NEWARK, Del. -- Hosting its first FCS Playoff game since their 2010 FCS Championship run, heavily-favored CAA Champion Delaware was in search of a win over Sacred Heart on Saturday night.
Despite being heavily favored, the Blue Hens (6-0) had to grind their way through a 19-10 victory over the NEC Champion Pioneers (3-2) in the confines of Delaware Stadium.
Things got off to a booming start as Kedrick Whitehead of Delaware picked off SHU quarterback Marquez McCray on the opening drive of the game, running it back to the red zone and having an unsportsmanlike penalty tacked on to get it to the seven-yard line.
A pair of Dejoun Lee rushes led to an easy touchdown pass from Nolan Henderson to Braden Brose to give the Hens an early 7-0 lead.
Both teams traded three-and-out drives before the largest drive of the game occurred for the Pioneers. Julius Chestnut tore through the Delaware defense throughout an 80-yard drive, and a McCray run set up a seven-yard score for Chestnut, who finished the day with 138 yards.
Delaware and Sacred Heart played stout defense for the remainder of the half, as Noah Plack of Delaware and Arsheen Jiles of Sacred Heart each recorded an interception in the ensuing drives.
Sacred Heart lined up for a punt with 32 seconds remaining in the second quarter and the ball was snapped high over the punter's head and out of the end zone for a safety, giving the Blue Hens a slim 9-7 lead at the half.
Four punts in a row occurred before another score. Delaware threatened on a drive on the strength of several strong runs by Khory Spruill. Ryan Coe, the member of the All-CAA Second Team, lined up for a 53-yard field goal, which would be a career-high if he hit it, and he sent it up and off the crossbar and over to give the Blue Hens a 12-7 lead. This field goal was Coe's career-long, the third-longest in Delaware history and the longest in postseason play. The roughly 3,100 fans in attendance went wild following the field goal.
Sacred Heart answered with a field goal from Noah Gettman to make things tantalizingly close.
Spruill churned through the defense some more, and on a 4th-and-2 run, he had his helmet yanked off, necessitating a face mask call, putting the Blue Hens in prime position. Dejoun Lee had two huge runs to set up a potential score, and Anthony Paoletti came in and did just that, taking a direct snap into the end zone and putting the Blue Hens up by nine.
Sacred Heart turned it over on downs after this and Delaware iced the game, clinching their first home playoff victory since their win over Georgia Southern in the 2010 FCS Semifinals on December 18, 2010.
Delaware will play against no. 4 seed Jacksonville State next week who dismantled Davidson 49-14 earlier today.