Pat Kehoe is going to have nightmares about North Dakota State for the rest of his days. Fitting, since this town has a history with classic horror writer Edgar Allan Poe.
Who can blame him? "Murders in the Rue Morgue" wasn't as gruesome as what unfolded on the Delaware Stadium turf on Saturday, Sept. 14.
The Delaware quarterback was mugged, thumped, lambasted and mutilated within an inch of his life for the second time in two years against the defending NCAA Division I FCS national champion Bison. Poor Pat, not the most ambulatory QB the Bison have faced, was sacked six times and completed just 2 of 9 passes for 11 yards and an interception before he was mercifully pulled in the second half.
Blue Hens coach Danny Rocco had seen enough, as had the home crowd of nearly 15,000. Fans lustily booed Kehoe when he trotted back on the field for a play after being replaced by redshirt sophomore Nolan Henderson in the third quarter.
Nevermore, they said.
Here's the deal: The carnage wasn't all Kehoe's fault. While the lefty certainly can't move well and he obviously was holding the ball too long, NDSU's defense showed its dominant self against a Colonial Athletic Association team that was No. 18-ranked in the country.
"North Dakota State's front four just dominated our offensive line," Rocco said.
This Bison defense, while not as talented and deep as a year ago, is still pretty good. This Michael Tutsie kid, a sophomore safety who had his third interception of the young season, can play a little bit.
If there were questions about the Bison's pass rush after two so-so games in that category to open the season, some have been answered. The Bison put the heat to Kehoe with a four-man rush early, overwhelming Delaware's offensive line with defensive ends Derrek Tuszka and Spencer Waege getting back-to-back sacks on the Blue Hens' second series. Later the Bison unleashed blitzes that freed linebackers Jackson Hankey, Jabril Cox and Aaron Mercadel to pummel Kehoe and Henderson.
Kehoe, in the words of Tuszka, was "a sitting duck" for the Bison defense.
"When there is uncertainty of having a firm pocket, that can create a conflict for the quarterback," Rocco said. "When you're not easily able to evade the rush, that becomes problematic."
The Bison finished with seven sacks, with eight different players getting a piece of the action. Like ravens picking at a carcass.
The result was predictable. NDSU won 47-22, one year after winning 38-10 in the Fargodome. That was the game when Kehoe threw a pick-six on Delaware's first play from scrimmage, with Cox doing the honors. The Bison held the Blue Hens to 152 total yards in that game, a figure that seemed out of reach for Delaware in this year's rematch through three quarters Saturday.
It was not to be. The Blue Hens rallied in the fourth quarter and finished with 261 total yards.
You want to nitpick? After giving up just 92 yards through three quarters, the Bison defense allowed the more mobile Henderson to escape pressure and complete some throws on two fourth-quarter TD drives. Blue Hens running back Will Knight had 71 yards in the fourth quarter, 59 on one play, and finished with 115 for the game.
Bison coach Matt Entz was displeased, saying his team missed too many tackles in the fourth quarter. When asked why he called for a fake field goal with a 40-22 lead in the fourth quarter, Entz repeated his mantra that he is going to make opposing teams defend every play. He wants future opponents to have a fake field goal about which to worry.
But then he added: "You saw our defense on the two series prior to that. It wasn't very good."
Henderson proved just slippery enough to avoid several scrums that would've ended in sacks had Kehoe been on the field. The Bison could've reached double-digits. It goes to show what Missouri Valley Football Conference teams have known for the last nine years: The path to beating NDSU is with a mobile quarterback as opposed to a statue.
In two starts against the Bison, Kehoe's combined totals looked like this: 13 of 31 for 106 yards, nine sacks, zero touchdowns and four interceptions.
That wasn't the "Tell-Tale Heart" you heard thumping on the East Coast this week. It was Kehoe's ticker, knowing what he was going to face with the Bison defense.