SU Football Notebook: Hornets got caught in ‘cruise control’ in loss to Guilford

Hayden Bauserman

WINCHESTER – In hindsight, the clues to Shenandoah University’s eventual misstep at Guilford College were present in the week of football practice leading up to last Saturday’s Old Dominion Athletic Conference game in Greensboro, North Carolina, Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said Wednesday.

SU, which had been riding a three-game winning streak during which it had toppled two of ODAC’s preseason favorites, fell 45-20 to Guilford for its first loss in conference play, and played what Yoder called the sloppiest game of its season to this point.

Yoder said Wednesday that the Hornets suffered a “letdown” in practice that they “just couldn’t shake” following a win over Bridgewater on Oct. 14. Junior quarterback Hayden Bauserman echoed that sentiment.

“I don’t think it was necessarily a case of us looking past Guilford. I think it was more so us just kind of on cruise control, kind of piloting along. They made us pay for it and it was kind of a wake-up call,” Bauserman said Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it was more so in our preparation the week before,” he added. “We just kind of were cruising along and not necessarily playing with that same edge that we had in the beginning (of the season), with that chip on our shoulders. I think that’s something that we’ve gotta do now, is find that chip again, go back out and get ready to play.”

Scott Yoder

Bauserman, the NCAA Division III passing leader, admitted that he “lost focus” against the Quakers in a performance that saw him complete 37 of 56 passes for 290 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. His yardage and touchdown totals against Guilford were both season lows, and he entered the game with five interceptions thrown through the Hornets’ first six games. Bauserman also was sacked four times, bringing that total to seven over the last two games after being sacked four times through the first five contests.

Yoder said Guilford didn’t try to emulate the defensive game plan (which included pre-snap movement to disguise coverage) that Bridgewater used to some success two weeks ago, and instead reiterated that the Quakers feature the “most athletic” defensive backfield in the ODAC and used that athleticism – plus a good pass rush – to minimize Shenandoah’s margin for error.

Bauserman said that while Guilford stuck primarily to the defensive schemes it had shown on film throughout this season, the Quakers did move one of their starting middle linebackers to defensive end and pulled a safety into the box at middle linebacker in order to put as many as six or seven defensive backs on the field at one time against the Hornets.

Bauserman’s first pass attempt of the game – on Shenandoah’s first offensive play – was picked off and returned for a touchdown. His other three interceptions came on Guilford’s side of the 50-yard line, though Yoder defended his quarterback by adding that at least one of those interceptions came on a tipped pass on fourth down.

SU also turned the ball over on downs twice inside the Guilford 15-yard line.

“I think Hayden would readily admit he didn’t have his best game and that had a lot to do with we didn’t play as well up front, receivers weren’t getting as much separation, we were struggling in the run game,” Yoder said. “It was just a snowball we couldn’t control and we got bit by it.”

The Hornets (5-2) get a chance to rebound with a non-conference game at home this Saturday against Apprentice School before closing out the regular season with ODAC games against Hampden-Sydney and Washington and Lee.

RECORD SETTERS: Despite Bauserman posting his worst outing of the season, the junior quarterback still set new school single-season records for passing yards, completions and attempts in the loss to Guilford.

Bauserman has completed 233 of 378 passes for 2,821 yards and 31 touchdowns this fall to surpass his record-setting 2016 season with three regular season games remaining. He leads NCAA Division III in all four of those categories.

Also in last weekend’s loss, senior receiver Mike Ashwell caught 10 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, moving him into a tie with Rico Wallace for the most receptions (67) in a single season. Wallace, Shenandoah’s all-time leading receiver, caught 67 passes for 1,241 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011, all single-season records.

Ashwell, who has 635 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions, is on pace for 95 receptions, 907 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

INJURY REPORT: Yoder said senior punter Christian Arias is “making good strides” in his return from a pulled muscle in his kicking leg, but added that there is a good chance Arias is held out for one more game.

Yoder said Wednesday he thought Arias – who also handles kickoffs – would be available if needed on Saturday but at less than 100 percent, presenting the likely scenario that the senior is rested one more week in order to be as close to full health as possible for Hampden-Sydney.