Hornets look to rebound

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University was essentially run over by Gallaudet’s triple-option offense in last weekend’s season-opening loss, and the Hornets will have to prepare for another option-oriented attack when they travel to Ferrum this afternoon.

The Hornets (0-1) struggled to contain the triple-option while allowing 390 rushing yards last Saturday, although Shenandoah probably won’t to see that same look from the Panthers this weekend.

Ferrum, although technically an option-based team, tends to run its plays primarily out of the shotgun and pistol formations, utilizing the read option in a spread style while also mixing in the pass.

The Panthers figure to be more balanced on offense than what Shenandoah witnessed in Week 1, but Hornets head coach Scott Yoder thinks there is still an added benefit from having played against the triple-option a week ago.

“To have two option teams in a row where you have to play assignment football, that really helps you in preparing,” Yoder said on Wednesday. “Now, it’s a different style, and the negative to that now is that they get to see that film and see where you struggled, but for us I’d rather have these two teams back-to-back than have a couple teams in between them, because some of our base fundamentals won’t change from these two weeks even though it is a different style offense.”

Much like Shenandoah, Ferrum (0-1) heads into today’s meeting coming off a disappointing season opener after falling to Emory and Henry, 49-13, on the road last weekend.

The Hornets and the Panthers have met every season since 2000, as both teams competed as members of the USA South before Shenandoah moved to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference last season. Ferrum has owned the series, having won 14 of 16 meetings, including the last eight games against the Hornets.

Familiarity with Ferrum will be key for the Hornets, at least on defense, as the experience of the returning veterans in Shenandoah’s new 4-4 defense should aid the Hornets’ effort to slow down the Panthers.

Shenandoah senior cornerback Sean Blackman said the Hornets are also feeling an added boost of confidence after limiting Ferrum’s offense for most of last year’s 14-7 loss to the Panthers.

“From the film I’ve seen so far I don’t see them changing what they did last year to this year. There may be some small detail changes, but as far as their offense and what they want to try to do against us, I think they’re going to be the same way as last year,” Blackman said. “I think with the defense we have this year, it’s going to help us more as far as stopping what they’re trying to get done.”

If the Hornets are to slow down the Panthers, they will have to find a way to contain Ferrum quarterback Tim Reynolds, a dual-threat who combined for 2,559 total yards and 28 total touchdowns last season.

Reynolds was limited to just 33 yards rushing on 10 carries while also throwing a pair of interceptions against Emory and Henry last weekend, but Yoder said the junior still remains the primary concern for Shenandoah’s defense.

“It all starts for them with their quarterback. He’s their best player on offense,” Yoder said. “He’s the type of player that … can give you nightmares, because he’s the type of kid that when you stop the initial play he can beat you by breaking a tackle, he can keep the play extended and just can be a nightmare to defend. These are the types of situations that scare me as a defensive coordinator, because you can draw up the X’s and O’s all you want and you can play well, but he can just out-athlete you, and that’s scary.”

The Hornets’ offense will need to cut down on its mistakes if they hope to improve upon last weekend’s performance. Shenandoah managed 346 total yards of offense and showed an ability to generate big plays in the passing game, but the Hornets managed just 57 yards rushing against Gallaudet. Shenandoah also turned the ball over three times, allowed three sacks and went 0-for-11 on third downs.

Yoder said the plan to use a two-quarterback system remains intact, although freshman starter Justin Neff (19-for-26, 219 yards, one TD) saw a majority of the action over junior Drew Ferguson against Gallaudet.

The Hornets are hoping for a more consistent effort against a Ferrum defense that allowed 463 yards — including 331 yards through the air — last weekend, and the focus this week in practice has been on minimizing the mental mistakes that plagued the Hornets in Week 1.

“We’re just working on us, really. We do what we have to do and work on the little things,” Hornets sophomore wide receiver Brandon Adams said. “The mistakes we made Saturday, to not make them this Saturday will help make the offense better.

“I think it just boils down to us executing our plays and doing our jobs and I think we’ll be straight.”

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD