Hornets focus on correcting mistakes

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University’s football team has been busy this week trying to correct the mistakes that led to plenty of missed opportunities in last Saturday’s 20-10 loss to Frostburg State.

The Hornets’ offense managed just 10 points against the Bobcats despite churning out 402 total yards (including 237 yards rushing) and driving to at least the Frostburg State 25-yard line on five different occasions, while the defense suffered some lapses of its own.

“I like what we did on Sunday with the guys as far as just addressing how we can play a little bit better,” Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said Wednesday. “We focused some practice [time on] competition points with the situations that we need to be better at. It’s being addressed and now we just need to put that into motion against Ferrum [on Saturday].”

Yoder didn’t seem to think Shenandoah suffered from a poor week of practice in the days leading up to last Saturday’s home opener, saying that preparation for Frostburg State was the same as it has been each week since Yoder arrived last season.

But a few Shenandoah players admitted that they may have taken Frostburg State — a 1-9 team last season that is under the direction of a new head coach this year — a little too lightly.

“We came in too cocky, just thinking we were just going to run all over this team and stuff,” Hornets running back Cedrick Delaney said. “We were in for a rude awakening because it just didn’t happen like that.”

Shenandoah’s offense turned the ball over on downs twice after reaching the Frostburg State 25-yard line last weekend, once on a botched field goal attempt that could’ve cut the Bobcats’ lead to seven points late in the fourth quarter. On another drive in the first half, the Hornets reached the Frostburg 25 before a second-down sack knocked them out of field-goal range and forced a punt.

The Hornets’ defense limited Frostburg State to 281 yards of offense, including 110 rushing yards on 45 carries (2.4 yards per carry), but SU did give up touchdown runs of 25 and 14 yards.

Shenandoah also made a critical mistake on a personal foul penalty that negated a goal-line stand by the Hornets’ defense in the fourth quarter.

After SU scored a touchdown late in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 13-10, Frostburg State drove the field before the Hornets stuffed three straight runs at the 2-yard line. However, Shenandoah linebacker Malik Sims was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct following the third-down stop, awarding Frostburg State a first down at the Hornets’ 1. Bobcats quarterback Ken Emmons snuck across the goal line on the next play to give Frostburg State a 20-10 lead with 13 minutes remaining.

Yoder said it was still unclear what happened after he reviewed the altercation on film, but Hornets defensive end Jake Payne said after the game that Sims retaliated after a Frostburg State player allegedly spat in Sims’ face.

Yoder repeated his postgame comments on Wednesday that the Hornets need to make smarter decisions on the field, and he said that the penalty and subsequent touchdown changed the “complexion” of the game.

“We felt like we were a team that if we executed, we should’ve won. You go back and you look at it and we don’t think any differently. If we did what we needed to do, I think that game turns out much differently,” Yoder said. “There’s some silver linings, but at the end of the day we need to win that football game. And we know that. Now there’s nothing we can do about that. It’s now getting ready for Ferrum and hopefully that page was turned with our guys on Sunday because we can’t let that hang over the program any longer than it needs to.”

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Despite the team’s setback against Frostburg State, Shenandoah’s defense has played well in its first two games this season.

The Hornets are allowing just 197.5 yards per game to opposing offenses so far, including 89.5 rushing yards per contest. Both of those marks are by far the best in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference through the season’s first two weeks.

What makes Shenandoah’s numbers against the run even more impressive is that the Hornets have faced two very run-centric offenses (SU stifled Gallaudet’s triple option in Week 1). Shenandoah’s opponents have already ran the ball 98 times against the Hornets with only 179 yards to show for it. That amounts to just 1.8 yards per carry.

The Hornets — who were last in the ODAC in every major defensive category last year — expected improvement in their second year of Yoder’s 4-4 scheme, and Yoder said the defense is “light years ahead” of where it was at this point a year ago.

“We’re giving up 10 points per game right now and we feel good about that,” said Yoder, who doubles as SU’s defensive coordinator. “We want to be 2-0 and we’d feel a lot better if we were giving up more stats and we were 2-0. I mean, that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to win. But I like, defensively, where we are right now. The kids understand, they’re playing hard, they’re playing fast and that gives you a chance to win.”

Yoder said the key has been the play of the Hornets’ defensive line. Yoder expected strong seasons from defensive ends Jake Payne and Ian Griffin, but he said sophomore defensive tackle Jake Shaffer (co-team-high 18 tackles, three for loss) has emerged as a “dominant force” inside, while fellow tackle Brandon Thompson continues to improve after a solid preseason.

INJURY UPDATE: Yoder said prior to Wednesday’s practice that he expects senior outside linebacker Sean Blackman to take the field Saturday against Ferrum, barring any setbacks.

Blackman, one of SU’s two defensive captains, suffered a high ankle sprain on the second play against Gallaudet in the opener and hasn’t played since. Yoder said Blackman practiced on Tuesday without contact, although he said Blackman won’t play Saturday unless the senior is 100 percent.

Yoder was less optimistic about the status of junior wide receiver Brandon Adams (lower leg contusion). Adams has yet to play in a game this season after suffering the injury in a preseason scrimmage, and Yoder said he doesn’t expect Adams to be ready in time for Saturday’s 7 p.m. kickoff.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com