Hornets seek to extend winning streak against N.C. Wesleyan

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s football team made history last weekend when it began the season 2-0 for the first time in program history with its road win over Ferrum College. The Hornets will be looking to make it three straight today with yet another road contest against a former USA South Conference rival in North Carolina Wesleyan College.

Shenandoah head coach Scott Yoder said the team’s focus this week has been about “forgetting how good we felt the last two weeks” and turning its attention to an N.C. Wesleyan team that’s as “athletic as any team we will see” in the Hornets’ final non-conference game of 2015.

“I think it’s the game we need right now because if we don’t go down and are focused and execute, we’re gonna be in for a long day,” Yoder said Wednesday. “… We need to get out there and make some mistakes but correct some mistakes as well. That’s what we need to do and every week, once we get into conference play, you’re gonna see good players, it’s gonna be different offenses. So we’ve gotta go down and find a way to get it done.”

Today’s 1 p.m. contest in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, will be the ninth meeting between Shenandoah and N.C. Wesleyan, and the first since the Hornets picked up a 28-7 victory in 2011. The Battling Bishops (0-2), a 5-5 team last year, are seeking their first win of 2015 after losses to Stevenson and Division II Lincoln University.

The Hornets have soared to their best start in program history largely on the strength of an offense that is averaging 46.5 points and 444 yards through its first two games. Shenandoah passed for a program-record 355 yards in last week’s 42-27 win over Ferrum.

Freshman quarterback Hayden Bauserman has made a strong debut in his first two collegiate starts, completing 29 of 42 passes (69 percent) for 432 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Seven different Hornets have caught at least three passes – led by junior receiver Deshon Brown (seven catches, 130 yards, one touchdown) and junior tight end Miles Green (seven catches, 98 yards, one touchdown) – while sophomores Jalen Brisco (135 receiving yards) and Leonard Scott have two touchdown catches apiece and are two of six Hornets with at least one scoring grab.

Shenandoah is also averaging 184.5 yards rushing, led by junior Cedrick Delaney’s 201 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.

N.C. Wesleyan enters today’s contest allowing 24 points and 316.5 yards per game, and Yoder said he’s “scared” by the athleticism and penchant for blitzing that the Battling Bishops have displayed on defense.

“I think pre-snap we’ve got to be very, very smart coaching and playing and then if it’s not a good play, we’ve got to be able to throw it away and not make it a disaster,” Yoder said. “We’ve got to be very smart and execute and that’s what makes me nervous about Saturday.”

Bauserman said he expects N.C. Wesleyan will play a lot of man coverage on the perimeter as a result of the added pressure.

“We have a lot of playmakers who can get open regardless of the coverage so I’m confident in what they can do, and our offensive line has been doing really well. As long as they keep doing what they’re doing I think we’ll be alright,” Bauserman said.

Offensively, Yoder said N.C. Wesleyan will present the “biggest test” for the Hornets’ defensive backs so far this season. A large portion of Shenandoah’s defensive preparation this week was spent on Battling Bishops junior receiver Malik Adams, a 2014 first team all-USA South Conference pick who has eight catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns this season.

“They really try to get the ball into (Adams’) hands a lot, so we know he will probably be one of the main focuses this week,” said Hornets sophomore safety Cedrick Bridges, one of three SU defensive backs with an interception this fall. “We will have to slow him down and get the job done.”

N.C. Wesleyan is averaging 13 points and 274 yards of offense per game, including 188.5 yards passing.

The Battling Bishops have used a different starting quarterback in each of its first two games this season, although Yoder said he is expecting senior Dustin Midgett to start today after relieving fellow senior Robbie Lanier in the second half of the season opener and taking all the snaps against Lincoln University last weekend. Midgett has completed 23 of 51 passes (45.1 percent) for 302 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

N.C. Wesleyan appears to be still searching for a featured running back after the graduation of 2014 American Football Coaches Association All-American Jacques Alston, as three different backs have carried at least 15 times. The Battling Bishops have yet to score a rushing touchdown this fall and are averaging 85.5 yards rushing per game.

Shenandoah, which struggled to contain Ferrum’s option offense early in last week’s win, is allowing 16.5 points and 302.5 yards per game.

“As much as they are (a) big-play possibility in the pass game, we’ve really kind of sold it to our front-line guys and our linebackers (that) what we really need to do is make them one-dimensional, and that is destroy their run game,” Yoder said. “If we can make a quarterback who is maybe in his second collegiate game uncomfortable then we’re gonna have a huge advantage.”

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