Hornets ready for option attack

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s defense is once again expecting to see an option offense for the second straight week when the Hornets travel to Ferrum College for today’s 1 p.m. kickoff. Only this time, the Hornets are almost certain to see it.

Shenandoah didn’t get what it expected from Gallaudet in the Hornets’ 51-6 win in last weekend’s season opener, as the Bison unveiled a new-look offense that disregarded most of its traditional option elements. SU head coach Scott Yoder doesn’t anticipate any such surprises against Ferrum, which is running a triple-option attack this fall.

The Hornets are seeking their first 2-0 start in the program’s history and will need to slow down the Panthers’ option to do it, and Shenandoah has spent the last week emphasizing the universally agreed upon key to defending the triple option.

“Assignment football,” Hornets senior linebacker Michael Messick said Wednesday. “We’ve got to control our gaps, can’t take plays off and get after it. Really controlling the outside, turning everything in and making sure they don’t bounce anything.”

Shenandoah (1-0) is seeking its third straight victory over Ferrum (0-1), SU’s former USA South rival that is coming off a 55-7 loss to Emory & Henry last Saturday.

Today’s game will be played at Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount as Ferrum finishes up the installation of its new artificial turf playing surface.

Yoder said although the Hornets were 45-20 victors over the Panthers in last year’s meeting in Winchester, Ferrum displayed athleticism that could give Shenandoah’s defense some trouble if it fails to execute its game plan.

Yoder seemed particularly concerned with Panthers junior quarterback Troy Helton.

“He played running back and wide receiver last year and we had trouble tackling him,” Yoder said.

Shenandoah’s defense is coming off a shutdown performance, as the Hornets limited Gallaudet to just 220 yards of total offense, including 54 yards rushing on 32 carries (1.7 yards per rush).

Ferrum, meanwhile, struggled in its opener on the road, mustering only 233 yards while turning the football over six times (four fumbles lost). Helton led the Panthers with 16 rushes for 49 yards while also completing 3 of 9 passes for 58 yards and an interception.

Despite the Panthers’ struggles, Yoder said he was concerned with what could happen if Shenandoah doesn’t seize early momentum like it did against Gallaudet.

“If the breaks go against us early and we’re playing a lot of defense, we’re gonna be chasing these guys around for a long time,” said Yoder, whose defensive unit allowed 360 yards to a more balanced Panthers offense last season. “… We have to assert our will early in this game more so than the Gallaudet game just because of the way this thing can go.”

Shenandoah enjoyed a well-balanced offense in last week’s win, and the Hornets’ 51 points were the second-most in the program’s history. The Hornets rushed for 243 yards – led by junior Cedrick Delaney’s 95 yards and a score on 10 carries – while freshman quarterback Hayden Bauserman completed 13 of 23 passes for 142 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in his collegiate debut.

The Panthers surrendered 443 yards in their loss last week.

“They run a two-high safety so the middle of the field has a big gap in it, so we’ve been working all week trying to get players into the middle of the field on pass plays and things like that,” Bauserman said.

Ferrum’s defense is operating under a new coordinator for the second straight season, as Brian Zyglocke rejoined the Panthers after spending the last eight years at the Catholic University of America.

Yoder said Ferrum has traditionally used four defensive linemen, although Catholic – a fellow Old Dominion Athletic Conference member – operated with a three-man front under Zyglocke, so the Hornets practiced for both situations this week.

Bauserman added that SU’s offensive staff wants to push the tempo even more than usual this week, with the goal to run 90 offensive plays.

“They have some bigger guys up front, so just being able to wear them down and slow down the pass rush and things like that, be able to get a bit more push on the run game,” Bauserman said.

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