DOVER (DE) – The 25th-ranked Delaware Valley University football team forced five turnovers to upset #7 Wesley College in the season-opening non-conference game for both teams on Friday.
It was the Aggies' first victory over the Wolverines since a 25-22 home win in 2008. It was also the first DelVal win in Dover since 1992 when the Aggies prevailed, 30-29. Wesley has reached the NCAA postseason in each of the past 11 seasons and advanced to the quarterfinals in 2015.
The DelVal defense recorded four interceptions and one fumble recovery on the evening. Three of the picks came from junior captain Shawn Miller, tying the school record for interceptions in a game.
All of the scoring occurred in the first half. Wesley got on the board first with a two-yard touchdown run by Jamar Baynard. The extra point gave the Wolverines a 7-0 lead with 8:21 to go in the opening quarter. That finished off an 11-play, 55-yard drive that began when the Aggies failed on a fourth down conversion attempt.
In the second quarter, DelVal began a drive at the Wesley 43. On a 3rd and 15 from the Wesley 48, sophomore quarterback Dashawn Darden found senior Mike Jensen for a 20-yard gain to put the Aggies at the 28-yard line. Later in the drive, Darden found Jensen again, this time in the end zone, for a 10-yard score and sophomore Nick Restaino's extra point tied the score at seven with 12:38 to go in the first half.
After the Aggie defense forced a punt, DelVal started on its own 16. On the third play of the drive, Darden found junior Devauntay Ellis in the flat and Ellis burst free for a 65-yard catch and run to the Wesley three-yard-line. Two plays later, Darden took the ball to paydirt himself and, after the PAT, the Aggies had a 14-7 lead.
On Wesley's ensuing drive, the Wolverines replaced starting quarterback Nick Falkenberg with Dan Kesack. Kesack sparked the offense to a 16-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Kesack finding Bryce Shade for a six-yard touchdown pass.
DelVal got the ball back on its own 14 with 2:59 remaining in the half. With the Aggies at their own 40, Darden found junior David Claybrook with back-to-back passes of 12 and 11 yards respectively. They added 15 more yards on a personal foul penalty by Wesley. Two plays later, Darden hit senior tight end Kyle Bigam for a 20-yard gain down to the Wesley two-yard-line. Senior captain Tyler Bing then took a jet sweep to the left side into the end zone for what would turn out to be the winning score.
Wesley was driving to start the third quarter and advanced the ball to the DelVal 43. However, on 3rd and 14, Miller picked up his first interception of the game, returning it to the Wesley 39. The Aggies moved the ball to the 33 but turned it over on downs.
The Wolverines' next possession saw them move the ball deep into DelVal territory, with the big play being a 23-yard hookup between Kesack and Shade. Kicker Eric Speidel had an opportunity to cut the deficit to four but hooked a 34-yard field goal attempt to the left.
Falkenberg returned for Wesley in the fourth quarter and moved the offense to the DelVal 25. With the Wolverines threatening, Miller came up big again, undercutting Shade in the end zone for his second pick.
After DelVal could not capitalize, Wesley took over at its 18. On third down, Falkenberg's pass deflected off of junior TJ Waters up into the air and Miller came down with it for his third interception of the contest. The Aggies were able to reach the one-yard-line but Restaino missed an 18-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Wesley had one more chance to even the score with 2:06 left. On 3rd and 17 from the Wesley 26, Falkenberg hit Shade for a 24-yard gain but junior linebacker Nick Wright knocked the ball out and it was recovered by sophomore Christian Snowden. DelVal was able to run out the clock and seal the victory.
The Aggies did not turn over the football while forcing five Wesley miscues. Wesley also committed 14 penalties for 102 yards while DelVal had just eight calls against them.
Darden finished the night 16-of-26 passing for 214 yards and a touchdown. He added 31 yards rushing and a score on nine attempts. Ellis ran the ball 12 times for 49 yards while sophomore Eric Shorter caught four passes for 24 yards. Jensen made three receptions for 39 yards and a score.
Miller made 14 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, with one sack to go with his three interceptions. Wright had an interception of his own to add to his forced fumble. Junior Frank Law and freshman Jarren McBryde each made 11 tackles.
Kesack went 15-of-24 with 135 yards, one touchdown and one interception for Wesley. Falkenberg was 12-for-22 for 116 yards with three picks. Baynard ran the ball 20 times for 78 yards and a trip to the end zone. Shade registered nine catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Samer Manna was the leading tackler with 11.
Next, DelVal begins Middle Atlantic Conference play with the home opener and Hall of Fame Game versus Misericordia University on Saturday, September 10 (1:00 p.m.).