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EWU defense must contend with UD’s 6-foot-4 QB Devlin

Pat Devlin didn’t just drop out of the sky and land under center as the University of Delaware’s starting quarterback.

Having grown up in Downingtown, Pa., just 40 miles from the UD campus in Newark, Del., Devlin knew a lot about the school’s football program – as well as its fine academic reputation.

So when Devlin, who was one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks in the country coming out of high school in 2005, decided to transfer from Penn State University in search of more playing time following his sophomore season, one of the first phone calls he made was to Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler.

“Pat was a local kid and a legendary high school player in the area,” Keeler said of his 6-foot-4, 222-pound senior, who originally committed to the University of Miami, but ended up at Penn State following a Hurricanes coaching shakeup. “He was in an offense in high school that was similar to what we do here.

“So when he decided to transfer, it was an easy decision to take him.”

That decision paid off in a big way for the Blue Hens (12-2), who have ridden Devlin’s big arm and intelligence to the finals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, where they will face No. 1-ranked Eastern Washington University (12-2) in Friday’s NCAA Division I Championship game in Frisco, Texas.

After winning the starting quarterback job at Delaware in the spring of 2009, Devlin put together a solid debut season, throwing for 2,664 yards and 16 touchdowns for a Blue Hens team that finished 6-5.

But this fall, he has been downright brilliant, completing 68.3 percent (239 of 350) of his passes for 2,812 yards and 22 touchdowns, while throwing only two interceptions – one of which came on a tipped pass, and the other on a play where the intended receiver was knocked down.

Devlin’s 155.37 pass efficiency rating is the third best among FCS quarterbacks, and he was recently honored as the Colonial Athletic Association’s offensive player of the year and a third-team Associated Press All-American.

“He’s just a tremendous player,” EWU coach Beau Baldwin said of Devlin, who will be the focal point of the Eagles’ defense during Friday’s title game.

“I don’t need to see his statistics to know how accurate he is,” Baldwin added. “You can see it on film.

“And he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen as this level of football at getting through his reads, and getting through them quickly. And once he does, his decision making is off the charts for a college quarterback.”

According to Blue Hens quarterbacks coach Jim Hofher, Devlin was accepted almost immediately by his new teammates at Delaware – and not so much for the talent he possessed, as for the class he showed on and off the football field.

“What made the transition easier for Pat and the players that were already here is that Pat is absolutely comfortable in his own skin, so he doesn’t have to act like somebody he’s not,” Hofher said. “The guy didn’t come in here and act like he was BMOC from Penn State.

“He came in with the right attitude and fully immersed himself in the University of Delaware, and our kids saw very quickly that he’s an easy going, humble guy – which helped with chemistry issues right away.”

Devlin doesn’t remember any major problem with his teammates, especially after he won the starting quarterback job.

“I knew they had been through a tough season the year before (in 2008), and that all they really wanted was to get better,” he said. “So all I needed to do was show them I was willing to do whatever I could to help them do that.

“The toughest thing, really, was learning everybody’s name.”

Hofher said the Blue Hens keep their passing offense “as friendly as we can” for Devlin, which helps account for his low number of interceptions.

“But his physical gifts help, as well,” Hofher said. “He’s got good enough size where he can see things downfield, and he’s got good mobility when he has to move around in the pocket or get out of it all together.

“To be an accurate passer, you also have to be smart and decide quickly where the ball needs to go, and he’s show the ability to do that – as well as throw it in spots where only his receivers can catch it.”

Leaving Penn State, according to Devlin, was not an easy call. But as soon as he made it, he set about making it the right one.

“By coming here, I knew I was going to have a chance to play for a championship, whether it be for a conference championship or a national championship,” said Devlin, a graduate student, who has already earned a degree in business. “I’m not the type to look back on things, but even if I were, I’d have no regrets about my decision.

“I’m happy with how everything worked out, and very excited that we really do get to play for a national championship.”

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