Hornets still ‘haunted’ by late-season struggles

WINCHESTER – Some of Shenandoah University’s football players might be feeling a bad bit of déjà vu.

The Hornets limped to a 4-6 finish last season – their second year under head coach Scott Yoder – and are in danger of repeating that this fall after losing two straight and four of their five Old Dominion Athletic Conference games.

“It was a good learning experience,” junior running back Cedrick Delaney said of last season, “but as of late it’s still coming back to us and haunts us.”

Shenandoah (4-4, 1-4 ODAC) entered conference play riding its best start in program history after winning their first three games of 2015, but have struggled since opening up ODAC play on Oct. 3. The Hornets’ lone win in that span came at home against Catholic University of America, and SU is allowing 36 points per game against conference opponents.

The Hornets were in a similar situation last season, sitting at 4-2 with four games left before failing to win another game.

“We just lost focus, man,” sophomore safety Cedrick Bridges said of last season. “I’d say we underestimated our opponents too, just took them as a slouch. But we learned from that from last year and this year we know that we can’t do the same.”

Shenandoah, which has finished 4-6 in both of Yoder’s first two seasons, has a chance to earn its first winning season since 2011 but must do so by beating both Emory & Henry College and Washington and Lee University at home the next two weeks. Both of those teams are a combined 13-3, with W&L (8-0, 5-0) being the only unbeaten team left in the ODAC.

“Our attitude is still the same as it was at the beginning of the year, just to finish off strong,” Bridges said. “We’re not trying to go 4-6 like we did last year and a four-game losing streak (to end the season like) last year. I feel like we’ve been playing tough the last couple weeks. We’ll be fine. We’ll really be fine.”

SHUT DOWN: Shenandoah’s offense was held to its worst statistical output of the season in last weekend’s 31-13 road loss to Randolph-Macon College.

The Yellow Jackets, who entered last Saturday’s contest having lost six straight games, held SU to 244 yards of total offense, 226 yards below the Hornets’ average entering the game.

Randolph-Macon’s grinding, power running game – which churned out 260 yards, the second straight week SU has surrendered at least 200 yards rushing – allowed the Yellow Jackets to enjoy a nearly 17-minute advantage in time of possession in the victory.

Hornets freshman quarterback Hayden Bauserman, who completed 17 of 29 passes for 108 yards, said Randolph-Macon’s ability to control the ball limited SU’s offensive possessions.

“It was tough for us as an offense, but I mean when we got those possessions we didn’t really take advantage of them like we could have,” Bauserman said. “When you play a team like that it seems almost like you have to score every possession and we just didn’t execute the way that we have been all season. They had a good game plan. They dominated the line of scrimmage and … they just played a really well-rounded game.”

Shenandoah, which allowed three sacks, finished with 74 net yards rushing, and Delaney said it was “frustrating” that he was only able to carry the ball 12 times for 62 yards and a touchdown in the loss. Delaney entered the game averaging 128.7 yards on the ground per game, the best mark in the ODAC.

Delaney said the Hornets tried some new formations in order to spread out the Yellow Jackets – including some empty-backfield looks – but failed to execute on plays that “probably could’ve opened things up for us.”

“We all had a bad game, from the coaches to the players,” Delaney said. “It’s basically our fault that we lost.”

Yoder said the difference in the game was Randolph-Macon’s ability to control the line of scrimmage.

“I think it was the first time that we lost the battle hands down up front. I mean just lost the battle,” Yoder said. “We’ve played against some good teams, we’ve played against some good players, and we haven’t always dominated up front but we’ve been able to neutralize and use our skilled athletes to kind of negate some of that. And this was a game where we just didn’t.”

BEATEN AND BRUISED: The Hornets were able to avoid major injuries in last weekend’s loss, but Yoder did say the physical nature of the game did take its toll on a few players.

“I would say we’re as banged up as we’ve been all year,” he said.

Yoder mentioned senior inside linebacker Michael Messick – the ODAC leader in tackles – and senior running back Kye Hopkins as two players who were being limited in practice this week ahead of Saturday’s 1 p.m. contest against Emory & Henry.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everyone should be good on Saturday and we’ll go from there,” Yoder said.

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