WINCHESTER – It wasn’t quite the school-record setting performance Shenandoah University enjoyed against North Carolina Wesleyan a year ago, but it was pretty darn close.
In a game played mostly through steady rainfall on Saturday night, SU piled up 575 yards of total offense in its home opener while senior quarterback Hayden Bauserman tied his school record with six touchdown passes in a 59-21 drubbing of the Battling Bishops in front of a crowd of 1,121 at Shentel Stadium.
The Hornets have now scored 120 points against N.C. Wesleyan in their last two meetings, which included a school-record 61-point outburst last season.
Saturday’s win didn’t come quite as easily as it did a year ago, as just 10 points separated the two teams in the latter half of the third quarter. But a 35-point barrage in the second half ensured Shenandoah (2-0) would claim its second straight lopsided win over the Bishops (1-1).
“I thought we had a really good plan offensively and defensively and the players did a great job of executing it,” Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said. “I thought there were some key moments in the game and obviously they’re much improved. I mean, they were pitching it and catching it and moving the football, and doing some things defensively to slow us down after a fast start. But I thought we hung in there.”
N.C. Wesleyan opened the second half with a 14-play, 75-yard scoring drive that cut SU’s lead to 24-14, a score that held until Bauserman and the Hornets’ offense exploded for 28 unanswered points in a span of 7 minutes, 44 seconds.
Bauserman, who completed 34 of 53 passes for 343 yards and didn’t throw an interception in the win, tossed touchdown passes of 24 and 19 yards to Casey Stewart and another of 6 yards to Adrian DeNeal during the outburst, which included a powerful 19-yard scoring run by tailback Mario Wisdom between Stewart’s TD grabs.
Bauserman’s final touchdown pass of the night to a wide-open DeNeal gave the Hornets a 51-14 lead with 10:45 left in the game. Backup quarterback Ben Agostino added a seventh touchdown pass to freshman Trammel Anthony with 3:03 to play, setting a new SU record for passing TDs in a game.
Bauserman’s six touchdown passes matched his output in last season’s win over Randolph-Macon, and he completed passes to nine different players on Saturday. Senior Jalen Hudson led all Hornets receivers with 11 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns, while Stewart (60 yards, two TDs) and Jake Wallace (57 yards, TD) each added six catches.
The Hornets scored on all eight of their trips into the red zone.
Bauserman said he thinks they are just starting to click.
“We played pretty well last week (in a win over Methodist), but then this week, after another week of practice and a game under our belts, you can get young guys who are starting to play really well and older guys who are starting to get that timing back and things like that,” Bauserman said. ” I have faith in everybody that I throw to. I have faith that they’re gonna make plays, and they did that tonight.”
SU raced out to a 14-0 lead just over five minutes into the contest, as Bauserman connected with Hudson on touchdown passes of 2 and 7 yards on the team’s first two possessions to give the Hornets a two-score lead before N.C. Wesleyan gained an offensive yard.
Hudson, who had 10 catches for 96 yards in the first half, said: “As soon as that ball was kicked off, we had to set the mentality right now. We couldn’t let up because they’re a good team. I’m not gonna lie, they’re a very good team. If you play their game, it could be a battle, but we had to play our game today on our home court, our hometown, our home field. We had to set it straight right from the start.”
The Bishops answered with a scoring drive that ended with Nate Gardner’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Alford midway through the first quarter, but SU came back with a 13-play drive that ended with Patrick Ritchie’s 24-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead with 2:39 left in the opening frame.
The Hornets added an important 10-play, 95-yard scoring drive that ended with Bauserman’s 25-yard TD pass to Wallace with 46 seconds left in the second quarter, but for most of the first half, Shenandoah leaned on its defense to hold the momentum. That unit delivered a couple of key stops in game-altering moments for the second straight game.
The Hornets twice kept the Bishops off the scoreboard with defensive stands inside its own 5-yard line in the second quarter, the first ending with a missed field goal from 21 yards out and the second coming to a halt when linebacker Tyler Williams dragged down Bishops running back Adrian Minondo 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-goal snap from the 1.
N.C. Wesleyan finished with 434 yards but was just 2-for-5 on red zone trips in the loss.
Willams, who had eight tackles – two for loss – and an interception, said: “I think that has really just been the chemistry. We’re all just calm, and we just make the play. No one’s freaking out. We don’t have a lot of errors or stuff. When we’re in those tough situations, we just make the plays.”
The Hornets also forced Gardner (20-of-40 passing for 262 yards, one touchdown) into a pair of interceptions in the second half, setting up short touchdown drives of 29 and 39 yards. On both picks – safety T.J. Heflin pulled in the other interception to cue Bauserman’s final scoring toss of the night – a Bishops receiver was nowhere in the vicinity of Gardner’s pass.
“He was definitely flustered, kind of just throwing the ball around everywhere,” Williams said of Gardner, who led a lengthy scoring drive out of halftime by connecting frequently with receiver Trey Lancaster but struggled for the rest of the game. “Our D-line did a good job of getting after him. In that second half, he was definitely kind of just throwing the ball around. That was the goal, to get him to feel uncomfortable.”
Lancaster finished with 13 catches for 201 yards but was held out of the end zone, and Yoder said Shenandoah’s ability to limit the Bishops’ running game – they had just 60 yards rushing on 29 carries – kept N.C. Wesleyan one-dimensional on offense.
The Hornets finished with 207 yards rushing, led by Wisdom’s 80 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. SU averaged 5.9 yards per carry.
Shenandoah returns to action with another 7 p.m. home game Saturday night against Hobart.