4:00 PM ET, December 8, 2007
CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) -- Joe Flacco grins about having just one final examination left this semester. But the Delaware quarterback couldn't be happier about the big test he passed Saturday.
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns, helping the No. 13 Blue Hens edge fourth-ranked Southern Illinois 20-17 to advance to the Football Championship Subdivision title game.
"All of us are going to enjoy it," Flacco said after Delaware (11-3) advanced to a title bout next Friday with Appalachian State (12-2).
The Mountaineers advanced Friday night by ousting Richmond 55-35 on Friday night, and will be seeking their third-straight national championship in what used to be Division I-AA.
"Now, it's us versus them," Flacco said. "I think we're a pretty good team, too."
Omar Cuff did his part, running for 102 yards on 21 carries in helping Delaware snap the Salukis' six-game winning streak.
Delaware coach K.C. Keeler called it a sweet capper to what he called a "brutal" week, starting with the bad weather that delayed the Blue Hens' return home after their second-round victory a week ago at top-ranked Northern Iowa.
Delaware's short practice week was followed by a long flight back to the Midwest for the matchup against the Salukis in what looked like a potential high-scoring affair -- the Salukis came in averaging 39.5 points, the Blue Hens 38.6.
"All I know is we just beat the No. 1 team and the No. 4 team on the road. I should feel pretty good about my team," Keeler said. "You could look at the stats and say this is going to be a shootout. It never works out that way."
Jon Striefsky had two fourth-quarter field goals for Delaware, the first a 47-yarder that extended the Blue Hens' lead to 17-10 with 10:09 left.
Southern Illinois' Craig Turner returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, tying the score at 17. But Flacco picked away at the Salukis (12-2) on the next possession, completing five passes for 67 yards in setting up Striefsky's 24-yard field goal with 6:58 to play.
Southern Illinois' ensuing drive stalled when Nick Hill was sacked on fourth-and-4 at the Delaware 36 with 3:56 left. Anthony Walters sealed Delaware's victory by intercepting Hill at the Southern Illinois 45 with 1:42 to go.
"We just made some mistakes at crucial times, and we didn't make some plays we needed to make -- that we've made all year," Salukis coach Jerry Kill said.
John Randle had 129 yards rushing for the Salukis. Hill finished with 106 yards on 12-of-25 passing, but was intercepted twice. Hill also ran for 41 yards.
"This one hurts. It really does," Hill said.
Delaware, which trailed 10-7 at the half in a game thick with razzle-dazzle, took its first lead on a 9-yard TD pass from Flacco to Kervin Michaud midway through the third quarter.
Southern Illinois then squandered opportunities on its next two possessions, first botching a snap on what would have been a 40-yard field goal attempt.
On the next drive, holder Justin Allen threw a 17-yard TD pass to lineman Dolapo Adubifa on a fake field goal. But Southern Illinois was flagged for an ineligible receiver, and Kyle Dougherty missed a 39-yard field goal.
"All day, we moved the ball. We just didn't take care of it in the red zone," Kill said. "You just can't let those opportunities get away like that."
Delaware linebacker Tim Prindle was ejected on that drive for slugging Randle out of bounds.
The Salukis, who had never trailed in their previous two playoff games, jumped to a 10-0 first-quarter lead by harassing Flacco with blitzes and heavy pressure while keeping the ball for most of the opening quarter.
Randle did the heavy lifting, carrying 11 times for 64 yards in the first quarter, including a 1-yard TD run that put Southern Illinois ahead 10-0.
Flacco eventually found his rhythm, closing the Blue Hens to within three on the second-quarter's first possession with a 9-yard TD pass to Robbie Agnone. Cuff kept the drive rolling, gaining 25 yards on four carries.
The Blue Hens, on the first play after halftime, caught the Salukis sleeping. Flacco lateralled to wideout Aaron Love, who threw a 41-yard completion to a wide-open Cuff to the Salukis 27. But Delaware, hit with a 10-yard holding penalty before Flacco was sacked for a 6-yard loss, eventually punted.
Kyle Dougherty put the Salukis ahead 3-0 with a 42-yard field goal with 5:46 to play in the first quarter, just two plays after a 20-yard TD pass from Hill to Alan Turner was taken off the board because the Salukis were flagged for having an ineligible receiver downfield.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-14||5-15|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||2-4|
|FG||05:46||Kyle Dougherty 42 Yd |
Drive: 10 plays, 24 yds, 5:04
|TD||00:44||John Randle 1 Yd Run (Kyle Dougherty Kick) |
Drive: 7 plays, 67 yds, 3:25
|TD||12:13||Robbie Agnone 8 Yd Pass From Joe Flacco (Jon Striefsky Kick) |
Drive: 8 plays, 69 yds, 3:27
|TD||07:31||Kervin Michaud 9 Yd Pass From Joe Flacco (Jon Striefsky Kick) |
Drive: 6 plays, 87 yds, 2:18
|FG||10:09||Jon Striefsky 47 Yd |
Drive: 11 plays, 49 yds, 3:42
|TD||09:52||Craig Turner 88 Yd Kickoff Return (Kyle Dougherty Kick)||17||17|
|FG||06:58||Jon Striefsky 24 Yd |
Drive: 10 plays, 67 yds, 2:47