Hornets’ offense soaring early in 2015

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s offensive numbers through two weeks of the college football season speak for themselves.

The Hornets are averaging 46.5 points and 444 yards of offense per contest. Shenandoah scored 51 points in its season opener two weeks ago, the second-highest output in the history of the program, and followed that up with a school-record setting passing performance in last Saturday’s road win over Ferrum. SU is displaying a balance on offense that didn’t quite exist in head coach Scott Yoder’s first two seasons.

But likely the most telling sign of the Hornets’ early-season offensive success came in the form of offensive coordinator Stan Hodgin’s reaction Wednesday when asked if Shenandoah’s versatility has made the play-calling easier in 2015.

“It’s a lot of fun right now,” Hodgin replied, a wide grin stretching across his face.

Shenandoah’s offense has certainly enjoyed the momentum it’s built up during the Hornet’s first 2-0 start in the program’s history, a product of returning a vast number of experienced players, most of which have spent the last two years learning the Hornets’ spread offense, Hodgin said.

The Hornets have been balanced in their first two games, averaging 184.5 yards rushing and 259.5 yards passing, the latter coming largely on the strength of a solid collegiate debut from freshman quarterback Hayden Bauserman.

Junior running back Cedrick Delaney, the leading rusher in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference last season, said Shenandoah’s ability to stretch the field has made a big difference this fall, and Hodgin added that the Hornets are a “different type of offense” than they’ve been the last two seasons.

Delaney agrees.

“Way better than last year, I wanna say,” said Delaney, who has 201 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries this season. “It’s not as hard. I had a lot of stress on my back last year because of having to have the running game all the time. Having Hayden throwing the ball and getting it out to our receivers and stuff, that’s good for the team.”

Hodgin said SU’s balance on offense has made things “simpler,” as the Hornets’ ability to stretch the field limits the opposing defense’s ability to stack the box to defend against the run, something Shenandoah saw plenty of last season.

In his first two college starts, Bauserman completed 29 of 42 passes (69 percent) for 432 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Four of his touchdown passes came in last week’s victory.

“The offensive line has done a ridiculously good job,” Bauserman said. “I think last week against Ferrum I probably only touched the ground twice. To be able to stand back there and be confident is a pretty big deal.”

Seven different Hornets have caught at least three passes in the first two games, while six more have hauled in at least one touchdown catch. Junior receiver Deshon Brown (130 yards, 18.6 yards per catch) and junior tight end Miles Green (98 yards) lead Shenandoah with seven catches apiece, while sophomore receivers Leonard Scott and Jalen Brisco each have two touchdown receptions.

The Hornets expect to get an even bigger boost with the return of junior receiver Qlyl Middelijn, SU’s leading receiver in 2014, who will play his first game this season against N.C. Wesleyan after serving a two-game suspension.

Shenandoah’s offense even gave the Hornets’ defense a boost against Ferrum. While SU’s defense struggled early to adjust to the speed of the Panthers’ triple-option, the Hornets’ offense kept Shenandoah afloat with a performance that included several big plays and a school-record 355 yards passing.

“We know that the offense is gonna put up points if we put them in the right field position to score,” sophomore safety Cedrick Bridges said. “They’re gonna get the job done. It’s just great to have them, that we can set them up like that and they can put points on the board easily.”

The Hornets haven’t been too surprised with the amount of success they’ve had on offense in their first two games, which came against a pair of teams in Gallaudet and Ferrum that struggled to three combined wins in 2014 and are winless so far this fall.

“Obviously we’re not gonna dwell on it too much. We haven’t even started ODAC play. It’s only two games,” Bauserman said. “But right now for us to be able to play like this, as long as we can keep it going we should be all right. But we’re definitely having a lot of fun with it.”

Breakout game: Brisco, a 2011 graduate of Sherando High School, had his first breakout performance this past weekend since moving from quarterback to wide receiver during the 2014 season.

Brisco, who entered last Saturday’s game with only two career catches for 12 yards, caught five passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Ferrum. No play caught Yoder’s attention more than Brisco’s second touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, a 59-yard catch on a vertical route that immediately answered a Ferrum field goal and extended the Hornets’ eight-point lead.

“I’ve watched it about 15 times now, when Hayden lets it go Brisco hasn’t beaten the guy yet,” Yoder said. “And literally Hayden saw that (the defensive back) wasn’t out of his pedal and Brisco was hauling. I mean that thing’s awesome to watch because Brisco beats him, looks, the ball’s right there in his hands and he’s in the end zone a second later. It literally was awesome.”

Yoder said Brisco has progressed nicely since making the switch to receiver and has “refined” his game, which showed in his play against Ferrum.

“He made some plays without the ball in his hands, just some adjustments and a couple blocks down field,” Yoder said. “He played a really complete game on Saturday.”

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