Originally created 12/08/00

Hens' resurgence surprise to some



STATESBORO, Ga. - Some teams wouldn't mind a 7-4 record. But Delaware isn't just any team.

The Blue Hens posted that record in 1998 and 1999 while watching the postseason from their living rooms. Other teams now have their eye out for Delaware.

That's because at 12-1, the Hens are just an overtime point away (losing to New Hampshire 45-44) from being undefeated.

Not many I-AA experts would have expected that. The so-called experts ranked Delaware anywhere from 13th in the nation to 25th during the preseason.

But 35th-year coach Tubby Raymond knew better. So does everyone else as the Blue Hens meet visiting Georgia Southern at noon Saturday at Delaware Stadium.

The game will not be televised.

"I've never put much stock in those rankings once I found out who's writing that stuff," said Raymond, whose team has compiled a 94-29-1 record since 1991.

At 73, Raymond is everything, and yet nothing, what you would expect out of coach who has spent his life in collegiate football.

Raymond can be rigid, refusing to talk to you while his team is doing calisthenics prior to a walk-through.

Other times, he can be accommodating, taking pieces from the run-and-shoot and West Coast offenses and incorporating them into his wing-T offensive formation.

Sometimes it's so confusing. The Hens base a high-powered passing game from their run formation.

But what do you expect from a medium-build guy named Tubby?

Quarterback Matt Nagy made a rare start against Georgia Southern as a freshman and carried out Raymond's conservative game plan in a 16-7 victory in 1997. Now Nagy's throwing almost 30 times a game. He has 3,247 yards and 29 touchdowns in 13 games this season while leading Delaware to a first-place tie in the Atlantic 10 Conference with Richmond.

"When you watch the tape (of Nagy in the 1997 game), he was ragged," Raymond said. "Now he's much more composed."

Nagy benefited from a powerful offensive line and two 50-catch receivers, Jamin Elliott and Brett Veach. Elliott caught 52 passes for 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns. Veach had 54 receptions for 773 yards and eight touchdowns.

Running backs James O'Neal, Butter Pressey and Craig Cummings combined for 71 catches.

But Raymond won't abandon the run. The wing-T is to Delaware what the Cheesesteak sandwich is to Philadelphia.

O'Neal, the fullback, led the squad with 780 yards. Halfbacks Pressey and Cummings had 623 and 482 yards respectively.

Defensively, the Hens, led by linebackers Dan Mulhern and Brian McKenna, ranked 13th in the division allowing only 15.9 points a game.

Delaware opened the playoffs with a 49-14 win over Portland State, then topped Lehigh 47-22.

"Did I expect this type of year?" Raymond said. "We had 42 players lose time last year because of injuries. We had a lot of experience coming back. A lot of things have come together."

And when you've been coaching for 35 years, you learn to value experience.