By Jeremy Stafford --firstname.lastname@example.org
It's hard to believe that Shenandoah, despite having some of the most productive individuals in the USA South, is only 2-2 in conference play.
What's worse, Shenandoah's wins have been marginal, and its losses have been atrocious.
As one SU player so delicately put it, "we had to get spanked."
Shenandoah's conference losses are as follows: A 28-13 debacle to Christopher Newport, and a 56-20 pelting by Ferrum.
Shenandoah is averaging only 17 points a game, and is giving up nearly 30 a game.
Again -- it's hard to believe considering the Hornets are getting this kind of production from individual players: Quarterback Danny Wright's average of 170.1 passing yards ranks second-most in the USA South, and wideout Rico Wallace (113.1 yards per game) is far and away the most productive receiver in the conference.
And after having to wait three games before getting 20 carries, SU tailback Keone Kyle has finally worked his way back to the top of the conference, churning out 145 yards against Maryville and 115 yards against Methodist in the process.
The Shenandoah defense is seeing similar production. Corey Giffing leads the conference with 78 tackles, and Joshua Rogers, having seen limited time prior to conference play, ranks sixth in the USA South with 57 tackles.
Giffing is one of two players in the USA South averaging double-digit tackles.
Which is why, despite having only two wins this season, no one should discount Shenandoah's season -- at least not yet.
Maybe a conference championship is a long shot, but it's mathematically possible. SU's next two games are against Averett and N.C. Wesleyan, which are in a four-way tie with CNU and Ferrum for first in the conference.
Supposing the Hornets win out, they would end the season second in the conference at worst.
And with the way the USA South has panned out after four games, it seems anybody can beat anybody by any amount -- except for maybe the woeful Greensboro, whose statistics are deplorable.
"Every time I look at the scores every week, I'm shocked one way or the other about who won or who lost," Wright said. "Even though we do have two losses, and the No. 1 team has one loss, all it takes is one point, or one little mismatch for that team to fall out of the top spot."
Here's what Wright means: Methodist, a team Shenandoah beat, took Ferrum to triple overtime.
Maryville, a team Shenandoah beat, ousted Averett by a touchdown. Averett then turned itself around in a spectacular way, edging Methodist by a minute four points.
And with the show Wright and Wallace put on last week, with the two hooking up for 224 yards and two touchdowns, it's fair to say Shenandoah, when pressed to, can put up points nearly as often as it would like.
But that's where a lot of Shenandoah's offensive problems originate -- a lack of impending desperation during the normal flow of play. SU scored when it needed to against Maryville, and it scored when it needed to against Methodist. But SU isn't scoring in a game's dawning possessions, when putting up points is more of a luxury than a necessity.
Hornets coach Paul Barnes saw potential in Shenandoah's passing game Saturday, enough to feel comfortable knowing that if the Hornets give up 56 points again, Wright and Wallace and Kyle and the rest can keep pace if need be.
"I think we haven't reached [our potential] yet," Barnes said. "I think there's things we still can do in making more explosive plays, bigger plays, and capitalizing down in the red zone.
"I just saw a glimpse of it [Saturday] ... that's the first time I thought, 'OK, we're going to be all right.'"