Newark, DE (Sports Network) - Coming into this weekend, the Colonial Athletic Association has proven its dominance of the FCS world. With six of the top 15 teams in the FCS poll hailing from the CAA, you would be hard pressed to think that one of these teams would be overlooked or even considered underrated.
Enter the Massachusetts Minutemen.
Though the Minutemen were 3-1 entering Saturday night's game at Delaware and were ranked 13th in total offense and 21st in total defense, they were lost in the shuffle of CAA story lines.
With Villanova, New Hampshire, William & Mary, and defending FCS Champion Richmond all ranked in the top 10 and having beaten FBS teams at some point this season, the Minutemen had quietly moved into the top 12 of our FCS poll, and would arguably be in the top 10 had they beaten Kansas State in Week One.
For UMass, the month of October started off on the wrong foot. During their bye week, four players, defensive back James Carven, defensive linemen Bob McLaughlin, linebacker Mike Mele and defensive back Shane Viveiros, were arrested for alleged possession of cocaine behind a bar in downtown Amherst.
Two of the players, Mele and Viveiros were also charged with using false identification at the time of their arrest. All four players were suspended indefinitely due to their violation of athletic department and team rules
On top of that, the Minutemen had to travel to Newark this week to kick off the hardest part of their schedule.
Delaware has historically given the Minutemen fits, holding a 23-6 all-time series record against UMass going into Saturday's game.
Though they had split the previous eight meetings, UMass needed a win Saturday night to keep up with New Hampshire and Richmond, who defeated Villanova and Richmond respectively this afternoon.
Unfortunately for UMass, it could not keep up with the Blue Hens, as Delaware trounced the Minutemen 43-27.
Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin torched the UMass pass defense, completing 19- of-26 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns and wide receiver Corey Davis burned the UMass defense with seven receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Delaware kicker Jon Striefsky contributed three field goals in the game to become Delaware's career field goal leader.
"They executed plays early in the game," UMass Head Coach Kevin Morris said after the game, "Delaware's a good team. They played hard tonight. We didn't execute our offensive game plan and put a lot of pressure on our defense early."
UMass struggled almost right out the gate. The Minutemen had a chance to make an immediate impact, driving to the Delaware 31 before stalling out on fourth and two, when the snap exchange was fumbled and Delaware's Paul Worrilow recovered the loose ball.
Offensive troubles plagued Massachusetts throughout the first half, in which the Minutemen gained 114 yards of total offense, including only 15 yards on the ground.
Delaware struck on their first drive. Aided by a 15-yard horse collar penalty on Corey Davis, Delaware moved down to the UMass 15.
On third and 10, Devlin hit junior wideout Mark Mackey, who made an incredible one-handed catch in the back of the end zone to put the Blue Hens up 6-0. On the following drive, Devlin threw for 46 more yards, culminating with a 22- yard touchdown pass to Mark Duncan.
Delaware took advantage of another UMass turnover later in the first period when Tony Nelson fumbled on a second and one. Marcus Burley was there to scoop up the fumble, and he returned it 42 yards for a touchdown, giving the Blue Hens an early 20-0 lead.
UMass did manage to put points on the board with 28 seconds remaining in the first. Armando Cuko hit a career-long 51 yard field goal into the wind to cut the Delaware lead to 20-3. Cuko's field goal also tied the UMass record for third-longest field goal in UMass football history.
UMass had a chance to capitalize on a pair of Delaware turnovers towards the end of the 2nd quarter.
With 5:43 remaining in the 1st half, Buchanan Award nominee Jeromy Miles picked off a Devlin throw at the Delaware 35 and on the following drive, with 4:10 remaining, Michael Hanson sacked Devlin and forced a fumble at the Delaware 48.
Both times they got the ball in Delaware territory, however the Minutemen's offense could only muster up 15 yards combined on both drives, with their first drive resulting in a missed 52-yard field goal and the second resulting in a punt.
The Minuteman came storming out the gates in the second half, driving 76 yards down to the Delaware 10 yard line. However, between a holding penalty on 1st and goal and a sack on 3rd and goal by Delaware's Chris Morales, the Minutemen had to settle for another Cuko field goal, this time from 37 yards out.
The Blue Hens quickly struck back. Devlin completed all five of his passes on the drive for 55 yards, and hit Trevor Mooney, who dropped a pass in the end zone in the 2nd quarter, for his first career TD.
Immediately following a Kyle Havens interception, Devlin hit Duncan for the second time in the evening, expanding Delaware's lead to 37-6. With his fourth touchdown pass of the game, Devlin became the first Delaware QB to throw for four touchdown's in a game since Joe Flacco did it against Navy in 2007.
UMass did manage to put two late touchdowns on the board, as it drove 64 yards down the field, resulting in a four-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Havins to tight end Andrew Krevis.
On the following possession, Havins hit Emil Igwenagu, who after juggling the ball along the sidelines, regained control of the ball and scampered 52 yards for a touchdown.
Havins threw for 275 yards and a touchdown, completing 24-of-36 passes, but his inconsistent play for the first three quarters, coupled with drops from his receivers and a rough night for Payton Award nominee Tony Nelson (34 yards on 15 carries) running the ball, contributed to a long evening for the Minutemen.
The road to the FCS playoffs only gets harder for UMass. Next week the Minutemen (3-2 overall and 1-1 in the CAA) host undefeated New Hampshire and the following week they travel to Virginia to take on top-ranked and defending national champion Richmond.
The Minutemen also have a mid-November bout in Amherst, MA. against James Madison, another regular among the FCS poll. Despite tonight's setback, Coach Morris is prepared for the challenges he and his players face in the coming weeks.
"This is the CAA," Morris explained. "Our players understand the level of play and what to expect. They need to strap it on every week and be ready to play."
Delaware, meanwhile, kept its hopes alive of earning a playoff berth by improving to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the CAA.
"We played a great game tonight and beat a very good football team," said Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler. "It's been a while since we had a win like this."
The Blue Hens have gained some confidence with two consecutive CAA victories, but still must negotiate a schedule that includes a home game against JMU and road contests to end the regular season at Navy and Villanova. There are also a contest at Towson and a home encounter with Hofstra on the horizon.
"It was an all-around effort. I've been saying all year that we have a good football team - as good as anybody out there. Our record might not reflect that right now, but we keep making big strides and keep getting better each week."
10/11 09:42:29 ET