By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- In many ways, Shenandoah University and Emory and Henry College will look much alike when the two Old Dominion Athletic Conference foes square off at Shentel Stadium this afternoon at 1 p.m.
That is particularly true on offense, as current Shenandoah offensive coordinator Stan Hodgin served in that same capacity for Emory and Henry for the previous two seasons. The Wasps still run a system similar to the I-spread scheme that Hodgin brought with him to the Hornets this year.
"I watch the film and I look out there and I feel in a way that it's a lot like us," Shenandoah head coach Scott Yoder said. "They have the talent level, what they're trying to do offensively is a lot like what we are -- balanced, but ball control by throwing the football with some good playmakers out there."
The Hornets (3-5, 2-3 ODAC) are hoping that familiarity plays into their defense's favor this week, especially after surrendering 42 points and 454 yards of offense in a loss at Randolph-Macon last weekend, the third game that Shenandoah has allowed at least 42 points this season.
Shenandoah was able to do a lot of drills pitting the first-team offense against the first-team defense in practice this week, and Yoder said he has had plenty of conversations with Hodgin in regards to what the Hornets can expect to see from Emory and Henry's offense today.
"That information is so valuable to us and to me and we've had a lot of good conversations," Yoder said. "I think it's made our preparation better and hopefully that translates to playing very well [today]."
Yoder said the biggest difference for Emory and Henry (4-4, 1-4 ODAC) on offense is that the Wasps have an experienced quarterback in senior Kyle Boden, a benefit that Shenandoah lacks.
Shenandoah will place a large emphasis on finding ways to disrupt Boden's rhythm this afternoon, and Hornets senior linebacker Byron Mitchell said the key will be to put as much pressure on Boden as possible and force him to make throws on the run.
"We do realize that he is a terrible thrower on the run," Mitchell said of Boden, who has completed 182 of 269 passes (67.7 percent) for 2,041 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. "He cannot complete a pass to save his life on the run, so to get him out of the pocket, get in the backfield and sack him is going to be a big deal this week."
Yoder doesn't consider the Wasps to be a rushing offense, but he said Emory and Henry will run it enough with tailback Joe Vaughn (118 carries, 496 yards, one touchdown) to keep Shenandoah's defense honest. The Wasps will also use plenty of screens to try to slow down the Hornets' pass rush.
Offensively, the Hornets hope to rebound from a poor performance in last week's loss in which they managed just 256 yards of total offense and came up empty on three of four trips to the red zone.
Shenandoah managed just 38 yards rushing a week ago, but the Hornets will look for better success against an Emory and Henry defense that is sixth in the ODAC in both rushing yards allowed (208.2 yards per game) and total defense (385.5 yards per game).
"We've got to find a way to neutralize their interior D-line. If we can, I think we'll have a good day offensively. If we can't, then we're going to be swimming uphill," Yoder said.
The Hornets will continue to go with a two-quarterback system this week, with junior Drew Ferguson getting the start, according to Yoder. Ferguson completed 10 of 16 passes for 74 yards last week, while freshman Justin Neff went 15-for-17 for 144 yards and a touchdown.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD