Hornets drop ODAC opener to rival Eagles

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s football winning streak came to an end Saturday night in a soggy Homecoming matchup with rival Bridgewater College at Shentel Stadium.

The Hornets turned the ball over three times and failed to find any consistency on offense, while the defense struggled to contain Eagles senior quarterback Ross Rushing as Bridgewater picked up a 39-21 victory in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference opener for both schools.

“Minus two on turnovers and you get a punt blocked, you don’t win games doing that,” said Hornets coach Scott Yoder, whose team dropped to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the ODAC. “… It was a little sloppy out there. Bridgewater did a real nice job and had a good plan. Got to give them a lot of credit.”

Shenandoah’s offense, which entered Saturday’s game averaging 41 points and 462.3 yards per game, finished with 329 yards against Bridgewater (3-1, 1-0 ODAC) and didn’t enjoy the success in the passing game that it had in the Hornets’ first three games.

Freshman quarterback Hayden Bauserman, who was hurt by several dropped passes to open receivers, completed 15 of 32 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown, but threw three interceptions that led to 17 of the Eagles’ points. Bridgewater also dropped three more potential picks.

“I think you’ve got to give them credit. I mean, they did a nice job,” Yoder said of Bridgewater’s defense. “(Shenandoah running back Cedrick Delaney) still had 100 yards but … in this type of weather it’s a little bit harder to make those downfield throws and if you’re timing’s off, you’re timing’s off. And they did some nice things, so they put some pressure on him.”

Longtime Eagles coach Mike Clark said Bridgewater didn’t do anything creative in its defensive coverage, but he noted that Bauserman’s lack of mobility allowed Bridgewater to take him “out of the equation” as a runner and to key on Delaney while taking advantage of some poorly thrown passes.

Yoder said it appeared from the sideline that the Eagles’ defense was able to “tee off” on Delaney, who finished with 28 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

“Their D-ends were crashing real hard and it was hard to run our inside zone that has been successful the past three games,” said Delaney, who topped 100 yards rushing for the fourth straight time in 2015. “That took us off a little bit.”

Shenandoah fell behind early, as the Hornets had a punt blocked out of the back of the end zone for a safety early in the first quarter, and Bauserman’s first interception set up a short field for the Eagles and a 24-yard touchdown run from Rushing in his second offensive series.

Rushing, part of a two-man rotation at quarterback with fellow senior Matthew Pisarcik, led Bridgewater with 108 yards on 12 carries and was one of three Eagles to score rushing touchdowns. He also completed 9 of 20 passes for 109 yards and a score.

Yoder said Rushing ran the ball a little more than he had anticipated, although Hornets senior defensive end Jake Payne said Shenandoah wasn’t surprised by Rushing’s heavy involvement in the Eagles’ running attack Saturday night.

“We knew they were gonna run the draw,” Payne said. “They did catch us sometimes when we weren’t expecting it but they just beat us on the draw. That’s all there is to say. We weren’t shocked that they were running the quarterback draw. … We’d seen it before and they did it against us last time.”

Trailing 9-0 and looking for a spark offensively on its fifth offensive possession, Shenandoah turned to backup quarterback Travis Barton Jr., who completed all four of his pass attempts for 30 yards on a 14-play, 73-yard drive that ended with Delaney’s 17-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-3 play that cut Bridgewater’s lead to two points with 9:42 left in the second quarter.

Barton played sporadically over the final three quarters and completed 6 of 10 passes for 51 yards.

“He’s a good football player and he’s gonna help us,” Yoder said. “He helped us tonight, he’s gonna help us moving forward but, I mean, Hayden’s our starting quarterback.”

Shenandoah got a big boost on special teams a possession later, as Josh White reeled off a 75-yard punt return – which included White breaking a pair of tackles and spinning away from another – down to the Eagles’ 9-yard line. Delaney crossed the goal line from a yard out on fourth down to give the Hornets a 14-9 lead with 3:27 left in the first half.

In one of the lone bright spots for Shenandoah on Saturday, the Hornets converted six of eight fourth-down plays, including both of Delaney’s scoring runs.

The Hornet’s lead was short lived, as a 14-yard pass from Rushing to Dylan Horne gave the Eagles a 15-14 lead going into halftime. Bridgewater pulled away by outscoring SU 24-7 in the second half, including three fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Bauserman’s second interception of the night set up a 41-yard field goal by Eagles senior and James Wood High School graduate Chandler DeHaven late in the third quarter. A 43-yard gain by Horne on a screen pass on the Eagles’ next possession led to a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Nick Ollie that turned a four-point Bridgewater lead into a 25-14 advantage.

“I thought that was the biggest play of the game,” Yoder said of Horne’s long reception.

Clarke County grad and Bridgewater junior Davey Hardesty snagged Bauserman’s third interception of the night and returned it 31 yards to the SU 26 midway through the fourth quarter. The Eagles scored two plays later on Will Hill-Pensamiento’s 19-yard touchdown run.

Shenandoah cut the Eagles’ lead to 32-21 with 5:27 to play when Bauserman connected with Michael Ashwell for an 8-yard touchdown pass, but Bridgewater recovered the ensuing onside kick and later scored on Kevon White’s 3-yard run.

Senior linebacker Michael Messick led SU with a game-high 16 tackles, while Javonte Rose had a first-quarter interception for the Hornets.

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