Colgate's Branch sets three NCAA records

Updated: December 19, 2003, 9:06 AM ET
Associated Press

NEWARK, Del. -- Delaware pulled away from Wofford in the second half behind the running of Germaine Bennett and earned a berth in the Division I-AA championship game with a 24-9 victory Saturday.

Bennett amassed a career-high 186 yards on 31 carries and scored three touchdowns, all in the second half. He also set a school single-season record for yards rushing (1,583).

The Blue Hens (14-1) will play for the title Friday night in Chattanooga, Tenn., against Colgate, which beat Florida Atlantic 36-24 in Saturday's other semifinal game.

Delaware, which set a school record for wins in a season, is seeking its first I-AA title. The second-seeded Blue Hens have outscored the opposition 109-23 in their three playoff games, all at home.

Wofford (12-2), participating in the I-AA playoffs for the first time, had a 12-game winning streak snapped.

Despite receiving another outstanding performance from its defense, Delaware was locked in a 3-all tie until Bennett scored on 2-yard run late in the third quarter.

The senior running back made it 17-3 with 6:41 left, capping an 89-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run, then clinched the victory by scoring from the 15 with 2:42 remaining.

Delaware fans stormed the field with three seconds left, then were herded together on the sideline before Wofford scored on the final play.

The fans then returned to begin working on toppling the goal post, and the game was called before a conversion could be attempted.

It was Wofford's first loss since a 49-0 defeat at Air Force on Aug. 30. The Terriers won two straight playoff games at home before flying to Delaware -- only the sixth time in the 114-year history of the program that Wofford traveled by air to a game.

The flight back to South Carolina was likely a quiet one.

The Terriers made a game of it for three quarters with their defense. The Blue Hens reached Wofford territory on each of their first five possessions but could manage only a field goal.

Delaware finally ended the trend in the third quarter, when Bennett accounted for all but 15 yards in a 52-yard drive that ended with the first of his two touchdowns.

In Fort Lauderdale, Jamaal Branch set three NCAA season records and Chris Brown threw for 207 yards and three touchdowns, leading Colgate to a 36-24 victory over Florida Atlantic on Saturday in a Division I-AA semifinal game.

The win extended the Raiders' (15-0) winning streak to 21 games and sent them to their first national title game.

Branch, who rushed 45 times for 130 yards and one touchdown, eclipsed and NCAA record for carries in a season (430), and I-AA touchdowns (29) and rushing yards in a season (2,271).

"I was glad to get on a dry surface," said Branch, a finalist for I-AA's top honor, the Walter Payton Award. "The past two weeks I've been playing on the ice."

In snowy playoff wins over Massachusetts and Western Illinois, Colgate averaged just 47 yards on the ground. But the Raiders ran for 205 yards as a team and held the ball for nearly 43 of the game's 60 minutes Saturday, with Branch getting most of the credit.

"He's a great player," Colgate coach Dick Biddle said. "Our kids love blocking for him because they like him so much. He's phenomenal player and a phenomenal person. I don't know what else to say."

The loss snapped Florida Atlantic's 10-game win streak and ended a surprising playoff run by the third-year program, led by former Miami and Louisville coach Howard Schnellenberger.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press