The 2017 First State college football season kicks-off Thursday when the University of Delaware and Delaware State University square off in Newark at 7 pm.
The contest marks the debut of new Blue Hen head coach Danny Rocco.
He’s trying revive a UD program that’s been absent from the playoffs since 2010 and is coming off its first back-to-back losing seasons since the late 1930s.
But Rocco says he believes the Hens are making progress toward turning things around.
"It’s always an ongoing chore to be able to get things where you want them and build your culture the way you want it to be. But I do think, basically, we’re on track," said Rocco. "So, I’m optimistic and certainly excited about Thursday night."
The game is an intrastate rivalry, with the two schools less than an hour away from each other. But beyond the proximity, it’s hard to call the battle between the Blue Hens and Hornets a true “rivalry.” The two teams have met seven times, with UD winning each and every time.
And Rocco adds with the Hens beginning their first year with him at the helm, he’s not really playing up the rivalry with his squad.
“I certainly recognize the significance of the opponent and the rivalry and the geography, but I think in this particular situation, this is one of those weeks where it's really more about us," said Rocco. "It’s more about our focus, our energy, our intensity and our preparation.”
The Hens, who went 4-7 a year ago, face a Delaware State team also looking to turn its fortunes around.
The Hornets were 0-11 last year, including a 56-14 loss to UD.