KINGSTON, Rhode Island — The Blue Hens wanted to make a positive first impression as they opened their Colonial Athletic Association football schedule.
It was more like an indentation.
Delaware gouged Rhode Island with five straight first-half touchdowns in an imposing display of offensive firepower and went on to rout the Rams 42-21 on a mild, sunny afternoon at Meade Stadium.
No. 17-ranked Rhode Island fell to 2-1 overall, 1-1 in the CAA after the two teams played here for the fourth straight season and Delaware avenged a heart-breaking loss last year.
Delaware quarterback Nolan Henderson, who missed last year’s Rhode Island visit after suffering a season-ending injury the week before, surpassed his career bests early while finishing 29-for-34 for 379 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half.
Henderson was not sacked after being dropped nine times the first two games, and URI entered the game with a league-best 11.
Jourdan Townsend had seven catches for 109 yards and two TDs.
Most importantly, Delaware showed the offensive balance it was missing, as its 610 total yards included 379 in the air and 231 rushing.
Leading the way on the ground was Kyron Cumby with 77 yards on eight carries and a TD.
Rhode Island finished with 303 total yards, much of it after the outcome had been decided. Delaware limited veteran quarterback Kasim Hill to 16-for-37 passing and 179 yards and two touchdowns, the latter with 1:34 on the clock.
Delaware was stopped on downs on its first possession at the URI 41-yard line.
The Blue Hens then unleashed first-year coach Ryan Carty’s up-tempo spread offense in unstoppable fashion, scoring on their next five series to take a 35-7 lead into halftime while piling up 458 yards. Critically, Delaware was relentless both on the ground and in the air, rushing for 143 yards and averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
Henderson threw touchdown passes of 21 yards to Braden Brose, 65 and 4 yards to Townsend and 8 yards to Thyrick Pitts in the most productive half by a UD quarterback since Matt Nagy’s record-smashing 1997 game at UConn.
On the long heave to Townsend, Henderson had to retrieve a snap that went over his head and bounced on the turf.
There was real estate to cover, too, as Delaware’s five first-half scoring drives went 86, 99, 80, 75 and 75 yards. But the Hens never needed more than nine plays to make their trip.
Wildcat quarterback Anthony Paoletti came on to run 9 yards for Delaware’s other first-half touchdown.
Rhode Island was down 28-0 when Gabe Sloat ran up the middle with Delaware defenders bunched in the box for a 65-yard second-quarter touchdown. But the Rams had just 156 first-half yards and Delaware safety Kedrick Whitehead’s end-zone interception had thwarted one threat.
Delaware didn’t punt for the first time until there was 8:42 left in the third quarter, after URI had trimmed the lead to 35-14.
Cumby’s 9-yard scoring run along with Garrett Bennion’s sixth extra-point kick in as many tries made it 42-14 early with 13:45 left.
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