Hornets top Eagles for second straight ODAC road win

BRIDGEWATER – Bridgewater College has proven to be a menace to Shenandoah University during the teams’ longstanding football rivalry. The Hornets got one back on the Eagles’ home field Saturday night.

SU’s defense stepped up to make a pair of key defensive stops in the red zone in the first half, then the Hornets struck for two touchdowns in a 24-second span early in the third quarter to blow open an eventual 34-10 Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory in front of a crowd of 2,010 at Jopson Athletic Complex.

It was just the Hornets’ fourth win in 19 meetings with Bridgewater and gave SU consecutive conference victories for the first time since 2014. The win also marked the first time Shenandoah has won back-to-back road games since the end of the 2011 season.

“Huge win for us for so many reasons,” said Hornets coach Scott Yoder, whose team won just one conference game last fall. “Point of the season – you’re in ODAC play – but also we know it’s a big rivalry and they’ve gotten the best of it. We’ve gotta prove that to ourselves and I thought we – obviously we played well. We didn’t play great early but we just hung in there and made some plays.”

Bridgewater (2-4, 1-2 ODAC) threatened to put Shenandoah (4-2, 2-1) in an early hole as the Eagles drove all the way to the Hornet 1-yard line on the game’s opening drive. SU’s defense held when Bridgewater’s fourth-down run by Malivai Barker ended with a fumble that Hornets senior linebacker Malik Sims recovered at the 5.

“That just brought the juice for the whole team,” said Sims, who also stopped Barker for no gain on third down on the previous play. “After that we knew we could only go up from there. There wasn’t no down. We say we like to turn up during the game so we just kept our spirit and our energy up the whole game.”

The goal-line stand was one of two red-zone stops in the first half for SU’s defense, which forced five turnovers in the win. In the second quarter Sims, who led all players with 14 tackles (12 solo), stepped in front of a pass from Kyle Edwards – BC’s third-string quarterback, who started Saturday night due to injuries at the position – for an interception at the goal line.

Bridgewater entered Saturday’s game having scored on 12 of 13 red zone trips, the best mark in the ODAC.

“We knew they were efficient. I’m not saying we knew what they were gonna do but they have a good plan in the red zone and we had to play very well,” Yoder said.

“We just felt like if we could slow the run down and make (Edwards) throw … (we) just needed to make him throw and (thought) that we would win that game if they had to throw with him.”

Sims’ interception set up the Hornets’ first touchdown drive of the night, a 92-yard march that ended when Hayden Bauserman (12 of 22 passing for 130 yards and two touchdowns) hit Qlyl Middelijn for a 5-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to put SU up 10-0 late in the first half.

The Eagles cut SU’s lead to 7 with a field goal just before halftime, but the Hornets ballooned that lead quickly in the second half.

Shenandoah drove 72 yards to the end zone on 10 plays to open the third quarter, capping the scoring drive with Cedrick Delaney’s 4-yard touchdown run. SU rushed eight times on the drive.

“Same thing they did to us last year,” Delaney said. “We tried to return the favor with them this year.”

SU defensive tackle Jake Shaffer forced a fumble on Bridgewater’s next offensive play that was recovered by Hornets linebacker Micheal Wroble at the Eagle 25. On the next play Bauserman hit Mike Ashwell (six receptions, 84 yards, touchdown) for a 25-yard touchdown pass and a 24-3 Shenandoah lead.

“That’s what we mean by putting the pressure on, putting the nail in the coffin,” Sims said. “We just came out real energized.”

Shenandoah finished the game with 394 yards of offense, including 264 yards rushing on 48 carries (5.5 yards per rush), the Hornets’ highest rushing total this season. SU entered the game averaging just 93.2 yards rushing per game.

The Hornets frequently lined up with both Delaney and fellow running back Jalen Hudson flanking Bauserman in the shotgun formation, with the two backs often crossing in front of the quarterback while one took the handoff to create deception. It was the first time SU has used that look this season.

“We put that in this week,” said Delaney, who carried 22 times for 174 yards and a score. “We knew how their D-ends like to crash a lot. Having both me and Jalen on the field really has been positive for us so we try to do whatever we can to get both of us on the field and that’s what we did.

“We knew going into the game they were gonna have a tough time, so that’s why we put it in.”

Shenandoah freshman linebacker Steve Gebhardt, who had entered the game for the injured Cody Miller (elbow) on the previous drive, gave the Hornets a 31-3 lead when he snagged Brendon Maturey’s pass near the BC 20 and returned it for a touchdown with 3:25 left in the third quarter.

Delaney’s fumble at the SU set up a 25-yard touchdown pass from Edwards to Alex Galloway late in the third quarter but that would be the only time the Eagles reached the end zone.

Shenandoah limited Bridgewater to 299 yards of offense, including just 80 yards passing. Barker (21 carries, 127 yards) led an Eagles rushing attack that finished with 219 yards, although Bridgewater had just 71 yards on the ground in the second half.

“The big thing was at halftime just saying if we can win on first down and stop run on first down and put that young guy (Edwards) in second- and third-and-long, we felt if we could do that consistently we were gonna win a football game,” Yoder said. “And that’s how we felt. We did a much better job in the second half stuffing first-down run and that probably won us the game.”

The Hornets also excelled once again on special teams Saturday night. Derek Davis connected on field goals of 40 and 28 yards in the first and fourth quarters, respectively, and punter Christian Arias, who converted a fake punt with a 5-yard run in the first quarter, averaged 53 yards on four punts, including a 63-yard kick that pinned the Eagles at their own 3 to precede Gebhardt’s pick-six.

Shenandoah returns home on Saturday to take on Guilford (4-2, 1-2) in a 1 p.m. contest.

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