Yellow Jackets run through Hornets in rout

By Brad Fauber

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University’s football team expected a physical game from visiting Randolph-Macon College on Saturday afternoon. The Hornets prepared all week for such a challenge.

And yet, no matter what SU did defensively against the Yellow Jackets on Saturday, the Hornets never seemed to find a solution to Randolph-Macon’s rushing attack.

The Yellow Jackets ran for 361 yards on a chilly afternoon at Shentel Stadium, rolling to a 47-23 rout in the process.

“I didn’t have any answers and it’s a pretty helpless feeling when you’ve made your calls, you’ve got eight guys in the box and they know they’re going to run it, and you know they’re going to run it, and they’re getting 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 [yards] a clip,” said Hornets head coach Scott Yoder, who also serves as the team’s defensive coordinator.

“We knew what they were going to do and they walked in and did it,” he added. “We did not have any answers.”

Randolph-Macon running back John Byrd did most of the damage on the ground for the Yellow Jackets (4-4, 2-3 Old Dominion Athletic Conference), as the junior rumbled for 219 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries.

As a team, the Yellow Jackets — who were playing without all-conference left tackle Nate Turner — rushed 66 times and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Randolph-Macon gained 512 total yards of offense, had 30 first downs and was 10 of 12 on third down conversions.

“The only thing there is to say is that we got our [butts] handed to us,” SU defensive end Jake Payne said. “It was a physical game and they beat us up. … Their double teams were moving our interior guys. Every now and then they were just getting position on us and we weren’t getting off single blocks. … We just weren’t doing a good enough job on the one-on-one blocks.”

Randolph-Macon established its physical dominance quickly against Shenandoah, which entered Saturday leading the conference in rush defense (126.1 yards per game). On the first drive of the game, the Yellow Jackets marched 70 yards on 12 plays — 11 rushes — as senior quarterback Zac Naccarato capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.

The Yellow Jackets marched right down the field on their second possession of the game, but a fumble recovered by Shenandoah linebacker Sean Blackman halted R-MC’s drive at the Hornets’ 17.

Shenandoah (4-4, 2-3 ODAC) missed a 30-yard field goal try following the turnover but the Hornets were able to capitalize when cornerback Josh White intercepted Naccarato two plays later and returned the ball 17 yards to the Randolph-Macon 24. On third-and-10, SU quarterback Drew Ferguson found receiver Brandon Adams (five catches, 79 yards) for a 24-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 7-all with 14:46 left in the second quarter.

“I thought that it was a big deal that we turned the ball over early in the game and then we turned it over on the next possession and our kids kept their composure,” Yellow Jackets coach Pedro Arruza said.

R-MC came right back with another 70-yard touchdown drive, which Byrd ended with his first scoring run of the game, a 1-yarder that gave the Yellow Jackets a 13-7 lead.

Shenandoah responded with a 72-yard drive that ended in Jacob Newton’s 25-yard field goal with 6:54 left in the first half, but Randolph-Macon scored a pair of touchdowns to close out the second quarter and take a 27-10 lead into halftime.

Naccarato’s 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Steven Quinn extended the lead to 20-10, and a Shenandoah fumble near midfield with 1:44 left in the half led to a 3-play, 51-yard touchdown drive for R-MC. Byrd capped the drive with a 16-yard scoring run.

The Hornets got back into the game early in the third quarter when SU linebacker Malik Sims blocked Randolph-Macon’s only punt of the game and returned it 25-yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 27-16. But three second-half touchdown passes from Naccarato (11 of 14, 151 yards, four touchdowns, one interception) to wide receiver Mike Doe never allowed SU to get any closer than two scores.

“We just couldn’t keep momentum and it was plays across the board,” Yoder said. “We had to play well offensively, defensively and special teams, and obviously we didn’t get the job done. But hats off to them, we knew what they were going to do and they still ran it right at us and we didn’t have an answer.”

Shenandoah’s offense was able to move the ball against R-MC, gaining 385 yards (221 passing). But the Hornets did miss a few opportunities for points, including a turnover on downs at the Yellow Jackets’ 3 while trailing 40-23 early in the fourth quarter. Those missed chances were compounded by the fact that Randolph-Macon held a 41:39 to 18:21 advantage in time of possession.

“When we have the ball that little amount we need to execute on all cylinders every single play,” said Ferguson, who completed 17 of 29 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, including a 9-yard strike to David Bell with 3:16 left in the third quarter. “We can’t have those missed opportunities. We’ve got to try to score every single drive.”

Shenandoah’s defense suffered a big hit on the first of Naccarato’s three second-half touchdown passes to Doe (five catches, 73 yards), as White suffered an apparent head/neck injury as he tried to deflect the incoming pass. Yoder said White’s legs appeared to go out from under him as he made contact with Doe on his 12-yard score early in the third quarter but it was unclear whether it was that contact or when White hit the turf that caused the injury.

White was placed on a backboard and carted off the field, and Yoder said after the game that White was taken to the hospital. White, who leads SU with five interceptions this season, gave a thumbs-up to the crowd as he was being loaded onto the back of the cart.

“The brief conversation I had with the medical people said that everything’s precautionary but he had some tingling, numbness in his extremities,” Yoder said. “They’re going to go do the full checkout just to make sure he’s OK.”

Shenandoah running back Cedrick Delaney rushed for 116 yards on 13 carries in the loss, while Bell had three catches for 58 yards.

Hornets linebacker Michael Messick tied a school record with 19 tackles (11 solo).

Shenandoah returns to action next week for a 1 p.m. contest at Emory and Henry, the first of two road games to close out the season for SU.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com