WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University’s football team will try to avoid starting 0-2 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference for the first time since 2015. To do so, the Hornets will need to find a way to reverse what has become a history of poor showings at Guilford College.
SU travels to Greensboro, North Carolina, to take on the Quakers this afternoon, where the Hornets are 0-3 lifetime against Guilford while having been outscored by an average of 23 points in those games.
Breaking that trend would go a long way toward getting the Hornets back on track after last week’s 35-17 loss to Bridgewater in their ODAC opener, which featured plenty of inconsistencies on both sides of the ball from Shenandoah (1-1) and was not nearly as close as the final score suggests.
“For ourselves, we’ve got to play better and grow as a team, and that means going down there in a place we haven’t played well and playing well and winning, grinding out a game and winning on the road, which I’m excited to do with our guys,” Shenandoah head coach Scott Yoder said on Wednesday. “I’m not really concerned about the league records right now or where people are gonna fall. If we can just find a way to play well and get better from last week, then things will go the direction we want them to and the record will take care of itself. I’m a firm believer in that.”
Guilford (1-2), like Shenandoah, is coming off a one-sided loss in its ODAC opener, a 52-14 setback at Washington and Lee that saw the Generals reel off 52 straight points while piling up 622 yards of total offense.
That loss was the second time in three games that the Quakers have been on the wrong end of a blowout, though they have history on their side against SU. The home team has won the last six meetings between the two schools, and inflated scores have been the norm in a matchup that Yoder described as “grass basketball.” The winning team has scored 45 points or more in five of the last six games.
Another shootout today would seem to tilt the scales in Guilford’s favor. The Quakers seem to know what they are offensively – a pass-happy offense with a two-year starter at quarterback and the ODAC’s leading receiver through the first three weeks – while Shenandoah is still trying to figure out its own identity after a game littered with missed opportunities a week ago.
Guilford has shown to be generous to opposing offenses – the Quakers, who ranked last in the conference in scoring defense and total defense last season, are allowing 45 points and 529.7 yards per game in 2019 – and Yoder said a Hornets offense that was shut out for the first three quarters against Bridgewater needs to put up points today.
“We’ve got to go down there and execute and make the play that’s there and move the ball and score. That’s what we need to do,” Yoder said. “I don’t know if it’s gonna be a shootout. I don’t know how it’s gonna all unfold, but we can’t play well for six or seven minutes and then take a 10-minute hiatus. That’s not gonna work in ODAC play, and we know that. We’ve got prove it to ourselves, that we can go down and execute consistently.”
Shenandoah’s own defense has been susceptible to the big play. Through two games, the Hornets have allowed 38 plays of 10 yards or more, setting up an interesting challenge against a Guilford offense averaging over 14 yards per completion.
“To me, I feel like it’s ourselves,” Hornets senior safety Nate Hill said of the biggest challenge that awaits SU today. “We’ve just got to limit the big plays.”
Quakers quarterback Alex Manley has thrown for 805 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions this season, and his average of 268.3 passing yards per game is second in the ODAC. Junior receiver Jermaine Russell, whom SU defensive coordinator Brock McCullough described as “slippery” and dangerous in one-on-situations in the open field, leads the conference with 436 yards receiving and is averaging 20.8 yards per catch.
In last year’s meeting, a 62-47 Shenandoah win in Winchester in which former Hornets QB Hayden Bauserman threw eight TDs, Manley threw for 546 yards and three touchdowns but was picked off four times, twice each by Hill and Daquan Pridget.
“I believe they average about 400 yards a game, so we know as a secondary we have to be ready because this might be the most passing and athletic receivers that we see in the ODAC all season,” Pridget said. “We have to be ready and prepared for that challenge.”
Shenandoah’s offense is averaging 436.5 yards per game (third in the ODAC) in two contests and salvaged some respectability in last week’s loss – which featured four empty trips inside Bridgewater’s 35-yard line in the first half – with a trio of fourth-quarter scoring drives.
Yoder said junior quarterback Ben Agostino, who made his first career start last week, would start again this weekend but added that sophomore Ben Rhodenizer, who started SU’s opener, would continue to see playing time.
Agostino played most of last week’s game and has completed 37 of 61 passes for 420 yards and two touchdowns this season, while Rhodenizer, the more mobile of the two, has completed 24 of 35 for 159 yards, a touchdown and an interception and is Shenandoah’s second-leading rusher (95 yards on 15 attempts).
Guilford is allowing 281 yards rushing per game after giving up 426 to W&L last week.
“They’re as athletic as they’ve ever been,” Yoder said of the Quakers. “Their inside linebacker (Khayree Lundy) leads the league in tackles, can run really well. From what I’ve seen what they’re lacking is they’ve got the athleticism, they don’t have as many really great football players as they have had in the past. Now that being said, they’ve got a lot of things that can give us fits and we’re gonna have to play really well and improve on what we need to from last week.”