Hornets hoping to end slide against Randolph-Macon College

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s football team saw its slim hope of an Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship fizzle out with its loss to Hampden-Sydney College last week, but the Hornets still feel they have plenty to play for.

SU makes its final road trip of the season Saturday afternoon to take on Randolph-Macon College in a 1 p.m. contest with a chance to end a six-game losing streak against the Yellow Jackets (1-6, 0-4 ODAC). The Hornets (4-3, 1-3), losers of three of their last four, can also end their streak of three straight losing seasons with a victory.

“For us to have had a shot at winning the conference we had to win that game (last week), so knowing that our title shots are over sucks,” Hornets senior defensive end Jake Payne said Wednesday. “But I mean, I think (Tuesday) was one of the best practices we’ve had all season. I know personally, and I’ve talked to a few of the other guys, … I’m tired of losing to Macon. They’re the only team I’ve never beaten since I’ve been here.”

Shenandoah has struggled to slow down Randolph-Macon’s power running game in recent meetings, and Payne said he and senior inside linebacker Micheal Wroble talked earlier this week about the importance of ending that trend, and that mentality has spilled over onto the practice field this week.

“All of us, we’ve picked up the intensity in practice and we’re doing three up-downs between every play just because we’re ready for a hard, physical football game,” said Payne, who leads the ODAC with six sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Last season the Yellow Jackets rolled up 361 yards rushing in a 47-23 win over SU, as running back John Byrd rumbled for 219 yards and two scores on 33 carries. Byrd, now a senior, has carried 116 times this season for 545 yards and four touchdowns, although he did not play in last week’s loss to Guilford.

Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said he doesn’t know why Byrd was not listed on Randolph-Macon’s two-deep roster last week before adding, “We’re just expecting to play him.”

Though the Yellow Jackets are last in the ODAC in points scored (24.1 points per game) and seventh in total offense (403.9 yards per game), they do boast the league’s second-best rushing offense (208.9 yards per game). Shenandoah’s defense – led by senior linebacker Michael Messick’s conference-high 94 tackles – is third in the ODAC in rushing yards allowed per game (151.9).

“The situation this week really is we’ve gotta stop run. You know, who’s carrying it doesn’t matter,” Yoder said. “I mean they’ve just pounded us two years in a row.”

Who will be Randolph-Macon’s starting quarterback Saturday afternoon also remains a mystery to the Hornets. Since freshman Joseph Vairo went down with an injury after the season’s second week, the Yellow Jackets have used four different quarterbacks.

Senior Bubby Morgan and freshman Billy Sheehan split time at quarterback for R-MC in a close loss to Washington & Lee two weeks ago, but freshman Joe McBride got his first start last week and was the only quarterback to play against Guilford. He’s completed 17 of 28 passes for 137 yards and two interceptions in two games played and is listed atop the Jackets’ depth chart this week.

Yoder noted that Sheehan (19 for 34, 198 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) is more mobile than McBride and turns the Yellow Jackets’ offense into a “whole different animal” by adding another running threat in the backfield, although Yoder’s not sure who will start for R-MC this week.

“Your guess is as good as mine, to be honest,” he said. “… They’re getting inconsistent play and it makes it hard to know what you’re gonna get for us.”

Shenandoah’s offense enters Saturday’s game ranked third in the conference in points per game (35.6) and total offense (470.9 yards per game), although the Hornets have turned the ball over 13 times in four conference games. SU boasts the league’s third-best rushing offense (207 yards per game), led by junior Cedrick Delaney’s 772 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Delaney has topped 100 yards in each of the last five games he’s played in and is averaging 128.7 yards per contest, the best mark in the ODAC.

Hornets freshman quarterback Hayden Bauserman has completed 130 of 228 passes for 1,606 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He’s thrown three interceptions in three of SU’s last four games.

Junior Deshon Brown leads Bauserman’s long list of passing targets with 28 catches for 361 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Leonard Scott has hauled in 22 catches for 307 yards and five touchdowns.

Randolph-Macon’s defense is fifth in the ODAC in total defense (406.1 yards allowed per game) and seventh in scoring defense (33.1 points per game), although Yoder said that unit “is not a 1-6 defense.”

The Yellow Jackets are third in the league against the pass (216 yards allowed per game) but have forced only two interceptions this season.

“I don’t think they have the playmakers they’ve had up front in the past, and I think that’s causing them some issues,” Yoder said. “But we need to play well on offense, execute and I think … our passing game can make some big plays. If we’re on, if we’re sharp and we’re executing we need to be able to push the ball down the field because they’re playing a bunch of different guys in the secondary. There’s some guys in the secondary playing that are wide receivers and running backs, so I think they’re mixing and matching looking for some answers, so we need to be ready to have a good day.”

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