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Delaware coach knows the drill in preparing his team for the Fargodome

Delaware Blue Hens head football coach Danny Rocco on the sidelines with his team at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., last September. Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

FARGO — The Delaware Field House was built in 1966 for basketball and indoor track and field at the University of Delaware. The modern use of the structure, a turfed indoor practice venue, will get a workout this week.

It has nothing to do with weather, either. The Blue Hens, in prepping for Saturday's Division I FCS football clash at North Dakota State, will challenge the speaker levels to prepare for the crowd noise at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

"This week we'll certainly crank up the volume and crowd noise as we work through our communication and signaling," said Delaware head coach Danny Rocco.

It will be the first-ever meeting between the Bison and Blue Hens, but Rocco is no stranger to the dome. He was the head coach at the University of Richmond when the Spiders played at NDSU in a 2015 FCS playoff game.

Richmond had three false start penalties in the second quarter and NDSU took a 26-0 halftime lead on way to a 33-7 semifinal victory that earned the Bison their fifth straight trip to Frisco, Texas.

The quarterback that day for NDSU, freshman Easton Stick, is now a senior. Stick was 13 of 20 passing with two touchdowns in his final start before Carson Wentz returned from an injury for the title game against Jacksonville State.

This time, Rocco brings a Delaware team to Fargo that is 2-1 after a season-opening upset loss to Rhode Island.

"It really is an extraordinary atmosphere and I'm excited for my student-athletes to have this opportunity to play against the defending national champs and to be able to go into that environment," Rocco said. "For the most part, it will be business as usual with our schedule and routine but we'll do a couple of things with the noise and the crowd working in the indoor facility."

The principal figure in dealing with the noise will be quarterback Pat Kehoe, who will bring one of the bigger frames you'll see behind center in the FCS at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. He's in his fourth year in the program but the first as a starter. He did not attempt a pass until the Rhode Island game but Rocco likes the way his style fits the pro-style offense.

"The offense we're running now is a lot more similar to what I want to do and wanted to do when I got here," Rocco said. "We've been searching to be able to do it. With Pat, we're comfortable he can run the offense the way it's meant to be run. So that's a positive sign for us in terms of settling in and hopefully continuing to get better."

It's the first regular season meeting for NDSU against a team from the Colonial Athletic Association. The Bison will play at Delaware next year as part of a home-and-home contract. NDSU is 5-1 in six meetings with the CAA, with all coming in the FCS playoffs.

"You have to play a complete game and make yourself hard to beat," Rocco said. "Field position in the dome is real. Field position for them creates momentum and energy and you have to be on top of field position. We're looking forward to seeing our guys compete in that environment against a great program."

UP NEXT

What: Delaware at North Dakota State

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome

TV: KVLY (NBC Network)

Radio: 1660-AM, 107.9-FM, 92.7-FM

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

(701) 241-5546
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