Missed opportunities cost Shenandoah

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University simply didn’t capitalize on its opportunities against visiting Frostburg State in Saturday night’s home opener.

The Hornets out-gained Frostburg State 402 to 281 in total offense and limited the Bobcats to 2.4 yards per carry, but Shenandoah still found itself on the wrong end on the scoreboard in a 20-10 loss.

“The only stat that matters is winning,” Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said. “You look down and it looks like we played OK but we kicked field goals, they scored touchdowns and that was the difference in the game.”

Shenandoah (1-1), which rushed for 237 yards on 45 carries, had five different drives reach at least the Bobcat 25-yard line, but the Hornets came away with only 10 points to show for it. Twice on those five drives the Hornets turned the ball over on downs, one of those occasions coming on a botched field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter with SU down 10 points.

The Hornets squandered a chance for an early lead in the first quarter after their second possession of the game — which started at the Frostburg State 27 — ended on a failed fourth-down attempt at the Bobcats’ 25.

The Bobcats (2-0) responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Ben Sasu’s 25-yard touchdown run with 5:14 left in the first quarter. On the scoring run, Sasu took a quick option pitch from quarterback Ken Emmons and scampered down the sideline to the end zone.

“That’s hurt us in the past, so we had practiced it,” Yoder said of the speed option that the Bobcats used with some success on Saturday. “We were ready for it. It’s a good call against us and just a situation where its not one guy’s fault, it’s just everybody playing a little bit better as a defense. It was a good call by them and they came back to it a couple times.”

Shenandoah had a chance to tie the game in the second quarter, as Hornets running back Cedrick Delaney (game-high 135 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards) ripped off a 64-yard run to set up SU with a first-and-goal at the Frostburg State 7. But Ferguson’s read-option keeper on first down lost 3 yards, and his second-down pass under pressure sailed over the head of tight end Miles Green, who was wide open in the end zone.

The Hornets had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Jacob Newton with 2:44 remaining in the first half.

Frostburg State took a 7-3 lead into halftime and extended that lead with a touchdown drive to open the third quarter. The Bobcats marched 65 yards and converted all three of its third-down attempts on the drive.

“The biggest thing was defensively we couldn’t get off the field on third down,” Hornets defensive end Jake Payne said. “On those drives they’d have three or four third downs that they would convert on. We just couldn’t get off the field.”

Sasu (11 carries, 75 yards, 2 TDs) capped the Bobcats’ third-quarter scoring drive with his second rushing touchdown of the night when he burst through a huge hole right through the middle of the Hornets’ defense for a 14-yard score on third-and-12.

Frostburg State missed the extra point to keep the lead at 13-3.

“Their weakness is in their defense’s middle,” Bobcats coach DeLane Fitzgerald said. “… If you run it between [Hornets defensive ends Payne and Ian Griffin], you’ve got a chance to be really, really successful. We had watched them for the whole game loosen up on third-and-long, so we ran it up the gut.”

Shenandoah immediately answered with a 77-yard drive to the end zone to cut the Bobcats’ lead to 13-10. The Hornets ran the ball on 12 of their 16 plays on the drive and scored on Kye Hopkins’ 1-yard plunge with 3:46 left in the third quarter.

“That’s something we always work on is coming out of halftime and getting a good drive going,” said Ferguson, who completed 18 of 33 passes for 165 yards and an interception and rushed for 50 yards. “… Something we do need to work on is trying to start the game like that. If we do that and get all 11 players on offense running down the field like that, it will be a game changer.”

Frostburg State came right back with another touchdown drive on the next possession. A 39-yard kickoff return and a 5-yard offside penalty on Shenandoah gave the Bobcats good starting field position at the SU 46. Frostburg State eventually found itself with a first-and-goal at the Shenandoah 1, but the Hornets’ defense stuffed three straight rush attempts by Chuky Iweh at the 2-yard line.

However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Shenandoah linebacker Malik Sims following the Hornets’ third-down stop gave the Bobcats a first down at the 1.

Emmons (12 of 16, 171 yards) scored on a quarterback sneak on the next play to give the Bobcats a 20-10 lead with 13:06 remaining.

Shenandoah had a chance to cut into the deficit midway through the fourth quarter, as the Hornets drove from their own 38 to the Frostburg State 13 and opted to try a field goal with five minutes remaining. A high snap on the try prompted holder David Bell to scramble and attempt to throw for the first down, and his pass was batted away.

“You’ve got to give them credit,” Yoder said. “They made the plays that we didn’t make and they’re riding home happy, and we’ve got some questions to answer.”

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