All season long, Hofstra had talked about (and proven) how it was much more resourceful and resilient than the squads of 1995 and 1996. But last Saturday, when it counted the most, the new Dutch squad reverted to the bad old days.
Hofstra had 361 net yards on offense to Delaware's 225, yet couldn't score until it was already trailing 24-0 in the third quarter. Hula Bowl-bound kicker Dave Ettinger missed two field-goal attempts, had a third blocked, fumbled a high snap to set up Delaware's first TD, had a punt blocked and returned for a TD.
And QB Gio Carmazzi, the record-setting engine of the Dutch's offense all year, was sacked five times and picked off twice, the second leading to a Delaware TD.
Welcome to Nightmare on Route 896.
Before 14,075 screaming fans at Delaware Stadium, the Flying Dutchmen, whom Delaware eliminated two years ago in an opening round playoff game, fell to the Blue Hens again, 24-14.
Delaware, which had beaten Hofstra 38-18 in 1995, wasn't much more powerful than Hofstra in their first-round on Saturday. But the Blue Hens were more resourceful, eating up clock time with rushes that averaged three and a half yards each.
Meantime, Hofstra got into Delaware's red zone only once in the first half, near the end of the second quarter, but stalled with two incomplete passes, Denis Hulme's six-yard sack of Carmazzi and Jamie Belle's block of Ettinger's field goal.
Delaware QB Brian Ginn completed six of only 14 passes for 59 yards. He let his rushers do the talking. Four Blue Hens finished in double figures on the ground, including Greg McGraw (64 yards on 12 carries) and Craig Cummings (10 carries for 43 yards).
Carmazzi completed 33 of 61 passes for 276 yards.
The Dutchmen never really got momentum. In the first quarter, with Hofstra driving from its own 31, RB Vaughn Sanders rushed up the middle for four yards. Carmazzi then threw incomplete passes to Steve Jackson and Wayne Yearwood.
On fourth down, Ettinger got a high snap and was jounced by Delaware's Dorrell Green, making Ettinger fumble. Hofstra's Damon Sinicropi recovered the errant football, but at the Hofstra 13. Delaware was in business.
Rushes by Andre Thompson, Greg McGraw and Craig Cummings got the Blue Hens to the Hofstra 1, from which Andre Thompson ran up the middle for the TD. Sean Leach's successful extra point kick put Delaware ahead 7-0.
The Hens' next scoring drive, in the second quarter, featured efficient plays like McGraw's 13 yard rush here, Ginn's 10-yard yard rush, a pair of five-yard runs by Cummings and a nine-yard draw play by Andre Thompson that turned a third and eight into a Delaware first down at the Hofstra 24.
Three Ginn incompletions prompted Delaware coach Tubby Raymond to call in Leach, who booted a 57-yard field goal in the second quarter to put Delaware ahead 10-0 with 7:55 left.
Later, with 1:17 remaining and Hofstra stuck at its own 19, Ettinger punted again -- only to have it blocked by Delaware's Brian Smith. Jamie Bell picked up the ball and ran it in for the TD. The Blue Hens led the Flying Dutchmen 17-0 at the half.
Carmazzi looked like he would pilot Hofstra to a second-half comeback, using passes to Yearwood and Sanders and rushes by Steve Jackson and Carmazzi himself to get to the Hens' 37. But on third and three, Delaware freshman DB Mike Pearson picked Carmazzi off at the Delaware 35, and ran down the Hofstra sideline 64 yards before Carmazzi tackled him at the Dutch 1.
Cummings ran the ball into the end zone on the next play. Delaware 24, Hofstra 0. Paging Freddy Kreuger.
Hofstra finally hit the scoreboard on a workmanlike 72-yard, 11-play drive that was the one of the few times it looked as good as its offensive numbers.
The drive's key plays were echoes of the Dutch offense that was ranked eighth in the nation in total yards during the regular season. Carmazzi hits Sanders for a 19-yard gain. Carmazzi hits Yearwood for eight. Sanders rushes up the middle for six and over right guard for eight, and catches a short pass on fourth and one that gives Hofstra a first and 10 at the Delaware 16.
Carmazzi then fired a strike to WR Brian Kish, who ran into the end zone with 9:07 left, finally putting Hofstra on the board and giving Ettinger a chance to gain some peace of mind with the first of his two extra-point kicks.
Hofstra pulled to within 10 points in the fourth quarter on Carmazzi's 25-yard TD strike to Kish. But by that time only 7:46 remained on the clock, and the Blue Hens went into kill-the-clock mode, doing short runs in a 55-yard, 11-play marathon that ate up more than six minutes by the time the Dutch D finally stopped them at the Hofstra 16.
The Hofstra offense finally got the ball back with 1:38 left and got only to the Delaware 49 before time, and the Flying Dutchmen's second playoff season in three years, ran out.