Hornets eyeing another ODAC victory

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s football team got back in the win column last weekend, beating Catholic University of America to pick up its first Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory of 2015.

The Hornets know they must keep that momentum rolling in today’s 1 p.m. road contest at Hampden-Sydney College if they hope to be in contention in the ODAC race at the end of the season.

“The ODAC’s obviously a really good conference. There’s a lot of good teams up at the top of it who aren’t gonna lose games, so in order for us to be up there we definitely feel like we need to win out,” SU freshman quarterback Hayden Bauserman said Wednesday. “But we’re obviously gonna take it one week at a time. We’re not gonna try to think about that too much. We just need to focus on Hampden-Sydney and get a win this week.”

The Tigers (4-2, 2-1 ODAC), one of four teams to split the conference crown a season ago, are no longer enjoying the services of Nash Nance and Holton Walker, one of the most prolific quarterback-receiver combinations in the school’s history. But Hornets (4-2, 1-2) head coach Scott Yoder said he still expects to see plenty of the “crazy formations” that have been a staple of head coach Marty Favret’s offense at Hampden-Sydney.

For example, Yoder said the Tigers’ second highest offensive formation is an empty backfield.

“But there’s about eight different variations of it,” Yoder said of the empty-backfield set. “And then you put in shifts and motions and different personnel and you’ve got about 18 things to think about in just that one package. Is the running back in? Is the tight end in? Who’s motioning? Who’s shifting? And then (the quarterback’s) under center and he’s in the gun. If you can recognize those couple tips you’ll be in great shape but that’s easier said than done in the flow of a football game.”

Junior quarterback Edgar Moore has taken the reins of the Tigers’ offense this season and has completed 129 of 220 passes (58.6 percent) for 1,527 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Sophomore Cam Johnson has replaced Walker as the team’s top receiving threat, as he’s hauled in 41 catches for 577 yards and six touchdowns. Hampden-Sydney is third in the ODAC in passing offense (264.8 yards per game).

Although the Tigers rank sixth in the conference in rushing (151.3 yards per game), freshman Kyree Koonce has emerged as one of the ODAC’s best running backs. He’s carried 123 times for 663 yards and seven touchdowns, the latter of which is tied with Hornets’ junior Cedrick Delaney for the best mark in the conference. Koonce’s average of 110.5 rushing yards per game is second only to Delaney’s mark of 124.4.

“The difference this year is they have a freshman tailback who’s excellent,” said Yoder, whose team ranks third in the ODAC in total defense (375.2 yards allowed per game). “He’s a freshman but he’s tough. He’s about 210 pounds, he runs hard, he can beat you with speed, he can run over you. So in the past where their running backs have kind of taken a backseat, now you’ve got a better tailback option back there.”

Shenandoah’s own running back, Delaney, bounced back last week after missing a game with a concussion, finishing with 217 total yards of offense – including 136 on the ground – and two touchdowns against Catholic. He’s carried 103 times for 622 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015.

Hampden-Sydney was one of the few teams to largely corral Delaney during his ODAC-leading performance last season – he gained 73 yards on 21 carries – and Yoder said today’s game will show how far the Hornets’ offense has progressed in terms of its ability to stretch the field and take some of the pressure off its running game.

Bauserman said the Tigers possess one of the most disciplined defensive units in the conference, and Yoder said Shenandoah will need to take advantage of the few chances they will get this afternoon to connect on big plays.

“We’ve gotta hit some home runs,” Yoder said, “and we’ve gotta be able to run the football and I think Hayden’s gotta be sharp.”

For the second time in three weeks last Saturday Bauserman threw three interceptions and surrendered several offensive series to backup quarterback Travis Barton, who sparked the Hornets to back-to-back touchdown drives in the first half against Catholic. Yoder reiterated Wednesday that Bauserman remains entrenched as SU’s starting quarterback.

Bauserman bounced back from his first three-interception performance against Bridgewater three weeks ago by shattering the school record for passing yards in a game (460) the next week, and the freshman said he’s eager to get back on the field this afternoon to get back on track.

Bauserman has completed 104 of 182 passes (57.1 percent) for 1,273 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions and has completed at least 12 passes to six different players, with junior Deshon Brown (23 catches, 293 yards, one touchdown) leading the way.

Yoder said the “game within the game” this afternoon will be the play of both starting quarterbacks.

“(Moore is) playing well but you can force him into mistakes, so can Hayden out-duel their quarterback?” Yoder said. “If Hayden has a really good day and we can force them into a couple turnovers and slow Koonce down a little bit I think we’re gonna have a chance to win.”

Shenandoah’s offense is third in the ODAC in yards per game (460.8) and ranks in the top half of the conference in most major statistical categories. Hampden-Sydney is second in the ODAC in total defense (373.7 yards allowed per game) and leads the conference in pass yards allowed per game (178). Tigers senior defensive back Sidney Henry leads the conference with four interceptions.

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