The Blue Hens will open the 2013 season on Thursday night at Delaware Stadium.

Delaware pride

Excitement builds as new era of UD football begins Thursday night

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1:31 p.m., Aug. 26, 2013--University of Delaware fans are invited to join in the excitement as a new era of UD football, complete with several new game-day traditions, begins on Thursday night at Delaware Stadium when the Blue Hens host Jacksonville (Fla.) University.

A new pregame tradition will be introduced at 5 p.m., Thursday, with members of the football team marching from the Delaware Field House and down Stadium Drive to the cheers of tailgaters.

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The football players will be escorted on the line of march by the UD Marching Band and the spirit teams.

For subsequent home games, the walk will start about two and one-half hours before kickoff.

In addition to the pregame event, fans are invited to remain after the game – win or lose -- to join the Blue Hens coaches and players as they team with the Marching Band to sing the alma mater in the southwest corner of Tubby Raymond Field.

Eric Ziady, director of athletics and recreation services, said the traditions will be supplemented by a number of Delaware-themed activities.

“We are thrilled with the responsibility and the opportunity to be one of 50 programs in the country to serve as flagship programs in their states,” Ziady said. “We intend to exhibit the pride that comes with that responsibility.”

Ziady said all of the University’s varsity teams will be wearing uniforms that include a patch featuring a map of the state. The football jerseys have the state map bordered on the top by six stars, which represent national championships won by the Hens.

A map also will be displayed prominently on the football field, with “Delaware” in one end zone and “Blue Hens” in the other.

When the football team comes through the tunnel at the start of home games this season, it will be led by a Delaware-born player carrying the state flag, Ziady said.

Also as part of the Delaware theme, two beer gardens at the stadium will carry state-brewed beers, Dogfish Head and 16 Mile.

The beer gardens will be located in the southeast and northwest corners of the stadium, and are open to members of the Delaware Diamonds Society (DDS), University of Delaware Athletic Fund (UDAF) contributors, and to premium box seat holders. Eligible patrons will be provided with a voucher to gain access to the beer gardens. Box holder guests (non-UDAF/DDS donors) will use their ticket stub for access.

Ziady said the changes are designed to enhance the fan experience at UD home games.

“We are really looking to stress a team environment – and the team is more than our sports programs,” Ziady said. “It is the entire University, the entire state. We are one team, and we want to be all in.”

About the Blue Hens

New UD head coach Dave Brock said the players have worked hard through the preseason and he is eager to watch them play “when the lights are on.”

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to start at home in Delaware Stadium,” he said, adding that UD has “special fans” and a “special environment.”

The fans, he said, will see a Delaware team that is “going to attack – we’re going to go after it. We’re going to go after it on offense, we’re going to go after it on defense, and we’re going to go after it in the kicking game.”

He said he wants a “tough, physical” offense that can run the ball to open things up and a defense that “will go 1,000 miles per hour” to create “chaos” within the opposing team.

Brock said he expects a good game from Jacksonville, which itself plays an “up tempo” style.

About student support

UD senior defensive lineman Zach Kerr, co-captain alongside running back Andrew Pierce, encourages his fellow students to attend Thursday night’s game, saying a “big, loud student section” can intimidate an opponent and helps both teams play their best football by feeding off of the energy.

“It is nice to see your peers come out to watch you play, to work at your craft,” Kerr said, adding it is rewarding “to see someone in the stands who you’ve seen walking to class.”

Kerr predicted a strong team that will play Delaware football as it is supposed to be played. “We’re going to look good,” he said, “and we’ll look even better when he have the student section filled with fans.”

Tickets are free for students, who can get in to the game by showing a valid UD ID card at the student entrance.

Shuttle bus transportation will be provided to the stadium beginning at 5:30 p.m. from Rodney and Dickinson, from Christiana Commons on the Laird Campus and from the Perkins Student Center. Postgame shuttle buses will return to those same locations immediately following the game.

About season tickets

Great season ticket packages as low as $99 and single game tickets for as low as $15 are now available by calling 302-831-2257, going to the BlueHens.com ticket website or in-person at the Bob Carpenter Center ticket office.

To follow UD athletics, go to BlueHens.com.

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