Hornets race past Gallaudet in season opener
Bauserman passes for 394 yards, four touchdowns; Warren County grad Stewart catches 2 TDs
WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University head football coach Scott Yoder said multiple times during preseason practice that the timing within the Hornets’ offense appeared slightly off. SU made some strides toward midseason form in Saturday’s season opener at home against Gallaudet.
The Hornets’ spread attack piled up 556 yards, a school record, against the Bison, including 437 yards passing, while SU’s defense forced four turnovers in a 40-14 win in front of a crowd of 1,024 on a chilly, soggy night at Shentel Stadium. It was the Hornets’ fourth straight win over Gallaudet.
Shenandoah’s offensive performance against the Bison was far from flawless. The Hornets committed four turnovers of their own – including two first-half fumbles deep in Gallaudet (0-1) territory, one that skipped out of the back of the end zone for a touchback on SU’s first drive of the game – and had six possessions end without points on Gallaudet’s side of the 50. But Hornets (1-0) head coach Scott Yoder said after the win he was pleased with the production.
“I thought with the weather, everything that’s happened with us in the last week or so, I thought it was a good job,” Yoder said. “It was a sloppy game but offensively I thought we did what we needed to do, and I think we could’ve really broken it wide open if we hadn’t fumbled those two.
“I think it was a good learning experience. I think we’ve got … a lot that we can get better at. But under the circumstances in bad weather, controlling what we can control, I thought we did a good job.”
Shenandoah quarterback Hayden Bauserman was particularly busy in a game played through a persistent light rain, as he completed 32 of 56 passes for 394 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. The junior completed at least one pass to eight different receivers.
The Hornets, who were 10 of 17 on third-down conversions and had 28 first downs, ran 89 offensive plays – which included 64 pass attempts (freshman Ben Agostino was 2-for-8 for 43 yards in the fourth quarter) – and did so at a torrid pace that often used less than 15 seconds of the play clock.
“I think pushing the tempo tonight kind of wore them down,” Bauserman said. “They had some really good athletes but … we knew they weren’t really that deep. We knew that they were pretty good up front but that they didn’t rotate in a lot of guys, so that was kind of the game plan, was to go up-tempo early and then we had success with is, so we kept going with it.”
A pair of veteran receivers, seniors Michael Ashwell (10 receptions, 120 yards, two touchdowns) and Leonard Scott (seven catches for 101 yards), topped Bauserman’s long list of passing targets on Saturday, and Ashwell’s 20-yard touchdown catch late in the first quarter started a string of 33 unanswered points for the Hornets after Gallaudet opened with a 7-0 lead. But sophomore Casey Stewart, seeing significant action for the first time in his short collegiate career, emerged as Bauserman’s go-to red zone target in the victory.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Stewart, a Warren County High School graduate, hauled in touchdown catches of 10 and 4 yards on a pair of fade routes on back-to-back drives in the second quarter. The Front Royal native finished with four catches for 32 yards.
“Kind of overwhelmed, honestly,” Stewart, who had just one reception as a freshman last year, said of his season debut. “… I knew I would contribute somewhat but to come out here and score two touchdowns in my first collegiate game where I’m actually playing, it’s pretty good for me.”
Stewart’s first collegiate touchdown grab came on the first play of the second quarter, as he leapt above a Gallaudet defender to pull down a jump ball in the back-right corner of the end zone. The score gave Shenandoah a 20-7 lead.
“It’s something we work on a lot during practice and throughout the week. It doesn’t matter where the ball’s at, Hayden’s gonna put it up there and I have a big body, I’m gonna use my big body to my advantage,” Stewart said. “Yeah, I might’ve got (away) with a little bit of a push but (the defensive back) still could’ve made a play on the ball regardless. But Hayden put it there and I went up and did my job and caught it.”
Shenandoah’s defense, which allowed 324 yards (250 rushing) to the Bison, needed a series to get settled in against Gallaudet’s triple-option offense. After sophomore quarterback Timel Benton led the Bison on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on Gallaudet’s first possession of the game, the Hornets kept the Bison out of the end zone until the final two minutes of the third quarter. By that point SU was up 33-14.
“(Benton) gave us fits and I thought we did a great job of, after the first series, settling down and we ran to the ball all night,” Yoder said.
It was the Hornets’ defense that gave SU the lead for good late in the first quarter, when linebacker Bernie Hayes III scooped up a fumble on a mishandled pitch between Gallaudet backup quarterback Jake Bonheyo and Canton Meadows and raced 35 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
“It was a motion toward my side, so I was getting ready for the pitch or any type of toss movement,” said Hayes, who led the Hornets with eight total tackles and four tackles for loss. “I saw the ball on the ground and I saw one of their players jump on it. I was like if he slips on that ball I have to go get it, and I scooped it and tried my best to get the touchdown without getting caught.”
Benton, Gallaudet’s starting quarterback in 2016, completed 4 of 10 passes for 74 yards, a touchdown and an interception and rushed 16 times for 63 yards for the Bison on Saturday but was replaced by Bonheyo (12 carries for a team-high 65 yards) on Gallaudet’s third possession of the game.
Bonheyo quarterbacked the next three drives – two of which ended in Meadows fumbles – for the Bison before Benton returned to the field in the second quarter. The two quarterbacks split playing time the rest of the game.
Shenandoah returns to action this weekend with a non-conference road game at North Carolina Wesleyan.