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Harrisburg Pay and Rot Ooze, October 18, 2009
Hershey Bars Smear Baltimore, 41-13, for 3rd Straight
Recover 3 Roethlisberger Fumbles; Pick Six for Page
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Philadelphia Ink Crier, October 18, 2009
Manning Leads Charleston Past Lakers, 27-13
Berrian, Driver Combine for 195 Yards; Jacobs Held in Check
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Wilmington Snooze-Terminal, October 18, 2009
Cherries Stifle Connecticut Offense, Earn 20-10 Win
Limit Hosts in 1st Half to 2 First Downs, 61 Total Yards
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New York Slimes, October 18, 2009
Late Holt TD Boosts Empires Over Syracuse, 27-24
Veteran Wide Receiver Stars with 110 Yards on 6 Catches
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Albany Sliced Onion, October 18, 2009
Racers Shut Down Edwards, Punish Washington, 28-7
Regain 1st Place as Campbell Passes for 232 Yards, 2 TDs to Mason
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Providence Kernel, October 19, 2009
McNabb, Richmond Thump Steam Roller, 30-10
Winfield Interception Return for TD Caps 24-Point 2nd Quarter
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Wilmington Snooze-Terminal, October 18, 2009

Rip Snorter

Whitner Played Magician — Made Smith Disappear

It’s practically unheard of for my pick for Cherries defensive player of a game to not have a single tackle to his credit. Nonetheless, I’m picking talented strong safety Donte Whitner for his play last night as the Delaware defense got back on track in the Cherries’ workmanlike 20‑10 win over Connecticut.

After a promising start to the season as the replacement for injured Comets quarterback Tom Brady, Matt Cassel has been getting worse. Against the Cherries’ “Air Traffic Control,” Cassel, as he had the previous week in Richmond, completed only 9 passes.

A big reason for that low number last night was Whitner’s lockdown coverage on Connecticut tight end L.J. Smith. Whitner played the role of magician, effectively making Smith, who came into the game with 25 catches for 187 yards and 5 touchdowns, disappear.

As a result, Cassel’s target options were significantly limited. He managed completions to just 3 teammates — all wide receivers: Jerricho Cotchery (6 receptions), Bobby Wade (2), and Mark J. Clayton (1 for a 29-yard score).

The one time Cassel targeted Smith — a slant route late in the third quarter — Whitner had Smith blanketed, and Cassel threw behind and to Smith’s left where he had no chance to catch it.

On a few occasions Whitner had double-team help on Smith from Brian Dawkins and Ray Lewis. Mostly, though, the hard-hitting Whitner, who in his 3rd season with the Cherries is rapidly becoming one of the EFL’s elite strong safeties, handled Smith all by himself.

Taking Smith’s Whitner-induced complete absence of productivity into account, it’s easy to understand how Whitner finished the night without any tackles. Not one to be held off of the stats sheet, however, Whitner capped his performance with an interception of a poorly thrown Cassel bomb intended for Clayton at the Delaware 21 with 3:59 to go in the game and the Comets still within striking distance of the Cherries.

Whitner modestly credited Delaware’s strong pass rush for his success against Smith. “Ray and The Freak [Julius Peppers] were putting the squeeze on [Cassel] from the sides all night. A lot of times I really didn’t have to stay close to Smith very long.” Whitner has a point. Cassel’s offensive line didn’t give him a lot of time to throw. Peppers got to Cassel twice, the star end’s team-leading 5th and 6th sacks of the season.

On the other side of the line Connecticut’s pass rush was a concern to Jon Brams and the Delaware coaching staff coming into the game. The Comets led the league through week 10 with 30 sacks, including 10 by James Harrison and 7 by Justin Tuck.

The Cherries’ offensive line, along with Tony Richardson (and Todd Yoder and Corey McIntyre after Richardson got hurt in the 3rd quarter), would do much to alleviate Brams’ concern. While Tuck did chase down Philip Rivers once, on the whole Rivers had ample time to throw, even with reserve Adam Goldberg filling in for all-star left tackle Jordan Gross after Gross strained his hamstring in the 3rd quarter. Delaware kept Harrison in check as well; he had only 2 tackles.

Buoyed by the secure pocket, Rivers rebounded from a poor performance last Sunday morning against Syracuse, with 25 completions in 39 attempts. His night was marred by a couple of Tyrell Johnson picks, but otherwise Rivers looked quite comfortable against Tuck, Harrison, former Cherries linebacker London Fletcher and the rest of the Comets’ tough defense.

With their 8th win of the season, the Cherries are guaranteed their 5th winning season in a row. More important, they are now tied in the race for the #1 playoff seed wtih the Caps who last night lost their 2nd straight. Like Cassel, Washington quarterback Trent Edwards was held to single-digit completions. Edwards’ apparent sudden loss of his mojo has to have Caps coach Clint Hillary and the Washington braintrust concerned.

They should take comfort, though, from the fact the Caps hold the tiebreaker over the Cherries, thanks to Washington’s 23‑10 defeat of Delaware back on August 23 at Delaware.

Furthermore, the Caps’ lead in the Southern Division is still a healthy 3 games. The Cherries, on the other hand, have the Emps and the Hershey Bars yet to shake in the Central, as both won last night to remain 1 and 2 games back, respectively.