Blue Hens record first national title shutout

Updated: December 20, 2003, 12:48 AM ET
Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Delaware left no doubt about which team was the best in Division I-AA.

All-America Andy Hall threw two touchdown passes to David Boler and the Blue Hens beat Colgate 40-0 Friday night to win the national championship.

"This is what you dream about, to finish on top," Hall said. "I feel like Michael Jordan."

The Blue Hens (15-1) continued the dominance they established in the playoffs, outscoring their previous three opponents 109-23. They recorded the only shutout ever and biggest margin of victory in I-AA championship game history.

Hall, a senior, left Georgia Tech seeking a place where he could play more, and Delaware coach K.C. Keeler snatched him up to start rebuilding the program.

Keeler, a linebacker on Delaware's 1979 Division II national championship team, was hired two years ago and promised his alma mater would compete for national titles.

Hall has been held out of most practices over the last month because of an injured shoulder, but he went 12-of-20 for 183 yards and ran 12 times for 36 yards.

Delaware led 20-0 at halftime after some early miscues by the Raiders (15-1) and added two more touchdowns in the third quarter to seal the victory.

Colgate, playing in its first title game, had its 21-game winning streak snapped in the finale of a phenomenal season for the small liberal arts college in Hamilton, N.Y.

It is only the second nonscholarship team to make it to the championship game since I-AA was formed in 1978. The other was Lehigh, which lost to Eastern Kentucky in 1979.

"The problem with the playoffs is you either go all the way and win a national championship or you lose and feel lousy," Colgate coach Dick Biddle said. "This is the best team Colgate has ever had."

The Raiders owed much of their success to All-America running back Jamaal Branch, who set four NCAA rushing records this season and won the Walter Payton Award for the best offensive player in I-AA over two other finalists that included Hall.

But Branch couldn't do much to help Colgate in this game.

He was held to 55 yards on 20 carries, becoming the first Payton winner to reach the title game but not win.

Delaware rolled up 348 yards of total offense, while Colgate had just 157, and was in control early.

After a bad snap, Raiders punter Jason Sutton got off a 5-yard kick to his 34. Delaware scored five plays later on Germaine Bennett's 1-yard run.

The Blue Hens got the ball back three plays later when Dominic Santoli sacked Chris Brown, who then fumbled. Tom Parks recovered it for the Blue Hens at the Colgate 18.

Hall ran for 14 yards to set up Delaware's next touchdown, his 5-yard pass to Boler at the start of the second quarter.

Things got worse for Colgate after halftime.

The Raiders were pinned on their own 2 and had to punt four plays later, giving Delaware the ball at the Colgate 24.

Antwan Jenkins had a 17-yard run to set up Hall's 9-yard TD pass to Boler.

A 15-yard penalty against Colgate for interfering with Delaware's attempt to catch it resulted led to Bennett's 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Blue Hens a 34-0 lead before the third quarter ended.

Jenkins had a 3-yard touchdown run on Delaware's second possession of the game and added a 2-yarder at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

The Blue Hens were playing in their first championship game since 1982, when they lost to Eastern Kentucky. Delaware looked right at home with a large contingent of fans wearing yellow and blue who braved the 30-degree temperatures and intermittent snow flurries.

Keeler was hired at his alma mater two years ago after he coached Division III Rowan to five national championship games but never won.

"I've sat in coach Biddle's seat before, having lost five national championship games. To have such an amazing season and then have it end that way is so disappointing," Keeler said.

"My message to (the team) was this is a game that is what your career is all about. You have that ring. That's how you're recognized."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press