Mistakes, turnovers hurt Hornets in loss

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER — The special teams units were not so special for Shenandoah University’s football team in last Saturday’s 27-23 road loss to rival Bridgewater.

The Hornets did convert a fake punt attempt into a first down during an eventual touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and thwarted a fake field goal attempt by Bridgewater in first half, but that wasn’t enough to offset the handful of big plays surrendered by SU’s special teams. Those mistakes were further compounded by three Shenandoah turnovers and costly penalties.

“We lost the game because we lost the turnover battle and because Bridgewater beat us on special teams,” Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said Wednesday. “We pride ourselves on special teams and they just beat us, and it’s hats off to them. They had 21 points directly attributed to special teams, where they started at a great starting position, wherever that might be.”

Shenandoah’s special teams woes began early in the first quarter, as the Hornets allowed a 56-yard punt return by Bridgewater’s Jordan Hartman to the SU 11-yard line. The ensuing drive ended with the game’s first touchdown as Bridgewater took a 7-0 lead.

The Hornets (2-2, 0-1 ODAC) took a 10-7 lead into halftime after Jacob Newton hit a 25-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter, but gave the lead right back to Bridgewater after SU’s Leonard Scott fumbled the second-half kickoff to set up a 25-yard touchdown drive for the Eagles.

“We have to do a better job all across special teams. Kickoff return was a huge weapon for us last year, and it can be and we need it to be,” said Yoder, who noted that sophomore running back Cedrick Delaney has been removed from kick return duties due to his tremendous workload in SU’s offense.

“Leonard is a good football player,” Yoder added. “He’s going make a lot of plays here. I know he’s disappointed. I just told him you never want to drop one, but he’ll catch the next one and he’ll make some big plays for us.”

Also in the third quarter, Shenandoah had an extra point blocked, allowed a 30-yard kickoff return to Hartman that gave the Eagles good field position to begin a touchdown drive and gave up a first down on a fake punt on a drive that eventually ended in another Bridgewater touchdown.

The Eagles, in addition to their failed attempt at a fake field goal, fired a bad snap on a punt attempt late in the fourth quarter. That gave Shenandoah good field position at Bridgewater’s 44 while trailing with 1:07 left, but the Hornets couldn’t take advantage.

“It was a special teams calamity,” Yoder said. “It was ridiculous.”

Shenandoah’s offense didn’t help matters, as the Hornets turned the ball over on consecutive drives in the second quarter.

The Hornets — who had 10 penalties in the loss — also committed a holding penalty that negated a 39-yard scoring run by Delaney in the second quarter. Shenandoah quarterback Drew Ferguson lost a fumble two plays later.

“Two of them were my fault,” said Ferguson, who also threw his second interception of the season in the loss. “They happen. The fumble was just kind of a freak thing, guy came up behind me and knocked it out. Nothing I can do about that. The interception, made a bad decision. Every decision can’t be a good one. But I’ve only thrown two interceptions this season so far and I think I’ve done a fairly good job taking care of the ball. … As long as I make the right reads, the right decisions — and not only me, but everyone else — then the turnovers should be reduced this week.”

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME: Shenandoah freshman cornerback Josh White intercepted a pass against Bridgewater last Saturday, giving him three picks in the Hornets’ last two games.

SU as a team had three interceptions total last season.

“That’s what Coach Yoder expects,” said White, who intercepted two passes against Ferrum — his former team — three weeks ago. “It’s just making plays on the ball, being where I’m supposed to be at.”

Yoder praised White’s ability to read the ball in the air, and Yoder added that White’s best play of the game last Saturday actually came on a Bridgewater completion, where the Eagles wide receiver tried to break away from White with a double move.

“He makes coaching him easier because he has a good skill set and he’s very, very good at the fine things of defensive back play that are very hard to coach,” Yoder said. “I coached defensive backs for a long time and he’s … smooth and he understands what they’re trying to do to him and that puts him in a good position to make plays. Right now what he’s bringing to us is he’s excellent with the ball in the air. That’s hard to find in a defensive back.”

White has also proven to be dynamic with the ball in his hands after making an interception. White reeled off interception returns of 43 and 47 yards against Ferrum to set up Shenandoah touchdowns, and his 39-yard return to the Bridgewater 21 in the first quarter last Saturday led to the Hornets’ first touchdown of the game.

“I just want him to score one,” Yoder said of White, who came up three yards short of a touchdown on his second interception against Ferrum. “I told him, ‘I’m not going to celebrate until you score a touchdown.’ But he’s doing a great job.”

White and the rest of the Shenandoah secondary will face a tough challenge this weekend against a pass-happy Guilford team that is leading the ODAC in passing (355.5 yards per game).

INJURY UPDATE: Junior wide receiver Brandon Adams continues to battle a lower leg contusion that he suffered in a preseason scrimmage back on Aug. 30, and Yoder said he doesn’t expect Adams to play against Guilford.

Adams, one of two offensive captains for Shenandoah this season, has yet to play in a game this season, and Yoder said the junior is considered day-to-day at this point.

“I know he’s frustrated but he can’t be himself right now, so we’re not going to put him out there,” Yoder said.

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