT kicks made. His first on Saturday would put him at No. 1 in NDSU history.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Fargodome.