Hornets’ defense switches gears for Ferrum
WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s defense spent extended time preparing for the triple-option offense in the weeks leading up to the football season opener against Gallaudet last weekend. The Hornets had to rapidly change gears this week.
Shenandoah hosts former USA South rival Ferrum College at 7 tonight in a non-conference matchup, when the visiting Panthers will bring their new no-huddle spread offense to Shentel Stadium.
SU head coach Scott Yoder said Wednesday that preparing for Ferrum has been a challenge this week because the Hornets’ defense had been “keyed up” for the triple-option for quite a while.
“We tried to get that out of their system starting on Sunday. Ferrum’s a whole different challenge,” Yoder said.
“And now we’re in the grind of it where you only get four days to prepare. I think if we play our best for 60 minutes I like our chances and that’s what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
Shenandoah (1-0), coming off a 43-6 thumping of Gallaudet in Week 1, owns a three-game winning streak over Ferrum – a run which has seen the Hornets put up at least 42 points against the Panthers in each win – though the Panthers own a 14-5 career record against SU.
Ferrum, which ran a variation of the option offense for the last few years, has undergone a change under first-year head coach Rob Grande, a former longtime assistant at Emory & Henry. In their new spread offense, the Panthers put up 401 yards (227 passing) in last week’s opener, a 39-38 come-from-behind win over Emory & Henry that saw Ferrum erase deficits of 21-0 and 31-15.
Panthers senior quarterback Harvey Taylor completed 16 of 28 passes for 227 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and his 18-yard scoring pass to Johnny White (10 receptions, 105 yards) with seven seconds remaining helped put the Panthers ahead of E&H last week. Taylor, a former walk-on running back at Old Dominion University who made two starts at QB for Ferrum in his first two seasons, is also a running threat.
“We’ve gotta stop the play but then what scares me is when that play breaks down because he’s an athletic guy that likes to run around,” Yoder said. “… He beat Emory by scrambling and making some late throws to some kids. You can practice that but it’s really hard to defend. So it’s stop … the play that’s called, but then the second play is almost more important.”
Taylor’s success through the air last week was balanced by a 167-yard rushing performance from Brian Mann, whom Yoder likened to SU’s versatile sophomore receiver Mike Ashwell.
“We’ve gotta tackle him,” Yoder said of the 5-10, 175-pound Ferrum freshman. “They’ve got some young o-linemen, which we’ve got to find a way to make them have a tough night.”
The Hornets’ defense certainly did that in their opener against Gallaudet, as SU controlled the line of scrimmage and limited to the Bison offense to just 146 total yards (112 rushing, 2.3 yards per carry allowed).
SU enjoyed similar success on the other side of the ball, although the Hornets did need to overcome a somewhat sluggish start on offense before eventually piling up 440 yards (246 rushing). Running backs Cedrick Delaney (10 carries, 111 yards) and Jalen Hudson (16 carries, 91 yards) each rushed for a touchdown in the win, while sophomore quarterback Hayden Bauserman (197 passing yards) completed scoring passes to Leonard Scott (four catches, 98 yards), Ashwell, Delaney and Justin Ayres.
Shenandoah’s offense should be plenty familiar with Grande – he was the defensive coordinator at Emory & Henry, a fellow Old Dominion Athletic Conference school, for eight seasons – and Yoder said Ferrum will line up primarily in a 4-3 base while mixing in some odd fronts in third-and-long situations.
The Panthers, who allowed 42.9 point and 436.7 yards per game last season, gave up 346 yards to E&H last week.
Both Yoder and Bauserman held high praise for Ferrum’s pair of junior defensive tackles, Montel Lee (the 2014 ODAC Defensive Rookie of the Year) and Alveno Matthews Jr.
“Their defensive tackles are probably their best defensive players. They’re strong guys, played them last year,” said Bauserman, who set single-game school records for passing touchdowns (four) and completion percentage (84.2 percent, 16 of 19) against Ferrum last season.
“Obviously they’re pretty good up front but we’re pretty good up front as well, so I think it’ll be a pretty good matchup for us. Just have to make sure we kind of follow our assignments and things like that and make sure those guys get blocked and it’ll be all right.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org