Hornets feeling a ‘sense of urgency’ against Catholic
WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s football players consider every week a must-win game, but that notion has taken on even greater importance for today’s 1 p.m. home game against Catholic University of America.
After a perfect start in non-conference play the Hornets have dropped their first two games against Old Dominion Athletic Conference competition, and a third straight loss this week would likely end any shot SU has at remaining competitive in the ODAC race.
Hornets senior defensive end Jake Payne said Wednesday that SU is not out of the hunt for a conference championship given the parity across the board in the ODAC (four teams split the conference crown with identical 5-2 ODAC records last season), although he added the turnaround needs to start now.
“We have that sense of urgency like look, we’re in the dog house now,” Payne said. “We can’t afford to lose again.”
Shenandoah (3-2, 0-2 ODAC) is coming off a 55-38 loss to Guilford last weekend, and the Hornets will take on yet another one of the conference’s best quarterbacks this afternoon in Catholic (3-2, 1-1) senior T.J. Tutone.
Tutone has completed 165 of 243 passes (67.9 percent) for 1,596 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions this fall and ranks in the top 25 in Division III in passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing yards per game (319.2) and total offense (348.2 yards per game). He leads the nation in completions per game (33).
Tutone’s favorite target has been junior Lucas Morley, who leads Catholic with 46 catches for 521 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s averaging 9.2 receptions per game, seventh in Division III.
Shenandoah head coach Scott Yoder said the Cardinals’ offense is built around short, quick passes and Tutone’s scrambling ability.
“They spread you horizontally more than they spread you vertically. So we’re gonna have to play pretty well and we’re gonna have to mix our looks,” said Yoder, whose team is limiting opponents to 361 yards per game, the second-best mark in the ODAC. “If you can get them in long-yardage situations you give yourself a much better situation. They like to stay ahead of the chains because they don’t want to have (Tutone) sit back there. But he is athletic and he hurt us last year on the ground, so we’re gonna have to play well.”
In last season’s meeting – a 24-14 Shenandoah victory – Tutone ran for 86 yards, and Payne said he expects to see more of the quarterback’s rushing ability today given the Hornets’ struggles with containing mobile quarterbacks in the first five games.
“They know we’ve had trouble stopping the quarterback run game so I’m sure we’ll see a lot of that, so that’ll be key for being able to stop that,” Payne said.
Despite Tutone’s mobility, Catholic has allowed an ODAC-worst 14 sacks in five games.
“Most of those teams that have been able to do that have been able to get four-man pressure and just stay relentless on (Tutone) and keep him in the pocket as much as you can,” Yoder said. “We’ve got a plan to do that and we’ve gotta stop the play first and then the … play after the play, where’s he’s scrambling and looking to run or looking to keep the play alive.”
Shenandoah’s offense is coming off a record-setting performance in last weekend’s loss to Guilford, as the Hornets rolled up 603 yards, the most in school history. Freshman quarterback Hayden Bauserman also set school records for completions (37), pass attempts (65) and passing yards (450).
This season, Bauserman has completed 95 of 164 passes (57.9 percent) for 1,149 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions and has completed at least 12 passes to five different players. Junior Deshon Brown leads SU with 21 catches for 257 yards and a touchdown, while sophomores Michael Ashwell – who broke out with a 12-catch, 162-yard performance last week – and Leonard Scott (242 yards) have caught 18 passes apiece.
Shenandoah’s offense ranks in the top half of the conference in points (36.4), total yards (463.8), rushing yards (202.6) and passing yards (261.2) per game, while Catholic ranks last in the ODAC in total defense (446 yards allowed per contest).
“They’re not as aggressive as teams that we’ve played in the past,” Bauserman said. “They don’t like to bring a lot of pressure or anything like that – at least up until this point. I’m not saying that they won’t. But it’s a defense we’ve seen before in Gallaudet (in Week 1) so we know what to expect and we’re just excited to play against them.”
The Hornets will get a boost with the return of leading rusher Cedrick Delaney, who missed last week’s game with a concussion. Delaney, who leads the conference in rushing yards per game (121.5), has carried 82 times for 486 yards and six touchdowns in 2015. Freshman Jalen Hudson rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown in Delaney’s absence last week.
Yoder said Catholic runs a 3-3 stack defensively (three down linemen and three linebackers), which has prompted the Hornets’ offensive coaching staff to make some tweaks.
“We are trying to be a little bit creative as far as not changing the offense but find different ways, because that 3-3 stack with those linebackers just messes up your offensive-line progression in the run game,” Yoder said. “So we’re trying to simplify things and also add a couple wrinkles where we can get the ball to our tailbacks and not have that just create havoc for us.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com