By Jeff Nations
WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah University sophomore quarterback Corey Taylor was getting back on that field, one way or another, if he could get one last chance against Randolph-Macon on Saturday at Shentel Stadium.
Josh Storm didn't give Taylor that chance, connecting on a 20-yard field goal with one second to play to boost the visiting Yellow Jackets to a come-from-behind 27-24 victory.
The winning kick reversed what was shaping up as a dismal day for Storm, a senior who missed a 33-yard field goal and a crucial extra point in the fourth quarter that allowed Shenandoah (1-7, 0-5 Old Dominion Athletic Conference) to maintain a one-point lead.
"To be able to go out there and put an exclamation mark on that win, it's pretty special," Storm said. "I really couldn't ask for more. I hope to stay incredibly blessed and extremely lucky."
The Hornets seemed the lucky ones after Storm's missed extra point. Having nearly blown a two-touchdown halftime lead, Shenandoah regrouped after Storm's miss with a five-play, 70-yard drive capped by Taylor's 33-yard touchdown pass to Qiydaar Murphy. The touchdown was especially sweet for Murphy, whose 53-yard touchdown reception on SU's previous possession was nullified by his offensive pass interference penalty.
"I recognized the no-deep [coverage], so without giving signals I'd just yell Corey's name as loud as I can and he already knows what it means," said Murphy, who totaled six catches for 169 yards. "So it went from a run play to a pass real quick when he realized they were in man coverage."
Trailing by eight points, Randolph-Macon (5-3, 3-2 ODAC) landed a damaging counter-blow on its ensuing possession with a reverse pass, as Luke Sellers connected with Terry Clark on a 41-yard pass play to the SU 29. Four plays later, Will McGhee's 9-yard touchdown run had the Yellow Jackets within two points.
Shenandoah's Jajuan Johnson nearly swatted down Randolph-Macon quarterback Zac Naccarato's conversion pass to Zach Midulla, but the pass slid through Johnson's swipe and into Midulla's arms for to tie the game with just 1:34 to play.
Shenandoah's Taylor, whose limp from an injured right knee increased throughout the game, wasn't cleared to go on the Hornets' ensuing possession. Backup quarterback Shawn Lloyd opened the drive at his own 31 with a 15-yard pass to David Bell, but the Yellow Jackets' Abel Simpson picked off Lloyd's next pass attempt at the R-MC 46.
"Shawn was ready," said Shenandoah coach Paul Barnes, who entered the contest short a quarterback after Philip Gardner left the program for personal reasons during the week. "I think that ball was a little slippery when he released it, the interception. He made a nice throw to David [Bell] to get us going and get us in there."
Naccarato's 33-yard pass to Sellers got the Yellow Jackets within field-goal distance, and a 13-yard run by McGhee made it practically a chip shot at the SU 6. Two plays later, and it was to the Hornets' 3. Considering Storm's day, though, Randolph-Macon coach Pedro Arruza could well have been sweating out that kick -- perhaps even enough to consider giving another shot to freshman Matt Stanek, who missed a 42-yard field goal early in the game.
"There wasn't a doubt in my mind about who I was going to go with at that point," Arruza said. "There wasn't -- got to go with a veteran, got to go with experience."
The loss stymied another solid effort from the Hornets' suddenly resurgent offense, which is finally putting points on the board with Taylor under center.
After Stanek's missed field goal on the Yellow Jackets' opening possession, the Hornets got on the board when Bell turned a screen pass from Taylor into an 80-yard touchdown by avoiding two tacklers and then turning upfield to outrun pursuit to the end zone.
Storm connected on a 21-yard field goal on R-MC's next possession, but early in the second quarter Taylor made another big play. On fourth-and-2 from the Yellow Jackets' 15, Taylor broke loose for a 15-yard touchdown run. Shenandoah added on with Andrew Williams' 24-yard field goal, and the Hornets held their first halftime lead since a season-opening with over Stevenson back on Sept. 1.
"When we came into the locker room, I think that was probably an all-time high for us, especially this year," Hornets senior defensive tackle Nick Erdman said. "When we came out to the second half, we felt very confident that we were going to be able to hold them."
Instead, the Yellow Jackets opened the second half with an eight-play, 74-yard drive capped by Vance Hendren's 9-yard touchdown run that pulled his team back within a touchdown.
"We knew we could do it; we just had to execute," said Naccarato, who was 13 of 21 passing for 170 yards with one touchdown and one interception. "We just shot ourselves in the foot too many times in the first half."
Naccarato's 14-yard touchdown pass to Sellers had the Yellow Jackets with a point with 7:36 left to play, but Storm's miss set up the dramatic finish.
"It's difficult," said Taylor, who was 10 of 19 passing for 279 yards and two touchdowns and an interception. "Everybody wants it, everybody was fighting for it. We made more mistakes than them, I guess."
Contact sports editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137, or firstname.lastname@example.org