Hornets’ defense steps up in win over Cardinals
WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s defense made key stop after key stop in Saturday’s football game against visiting Catholic University.
The Hornets forced two turnovers in the first half that led to 14 points and held strong on three fourth-down stops inside their own 30-yard line in the second half as Shenandoah beat the Cardinals 34-17 at Shentel Stadium.
It was SU’s first Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory of 2015 and snapped a two-game losing streak.
“We had a ton to prove,” Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said. “We’d given up 94 points in the last two games and, you know, we didn’t feel that that was what we were about. And we had to play well. It was ugly at times. I mean, they ran a lot of plays and ran up a lot of yards but (we) kept them out of the end zone, the fourth-down stops were huge and the turnovers were big too.”
Leading 21-10 at halftime, Shenandoah (4-2, 1-2 ODAC) allowed a pair of fourth-and-short conversions on Catholic’s first drive of the third quarter, which began at the SU 46 after Hornets junior running back Cedrick Delaney lost a fumble on the second offensive play of the third quarter. The Cardinals (3-3, 1-2) turned the short field into a touchdown when quarterback T.J. Tutone (31 of 54, 311 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) hit Matt McMahon for a 12-yard scoring pass to cut the Hornets’ lead to 21-17.
Catholic’s next drive again pushed deep into SU territory, but this time Shenandoah halted the Cardinals at the Hornets’ 20 after Tutone’s fourth-and-2 pass was nearly picked off by SU sophomore Josh White.
The Hornets’ offense responded by finding the end zone with a 53-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Hayden Bauserman to Delaney on the ensuing possession.
On the play, Delaney caught the pass in the left flat and sprinted upfield before cutting back to his right, causing a pair of Cardinals defenders to collide near the Catholic 35. Delaney crossed all the way to the right sideline before settling in behind tight end Garrett Rohrbaugh, who gave Delaney a final block inside the Catholic 5 that allowed the running back to cross the goal line for a 28-17 lead with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
The score was initially called back due to an offensive pass interference penalty before the flag was waved off because Delaney caught the pass behind the line of scrimmage.
“Going into the second half it was slow at first so we really needed to get the touchdown,” said Delaney, who finished with 217 total yards of offense (136 rushing) and two touchdowns, “so that really basically brought us back into the game, got our heads back up and stuff.”
Catholic threatened to cut back into the Hornets’ lead with a long drive in the fourth quarter that began at the Cardinals’ 20, but Shenandoah’s defense came up with a goal-line stand despite the Cardinals running eight plays inside the SU 10-yard line. Shenandoah senior defensive end Jake Payne and sophomore George Cluster teamed up to stuff McMahon on a direct-snap run at the SU 2 with 8:48 to play.
“The fact that we were able to hold them on that is just such a, not only a morale booster for the team, but a huge upper hand on them … knowing that we were two possessions ahead still,” said Payne, who finished with nine tackles, four for loss.
Shenandoah held strong on another Catholic fourth-down attempt at the Hornets’ 27 on the Cardinals’ next drive, and SU senior Kye Hopkins put the game out of reach with a 65-yard touchdown run that put the Hornets up 34-17 with 3:02 to play.
Catholic opened the game with a quick march down the field that appeared destined for the end zone before Payne sacked Tutone on third-and-goal from the SU 3. The Cardinals settled for a field goal.
“Third down, I just turned it loose,” said Payne, who had three of Shenandoah’s four sacks. “We definitely needed a spark to get us going because they had driven the ball down the field pretty well. … Before the game I knew we needed to go out and make an impact.”
Bauserman threw the first of three interceptions on the Hornets’ first drive, but the SU defense responded with an interception two plays later by defensive tackle Jake Shaffer, who dropped back in coverage as the Hornets attempted to mix their defensive looks against Catholic’s quick passing game.
“When you draw it up and you think about it, that’s what you think of because … no one’s ever gonna see D-linemen dropping into those underneath zones,” Yoder said. “Now most teams that’s not gonna affect, but a team that throws short and quickly all the time, that’s not (Tutone’s) read. He’s never gonna see that.”
Shaffer’s pick and 21-yard return set up a 28-yard touchdown pass from Bauserman to tight end Miles Green on the next play, giving Shenandoah a 7-3 lead.
Bauserman’s second interception in the first seven minutes of the game – returned 65 yards to the SU 25 by Richard Roach – was countered when Hornets sophomore safety Cedrick Bridges forced and recovered a fumble on a pass completion at the Shenandoah 3.
Hornets’ backup quarterback Travis Barton Jr. promptly led Shenandoah on an 11-play, 97-yard scoring march that ended with his 21-yard touchdown pass to running back Dalaun Richardson on a swing pass in the flat.
Barton quarterbacked a second straight scoring drive on the Hornets’ next possession, which Delaney capped with a 28-yard run that gave the Hornets a 21-10 lead with 12:13 left in the second quarter.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure because when I go in I only get an opportunity to go in and I have to do good to keep playing,” said Barton, who completed 7 of 10 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. “So I just have to believe in my teammates and believe in myself that I can do good and they can do good and we can score like we did today.”
Both teams finished with 446 yards of offense on Saturday, although Shenandoah did so on 34 fewer plays. The Hornets had 240 yards rushing.
Bauserman, coming off a record-setting passing performance against Guilford a week ago, completed 9 of 18 passes for 124 yards, two touchdowns and three picks. Yoder said Bauserman appeared to hesitate a couple of times when working through his progressions on Saturday and reiterated after the game that the freshman remains the Hornets’ starting quarterback even though Barton played five offensive series in the win.
“Hayden’s our guy right now but I have no problem with Travis playing. I don’t, especially in a situation like that,” Yoder said. “We get (Barton) on the field, he’s productive, he provides a spark to that offense and he’s gonna make the play that’s there. Hayden’s our guy but Travis is a guy that, he can win us a football game for sure.”
Senior linebacker Michael Messick finished with a game-high 24 total tackles (13 solo), a sack and a fumble recovery.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org