ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Shenandoah University’s football team opened the season with a win for the sixth straight year with a 35-19 victory over North Carolina Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon.
The Hornets built a 21-0 halftime lead but needed two scores in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach after N.C. Wesleyan scored 13 points in the third quarter and six more in the fourth.
Leading 21-19 after a Bishops touchdown with 14:25 to play, Shenandoah (1-0) drove 83 yards on eight plays and capped the drive with Mario Wisdom’s 16-yard touchdown run with 7:53 left.
A Shenandoah interception — the fourth of five on a record-setting day for SU’s defense — set up the Hornets’ final touchdown of the afternoon, an 8-yard pass from Ben Agostino to running back Rashadeen Byrd Jr. with 2:24 to play.
The touchdown was Byrd’s third of the contest, as he also rushed 10 times for 44 yards and two scores. Wisdom had 14 carries for 52 yards and two touchdowns.
Shenandoah’s five interceptions are a new school record. Three of SU’s touchdown drives came following a pick.
Hornets senior linebacker Tyler Williams had two interceptions — the first set up Byrd’s second touchdown run in the second quarter — while defensive backs Daquan Pridget, Nate Hill and Mike Amobi each had one pick. Amobi’s interception of N.C. Wesleyan quarterback Donielle Totten in the end zone came in the final minute of the game.
The Bishops, who outgained Shenandoah 447-432, scored on passing plays of 85 and 68 yards and a 3-yard touchdown run. Totten completed 16 of 38 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns to go along with his five interceptions.
Agostino, who entered the game late in the first half, led Shenandoah’s passing game with 182 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-28 passing. Ben Rhodenizer, who made his first collegiate start at quarterback, completed 13 of 19 passes for 77 yards and an interception and led the Hornets’ rushing attack with 67 yards on seven carries.
Casey Stewart had six receptions for 80 yards for Shenandoah, and Jake Wallace caught nine passes for 77 yards.
“I am very proud of how the whole team battled,” Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said in a news release. “We had a great defensive plan and execution, especially in the first half.”
Shenandoah opens Old Dominion Athletic Conference play with a home game Saturday night against Bridgewater.