Flacco didn’t throw his helmet. He didn’t admonish his wide receiver for running a different route. He simply walked to the bench. He didn’t hang his head and didn’t show any outward self-frustration at what a horrible pass it clearly was and what a poor decision in that circumstance it was for the team.
Only two scouts remained for the halftime meal and the second half of Richmond at Delaware: Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl.
“Our first thought was: let’s see how he responds,” Douglas said.
Flacco came out in the second half with some quiet anger and led a go-ahead drive and later had a drive end with a field goal, but the game was tied 31-31 at the end of the third quarter. Delaware fell behind midway through fourth quarter and Flacco led a monster drive in a no-huddle, two-minute drill, this time running in a quarterback sneak on the last play of regulation to tie the game, 38-38. The sold out crowd in Newark went wild.
Meanwhile, as this game seemed to go on endlessly, Douglas sadly realized that he needed to get in his car and get down to Catonsville to meet DeCosta and Hortiz for the Boston College-Maryland game in College Park. As much as they liked what they were seeing from Flacco, at this point Matt Ryan was a Heisman Trophy candidate and was clearly their quarterback of choice.
With Douglas in the car, Weidl was on the phone from the press box giving him play by play of the overtime all the way down I-95. Of course, Douglas had a vested interest beyond Joe Flacco. He wanted to see Flacco perform well, but not well enough to beat his Spiders.
The first overtime saw Flacco make a 21-yard touchdown throw. In, the second overtime both settled for field goals. Neither team scored in the third session. In the fourth overtime, Flacco threw a 25-yard TD pass. And, finally, in the fifth overtime, Flacco had a pass batted down in the end zone on 4th down and the Blue Hens lost to the Spiders, 62-56.
“Andy was excited just telling me what was happening,” Douglas said. “I was getting a full play-by-play and we were blown away by his ability to handle the adversity of that bad throw before the half. Hey, a lot of guys would get rattled by that kind of an interception — before halftime — putting the team behind like that. But, Joe came right out in the second half like it never happened and he battled all day. He battled through the adversity and you always want to see a kid do that, especially at that position because things are going to go wrong.
“It was one of the best college football games I’ve ever seen, and I left before it even got really good,” Douglas said. “Andy was the lucky one. He got to see the whole game. Plus Delaware lost and as a Richmond alum, I was happy about that, too.”
At the end of the day, Flacco threw three TD passes and ran for two more and ended the game 26-of-38 for 375 yards in a gut-wrenching, home loss to another ranked team. But the Ravens scouts saw a big-armed quarterback battle through adversity, and he didn’t look like any Division I-AA quarterback they’d ever seen.
About 90 miles south, Matt Ryan went 33-for-56 throwing for 421 yards with three TDs and two interceptions at Maryland, but he couldn’t play defense for the Eagles as Boston College lost 42-35 to the Terps on Senior Day as the College Park students stormed the field in hopes of a bowl bid. Coincidentally, Jeff Jagodzinski was the head coach of that Eagles team, having beaten out John Harbaugh for job just 10 months earlier.
On their ride home from College Park, the three men – Joe Douglas, Joe Hortiz and Eric DeCosta – pondered their quarterback situation and the possibility that one of the two guys they saw on November 10, 2007 would be the quarterback that would lead the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl win one day.
“That was really a big day for us in evaluating both of them,” Douglas said. “I said to Joe [Hortiz], ‘You might think I’m crazy, but I don’t think Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan are that far apart.’ It was heresy at the time because Ryan was the golden boy.”
Clearly, Big Joe D was falling for Joe Flacco.
Two weeks earlier, when DeCosta was on the field at Navy, Douglas had a rare fall Saturday at home to watch football on television. His wife, Shannon, turned over the man cave at the Douglas estate to the working football scout and he was flipping through games all over the dial, trying to look for specific players in the Ravens’ targeted areas, knowing that he’d be able to get coaches film later and zero in on some prospects.
Douglas wound up leaving the Delaware-Navy game on the set for most of the afternoon, seeing the same things that made DeCosta forego College Park that day for more Flacco time and the Delaware Blue Hens offense.
“Why in the world are you watching Navy and Delaware?” Shannon asked.
“This could be our quarterback one day,” he said.
“Really?” she said, shocked. “From Delaware?”
“Just watch him throw,” Douglas told his wife. “Just watch him throw the ball.”