Bauserman, Hornets ready to move on from first loss

WINCHESTER – For the first time this season, Shenandoah University quarterback Hayden Bauserman looked like a freshman in last Saturday’s loss to Bridgewater College in the Hornets’ Old Dominion Athletic Conference opener.

Bauserman, a 2014 graduate of Central High School who has rejuvenated the Hornets’ passing game in 2015, completed 15 of 32 passes for 140 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions that led to 17 Bridgewater points.

Bauserman said Wednesday he’s ready to put the loss – SU’s first this season – in the past while using the experience as a learning opportunity.

“Obviously there’s gonna be tough games and things like that. Had them in high school. I’ve had them throughout my football career,” Bauserman said. “The biggest thing is just being able to put it behind me. I came in on Sunday, watched film, learned from it. I made some pretty stupid throws but as a freshman – it’s not really an excuse but it’s a learning point and it was a good learning point early in the season. … I’m glad it happened when it did rather than later in the season so I can learn from it and get better.”

Bauserman, who has completed 58 of 99 passes (58.6 percent) for 699 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions this season, said Bridgewater didn’t do anything he didn’t expect with its defensive coverage and took the blame for several bad decisions and poorly thrown balls that weren’t aided by the rainy conditions.

The freshman completed just two of his first nine pass attempts for five yards and an interception before backup quarterback Travis Barton Jr. came in on Shenandoah’s fifth possession. Barton completed all four of his passes for 30 yards on a 73-yard touchdown drive, which Bauserman said helped motivate him to play better while also taking some of the pressure off when he returned for the Hornets’ next offensive series.

Shenandoah coach Scott Yoder has been touting Bauserman as an even-keeled player since the freshman joined the program for spring practice, and the head coach said that trait is aiding Bauserman this week.

Bauserman was hardly the lone Hornet to struggle in Saturday’s loss. Shenandoah’s defense had a difficult time wrapping up Eagles quarterback Ross Rushing, who carried 12 times for 108 yards and a touchdown while throwing for another 109 yards and a score.

The consensus among the Hornets Wednesday was that they are eager to put the disappointing loss aside and prepare for a tough challenge against preseason ODAC favorite Guilford.

“Saturday night wasn’t about Hayden Bauserman playing poorly. It was unfortunately a team effort,” Yoder said. “… It’s not on one guy. It never is. There’s always a bunch of plays that make the game and that’s the way the rest of the season is gonna go as well, so we’ve gotta be ready to move forward and learn from it and get better.

PRESSURING PAWLOWSKI: Guilford senior quarterback Matt Pawlowski certainly has the attention of Shenandoah’s defense this week. Hornets sophomore cornerback Josh White called Pawlowski “probably the best quarterback in Division III football.” Senior linebacker Michael Messick called him an “animal.” Yoder said if Pawlowski isn’t the best Division III quarterback, he’s “up there in the conversation.”

Pawlowski, the 2014 ODAC Offensive Player of the Year and a four-year starter, has completed 67 of 96 passes (69.8 percent) for 1,086 yards, 15 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games this season and leads all of Division III in passing efficiency (216.4). Guilford is fifth in the nation in total offense (569 yards per game).

Pawlowski and the Quakers – who lost to Washington and Lee 20-17 last weekend – certainly pose a tough challenge for SU this Saturday. But the Hornets have been here before.

Last season, Pawlowski entered Guilford’s game at Shenandoah with similar numbers (he’d thrown 19 touchdowns to zero interceptions), and though he did throw for 460 yards, the Hornets intercepted three passes, including two pick-sixes, in Shenandoah’s 47-31 win.

“Last year we pressured him,” White said. “We sacked him a lot. Our D-line was in the backfield almost every play and we got him out of his comfort zone. Made sure he was moving around, throwing on the run, making sure that he doesn’t just have an easy pocket so that he can see everything.”

Shenandoah sacked Pawlowski eight times in last season’s meeting and Yoder said the Hornets have been looking “hard” at last year’s game film.

“That’s what we’ve gotta do, is find a way to slow them down and make him uncomfortable,” Yoder said, “which is really hard to do because he’s the best that I’ve ever played against with moving in the pocket and keeping the play alive to throw.”

PROVIDING A SPARK: White showed just how electric he could be with the football in his hands last season, as he returned four of his team-high five interceptions for at least 35 yards – including a touchdown – in 2014. He’s showed that same big-play ability as a punt returner this fall.

On nine returns in SU’s first four games, White is averaging 20.6 yards, a mark that ranks fifth in Division III.

White’s longest return of the season came against Bridgewater, when he ripped off a 75-yard gain while breaking a pair of tackles and spinning away from another. His return set up an 8-yard touchdown drive for the Hornets.

“It’s not the scheme, I’ll tell you that,” Yoder said. “Honestly my philosophy has always been secure the ball on punt returns, go for punt blocks and try to average around 10 (yards) a punt return. … He’s just been unbelievable. And on Saturday night I think he took a punt safe, where we’re just ‘let’s get the ball and secure it’ and almost takes it the distance. And it’s all about the players and he’s making those plays.”

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