Hornets force five turnovers in second half to top Quakers

Cedrick Delaney

WINCHESTER – During his weekly meeting with the media Wednesday, Shenandoah University football coach Scott Yoder said turnover margin would play pivotal role in the Hornets’ homecoming matchup against Guilford on Saturday afternoon.

Yoder stressed that ball security on SU’s part would hold more importance than the Hornets’ ability to generate turnovers against the Quakers. Shenandoah took care of the football when the two teams met on the field Saturday – SU committed just one turnover – but it was the takeaways that loomed large for the Hornets.

Shenandoah forced Guilford into six turnovers, including five in the second half, to counterbalance the Quakers’ 560 yards of offense, and the Hornets held on for a 33-28 Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory in front of a crowd of 1,768 at Shentel Stadium.

The win gave the Hornets their third straight win in conference play for the first time since 2003 (SU was then a member of the USA South) and gives Yoder his first five-win season after a trio of 4-6 campaigns to open his head coaching career.

Yoder said afterward the victory “might be the biggest win since I’ve been here, no doubt.”

“We play hard. We didn’t tackle really well in the beginning and they made some plays. But we find a way. We’re scrappy and we took the football away,” said Yoder, whose defense surrendered 391 yards passing to the ODAC’s most productive offense. “The yards are not good against us but when the chips are down, I mean, we’re making plays.”

Shenandoah’s defense recovered four fumbles in the second half and clinched the victory when freshman linebacker Tyler Williams snagged a tipped pass for his first career interception with 1:26 remaining. The Hornets also scored the go-ahead touchdown on a blocked punt in the third quarter.

Four of Guilford’s last five possessions of the game ended in a turnover.

Shenandoah has now forced 11 turnovers in their last two games and own a plus-10 turnover margin for the season.

Hornets senior cornerback Bayvon Young, who forced and recovered a key fumble at the goal line after laying a big hit on Guilford quarterback Karsten Miller late in the third quarter, said SU’s ability to generate turnovers is due to the heavy emphasis on that aspect in practice.

“That’s the main thing right now, why y’all see us performing like that, it’s the coaches. They putting us in the right positions,” Young said. “… The coaches are trying to tell us what to do and we’re doing it. We’re taking the ball away, making tackles, making big plays. You see the results”

Guilford’s first turnover of the second half changed the momentum of the game. After the Quakers opened the second half with a 10-play, 69-yard touchdown drive to extend their lead to 28-20, SU sophomore defensive end Thomas Whalen came off the edge and forced a fumble on a sack that was covered up by defensive tackle Jake Shaffer at the Guilford 37.

Shenandoah (5-2, 3-1 ODAC) was in the end zone six plays later when quarterback Hayden Bauserman dropped a pass over the shoulder of a Guilford (4-3, 1-3) defensive back and into the hands of Leonard Scott – who caught three passes for 52 yards in his first action since returning from minor knee surgery – near the pylon for a 23-yard touchdown pass to pull the Hornets within 28-26.

“We give props to (the defense) because if it wasn’t for them we probably would’ve lost the game,” Hornets senior running back Cedrick Delaney said.

Hornets sophomore Deaquan Porter gave SU the lead on Guilford’s next possession when he blocked a punt, scooped the ball up near the Quakers’ 18 and walked into the end zone for the game’s final score with 3:56 left in the third quarter.

Young made arguably the play of the game on the Quakers’ next possession when he delivered a booming hit on the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Miller at the goal line as the Guilford quarterback lowered his shoulder after he scrambled for the end zone on third down from the Hornets’ 18. The hit from the 5-10, 175-pound cornerback jarred the ball loose, and Young dove on the ball in the end zone to halt the drive and keep SU’s 33-28 lead intact.

“He looked right in my eyes and I was like, ‘He’s about to try to run me over,’ and like I said, I love that,” said Young, who added that it was the hardest hit he’s made this season.

Miller, who completed 24 of 33 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns, remained down on the field for a couple minutes after the hit and did not return to the game after being helped to the sideline.

Shenandoah’s rushing offense, which has enjoyed a resurgence after some early season struggles, amassed 212 yards against Guilford’s conference-leading defense. Delaney became SU’s all-time leading rusher with his 205-yard performance, which came in front of over 25 members of his family.

Delaney needed 152 yards to break Anthony Frates’ record entering Saturday’s contest and topped that mark in the first half with a 29-yard run late in the second quarter.

“To be honest I didn’t even think I was that close to the record. When they called it, I was tired when they said I broke it. I was like, ‘What?’ I wasn’t even expecting to hear it,” said Delaney, who has 3,018 career rushing yards. “But I knew I wanted to break it this game but I thought it was gonna come in the second half. It came in the first half and it was exciting.”

Delaney set the tone for his record-breaking day with a 35-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the game. He added a 73-yard scamper that set up Jalen Hudson’s 2-yard scoring run for a 13-7 Hornets lead late in the first quarter and a 1-yard touchdown that put SU ahead 20-14 early in the second quarter.

Delaney lost his aunt to cancer last month, and he said after Saturday’s win that she’s played a big role in his effort this season.

“That’s somebody I’ve been playing for since the loss,” he said. “I hold her dear to my heart. I think about her before every game. I play my heart out for her. She was with me today, getting the rushing record and getting the win. It’s a good feeling.”

Bauserman completed 21 of 32 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown and didn’t throw an interception for the second straight game. Hudson (48 yards of offense) and Justin Ayres (61 receiving yards) each had six catches for Shenandoah.

Senior linebacker Micheal Wroble led the Hornets with 12 total tackles, while Malik Sims had 11 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Shenandoah returns to action this weekend with a road game at Catholic.

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