Hornets hoping momentum helps buck trend against Eagles

WINCHESTER – For reasons that Shenandoah University head football coach Scott Yoder can’t quite put his finger on, Bridgewater College has found ways to beat the Hornets in the teams’ longstanding rivalry.

The Eagles have won each of the last two meetings against SU – including a 39-21 victory in Winchester last season – and owns a 15-3 career record against the Hornets.

But when SU and the Eagles meet at Bridgewater’s Jopson Field at 7 p.m. tonight, the Hornets will be riding the momentum from last weekend’s 36-33 comeback win on the road over Emory & Henry, their first Old Dominion Athletic Conference victory of the season.

“This game basically gives us the juice,” Hornets senior safety Josh White said Wednesday of SU’s victory last week. “We know that we’re a good team. We know that we can compete with anybody that we play.

“We’ve got the mentality to go down there and get a knockout win.”

Shenandoah (3-2, 1-1 ODAC) is certainly riding some momentum following what Yoder called “as good a mental toughness win” as the Hornets have had during his four-year tenure.

After tallying just 34 rushing yards combined in their previous three games, the Hornets rushed for 186 yards against Emory & Henry and had 10 plays go for 10-plus yards, including three plays of 50 yards or more.

“I think it’s definitely a builder, especially since we got the run game going,” SU quarterback Hayden Bauserman said. “… As an offense as a whole we didn’t put up great numbers. We know we can improve on that but I think getting the run game going at this point in the season is definitely key and we’re just gonna try to build off of it.”

SU enters tonight’s game with the conference’s most prolific passing offense, as the Hornets are averaging 283.4 yards through the air. Bauserman has completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 1,360 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing at least 20 passes to running back Cedrick Delaney (591 yards of offense, seven total touchdowns) and receivers Mike Ashwell and Qlyl Middelijn.

In Bridgewater, the Hornets will take on a defense that is allowing 470.4 yards per game, the worst mark in the ODAC, and 253.2 yards through the air.

Bauserman and sophomore center Caleb Hutson both said the Eagles will vary their defensive looks to include odd- and even-man fronts, although Yoder said SU is prepared to see defensive schemes Bridgewater has yet to show on film. Yoder said both Randolph-Macon and E&H displayed unexpected defensive tactics, with success, against SU over the last two weeks.

“What we’ve tried to do offensively is say OK, we’re getting defended differently than we’re expecting, what can we do that we can control?” Yoder said. “Maybe it’s these three run plays, these four pass plays (that) we know we can execute no matter what and just make it as simple as possible and adjust on the fly. Because for whatever reason we’re not getting what we think we’re gonna get.”

SU’s defense allowed 649 yards in last week’s win but still ranks third in the ODAC in scoring defense (25.4 points allowed), total defense (413.8 yards allowed) and pass defense (189.8 yards allowed).

Bridgewater, meanwhile, ranks last in total offense (324.2 yards) and seventh in passing offense (171 yards) and scoring offense (24.6 points), and the Eagles are coming off a 21-0 loss to Randolph-Macon last week in which they mustered just 83 yards.

The Eagles have used two quarterbacks – sophomores Jay Scroggins and Brendon Maturey – this season, and Yoder said both went down with injuries in last week’s game.

Maturey, who began the season as the starter, has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 347 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed for 123 yards (the second-best mark for the Eagles). Scroggins has started the last three games and is completing 56 percent of his passes for 502 yards, five touchdowns and three picks.

“We’ve taken the approach of we’re getting ready for Scroggins because he’s the kid that I think gives them the best chance to win,” Yoder said.

“But we’re ready for both of them and whoever plays. I’m also ready for them to say maybe just snap it to (receiver Rayvon Johnson). … Maybe some more wildcat, because I don’t know. I mean they lost two quarterbacks a week ago in a game so we’re just preparing for what we think they’re gonna do, and whoever is taking the snaps we’ve gotta play well against.”

Junior running back Malivai Barker, who was a recruiting target of Shenandoah’s coming out of Tuscarora High School, leads Bridgewater’s rushing attack with 74 carries for 413 yards and five touchdowns.

White said he expects the Eagles to try to establish its rushing attack against an SU defense surrendering 224 yards on the ground to opposing offenses.

“We know for a fact they’re gonna want to run the ball,” White said. “Defensive back-wise, we wanna come up and make some plays in the run game this week. We know we’re pass-first defenders but we’ve gotta kill run this week knowing that they’re gonna want to run the ball on us.”

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