Ryan Carty had a multitude of tasks to tackle and decisions to make after becoming University of Delaware football coach last December.
One of them took time. 72 Inch Wall Clock
And put it on the wall.
Carty, a former UD quarterback, did some interior decorating upon his arrival, seeing to it that a countdown clock toward Delaware’s annual season-ending clash with Villanova was installed in the Blue Hens’ Carpenter Center locker room.
“I think it’s an important game,” Carty said of his decision.
It’s now down to a matter of days and hours until the Blue Hens (7-3 overall, 4-3 CAA) and Wildcats (5-5, 3-4) kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Villanova Stadium.
A victory would likely land Delaware in the NCAA FCS 24-team playoffs. The Blue Hens, once postseason regulars, have qualified just twice in the past 11 seasons.
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“He understands the importance of the tradition and this game,” Delaware linebacker Liam Trainer said of Carty having that clock installed.
Busy as he was coaching on the New Hampshire staff from 2007-17 and Sam Houston from 2018 through 2021, Carty was only minimally aware of what was happening in the Delaware-Villanova rivalry. He admitted to being a bit surprised when learning of the Wildcats’ recent dominance.
Villanova has won nine of the last 10 and 14 of the last 16 against Delaware, which over that span won only in 2011 at the Philadelphia Union stadium in Chester and in the 2021 spring season at Villanova.
Three of those 14 Villanova wins came when the Wildcats finished behind Delaware in the league standings (2010, 2017, 2018) and another when the teams tied (2007). Season-ending losses to Villanova in 2013 and 2017 likely cost Delaware postseason berths.
“Yes, I was part of it, always loved being around it,” Carty said of the Delaware-Villanova rivalry. “It’s a special game. It’s got a little bit more energy around it because it’s a rivalry and because it’s been a rivalry for quite some time and they’re always close games.”
Carty was on Delaware teams that went 3-2 against Villanova from 2002-06. He was actually part of the last Blue Hen squads to win consecutive games over Villanova, in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Villanova not only has a countdown clock for the Delaware game but also what it calls a “Delaware wall” where it can place the Battle of the Blue trophy that goes to the winner and other keepsakes. The idea for that, coach Mark Ferrante said, came from Texas having a similar setup to commemorate its Red River Rivalry with Oklahoma.
“It just puts the emphasis on your rivalry game,” Ferrante said. “ . . . It’s just something that our players always look forward to and we say all the time, ‘When you’re getting ready to play Delaware, throw the records out the window.’”
Villanova now holds a dominant 32-22-1 series lead.
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Getting that turned around “is a priority,” Carty said. “It’s a big one for us. It’s something that our fan base and our community cares about a lot and we recognize that.”
That’s not impossible. Delaware went 14-3-1 against the Wildcats, for instance, from 1971 through 1995. That included the period when Villanova, then a Division I-A (now FBS) member, stunningly dropped football after the 1980 season but brought it back several years later at the I-AA (now FCS) level.
“It’s great to be back part of it,” Carty said, “and seeing it from the other side, from the inside now and hopefully we can kinda get back on track this week and just focus on us. It’s an important game for sure but it’s also just the next one.”
That, Carty said, requires a tricky mindset in which Delaware plays “a high-energy game but we want to play smart and hard and physical” but is “not letting those emotions drive us.”
“We’re gonna get their best shot and we know that,” said Trainer, who understands the rivalry as well as anyone with his father Joe twice serving as Villanova’s defensive coordinator.
The Wildcats do rank No. 3 in the CAA in rushing yards per game (195.8) but they’ve also had the league’s most susceptible rushing defense, allowing a CAA-high 215.9 yards per game. They have lost back-to-back games at Towson 27-3 and William & Mary 45-12.
Inconsistency with a youthful defense, some offensive inefficiency and injuries, especially on the offensive line and in the secondary, have undermined the Wildcats, Ferrante said.
Villanova will miss the FCS playoffs this season but can potentially spoil Delaware’s playoff chances and finish with a winning record by bouncing the Blue Hens. They did that just in 2017, and Villanova offensive coordinator Chris Boden, the former record-setting quarterback with the Wildcats, often has some tricks up his sleeve just for the Blue Hens. The Wildcats' big-play potential remains a valid concern.
“We’re expecting really everything,” Trainer said.
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