FCS Playoff First Round: Sacred Heart at Delaware

NCAA Football

FCS Playoff First Round

Sacred Heart (3-1 Northeast) at Delaware (5-0, 4-0 CAA)

Site: Delaware Stadium in Newark, Delaware

Kickoff – 7 p.m. ET Saturday

TV Coverage – ESPN3

Series – Sacred Heart leads, 1-0 (last meeting: Sacred Heart won 10-7 at Delaware on Oct. 4, 2014)

Coaches – Sacred Heart: Mark Nofri (54-42, ninth season); Delaware: Danny Rocco (24-16, fourth season; 114-58 overall)

3 Players to Watch – Sacred Heart: QB Marquez McCray (59 of 92, 772 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs), RB Julius Chestnut (93 carries, 717 yards; 222 all-purpose ypg, 11 TDs), LB Chris Outterbridge (33 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 pass breakups); Delaware: QB Nolan Henderson (82 of 116, 988 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, 164.39 passer efficiency; 2 rush TDs), RB Dejoun Lee (77 carries, 498 yards; 152.2 all-purpose ypg, 6 TDs), S Kedrick Whitehead (18 tackles, 2 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries, one forced fumble)

The Skinny – Although considered a heavy underdog in the only night game of the first round, Sacred Heart has more playoff appearances than Delaware (three to two) in the last 10 seasons, also winning the only previous all-time meeting. Chestnut leads the FCS in all-purpose yards per game, and though not a typical-sized campaign, his four-game rushing average is the third-best in the FCS over the last 20 seasons. The junior has surpassed 100 rushing yards in 16 of his last 20 games since 2018. Noah Gettman is adept at providing good field position, averaging 46.2 yards per punt with a long of 82. Delaware has one of the more stout FCS defenses, allowing just 11.6 points (third) and 225 yards (fourth) per game. The Blue Hens have gained a takeaway from 10 different players, leading to a plus-10 turnover margin, which is tied for No. 1 nationally. First-team All-CAA linemen Mickey Henry and David Kroll pave the way for Lee and allow Henderson the time to work with wide receivers Thyrick Pitts (16.7 ypc) and Gene Coleman II (team-high 23 receptions). Delaware is hosting a playoff game for the first time since its 2010 national runner-up season; the Blue Hens are 15-6 at home during Rocco’s tenure.

Up Next – The winner will play either Davidson or No. 4 seed Jacksonville State in the second round on May 1 or 2.

Prediction – Delaware 31, Sacred Heart 14

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