Hornets aiming for rebound against Wasps

WINCHESTER – Shortly after Shenandoah University’s football team wrapped up its loss to Randolph-Macon College last week, head coach Scott Yoder stressed the importance of the Hornets’ ability to mentally bounce back from its third straight loss in an Old Dominion Athletic Conference opener. SU now must show it’s moved on against another team that has made the Hornets’ life in the ODAC quite difficult.

The Hornets travel to Emory & Henry for this afternoon’s 1 p.m. kickoff in SU’s first road game in over a month. Not only has Shenandoah never beaten the Wasps since joining the ODAC in 2012, but Emory & Henry has raced out to a four-touchdown lead in each of the teams’ last two meetings, including a 26-0 lead in the first quarter of the Wasps’ 54-21 win in Winchester last season.

“You couple that with where are we mentally as a team, this is a huge week for us. This is a huge week for us,” Yoder said earlier this week. “Can we go down, get focused, play well and claw out a W? It would be a huge thing for our program. That’s what we need to do. It’s that simple but it’s not gonna be easy.”

Emory & Henry is 1-3 overall after dropping its own conference opener to preseason ODAC favorite Washington and Lee, 49-23, last week, although the Wasps are second in the league in total offense (468.8 yards per game). E&H ranks fourth in the ODAC in rushing offense (207 yards per game) and passing offense (261.8 yards per game).

Last season Shenandoah (2-2) surrendered 631 yards to the Wasps, including 301 yards on the ground. Timmy Chang is in his first season as the offensive coordinator under Emory & Henry head coach Curt Newsome but Yoder said not much has changed about the Wasps’ spread scheme.

“It’s one of those offenses where you just feel like you’re never right,” Yoder said. “They’re gonna run it. They’re gonna RPO (run-pass option) you, so if you commit guys into the box they’re gonna run-pass it and throw it out to their skill kids.”

The Hornets rank third in the ODAC in scoring defense (23.5 points allowed), total defense (355 yards allowed) and pass defense (161 yards allowed) and fourth in rush defense (194 yards allowed).

SU has allowed at least 236 yards rushing in two of its last three games and three straight 140-yard rushers (R-MC’s Tre Frederick carried 43 times for 236 yards against the Hornets last week). Emory & Henry has three running backs – Kendrick Kube (team-high 282 yards rushing), Isaiah Rodgers and Sam Wagner – with at least 222 yards rushing.

Shenandoah is tied for second in the ODAC in turnovers forced (eight), while Emory & Henry has turned the football over 11 times in four games and is minus-seven in turnover margin.

“They’re turning it over more than they should be. But they’re averaging 31 points a game and they’re second in the league in total offense in a very offensive league, so that tells you something,” Yoder said.

Junior quarterback Kevin Saxton is in his third season as Emory & Henry’s starter and has completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 920 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions, although Yoder said he expects the Hornets’ defense to see plenty of sophomore QB Dominic Dunnaville as well. Dunnaville, the more mobile of the two, Yoder said, has completed 14 of 24 passes for 127 yards while rushing for 64 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries while consistently rotating with Saxton, often from snap to snap.

Shenandoah’s own offense is still seeking proper balance after continuing to struggle in finding a consistent rushing attack in last week’s loss. The Hornets have mustered just 34 yards on the ground over the last three games while surrendering 12 sacks in the span and have dropped to last place in the ODAC in rush offense (70 yards per game).

Emory & Henry’s defense is allowing 36.2 points and 281.8 rushing yards per game, ranking seventh in the eight-team ODAC in both categories.

“I think what they are missing right now is they’ve had some really good linebackers and now they’re playing some younger guys,” Yoder said. “I think three of their top four tacklers are defensive linemen. They’ve got some really nice defensive linemen.

“They’re gonna be well coached. You’re gonna have to earn everything and we’re gonna have to play well. In the ODAC you don’t get cheap ones.”

The Hornets do boast the conference’s best passing offense, as they are averaging 306.8 yards through the air behind sophomore quarterback Hayden Bauserman, who is completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 1,170 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Michael Ashwell leads a bang-up receiving corps with 23 receptions for 239 yards and two touchdowns, one of five Hornets with at least two scoring grabs. Running back Cedrick Delaney, who consistently works as a slot receiver, has 22 catches for 199 yards, while fellow senior Qlyl Middelijn has 21 grabs for 211 yards and a team-high three touchdowns.

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