WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s football team went on the road and knocked off defending Old Dominion Athletic Conference champion Randolph-Macon in a Thursday night matchup last week. The Hornets now get a chance to make another statement against the conference’s preseason favorite.
Shenandoah returns home for the first time in a month to take on Emory & Henry at 1 p.m. today at Shentel Stadium, with the Hornets seeking to improve to 2-0 in ODAC play for the first time since joining the conference in 2012 and hunting their first 4-1 start since 2004.
Emory & Henry (2-2, 1-0 ODAC) was the preseason pick to win the ODAC this fall, while Shenandoah (3-1, 1-0) was voted last.
“It’s definitely a chance to showcase what we’re able to do,” Hornets junior quarterback Hayden Bauserman said. “We know they’re gonna be a really good team, they’re gonna be athletic, they’re gonna be tough, they’re gonna be strong, they’re gonna be physical. But I think you throw in the kind of chip on our shoulder and we’re excited for the opportunity and we’re excited to play against a team that was picked first when we were picked last. I think that’ll definitely play into it but we’re gonna have to come out and play our best football.”
Behind Bauserman’s arm, Shenandoah’s offense has been the best in the ODAC through the first five weeks. That unit leads the conference in scoring (45.5 points per game), total offense (523.8 yards per game) and passing offense (408.2 ypg) following Bauserman’s record-setting performance against Macon, during which he threw for 559 yards and six touchdowns in the 51-38 win.
The Hornets now get a matchup against an E&H team that ranks sixth in the seven-team ODAC in scoring defense (31 points allowed per game) and fifth in pass defense (221.2 ypg) and has recorded just one interception through four games.
“I think last week we played against a defense that was a little inexperienced but they were still very disciplined. I think this team’s gonna be experienced,” said Bauserman, who has thrown for 1,590 yards, 19 touchdowns and four interceptions and leads Division III in passing yards per game (397.5). “They’ve been through the battles and they’re still gonna be fast, physical, tough, strong.”
Shenandoah’s offensive line has kept its QB upright while allowing just three sacks. Emory & Henry’s defense has recorded only three sacks – the fewest in the ODAC – though SU head coach Scott Yoder said the Hornets need to be wary of a Wasp defensive line that includes juniors Da’von Keith (one sack, four tackles for loss) – a HEROSports.com preseason All-American – and Josh Fleenor (five TFLs).
“They’ve got three really good pass rushers, so I think they look at this game and say, ‘We’re built to beat a Shenandoah team,’” Yoder said, adding that the Hornets’ offensive line needs to protect Bauserman and open lanes for a run game that has taken a backseat to a prolific passing game so far.
“They’re gonna bring pressure. I think Hayden’s gotta have a really, really good day. And I think that means offensively too, but they’re probably the most multiple defense we’ve seen at this point.”
In Emory & Henry’s offense, the Hornets expect to see a balanced attack. Led by four-year starting quarterback Kevin Saxton, the Wasps rank third in the ODAC in scoring (36.8 ppg) and second in rushing (217.2 ypg).
Saxton, whom Yoder said is playing “as well as we’ve seen him play in four years,” has completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 691 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Sophomore Derrick Yates (30 receptions, 389 yards, three touchdowns) and junior Jesse Santiago (22 catches, 233 yards, one TD) lead a group of receivers that Yoder said could be the best in the ODAC alongside Shenandoah’s.
In the Wasps’ run game, freshman Brady Justice (330 yards rushing, five touchdowns) and senior Isaiah Rodgers (236 yards, one TD) have each carried 53 times.
“They’re not asking too much of any guy and they’re balanced run and pass. We’ve gotta take something away,” said Yoder, whose team ranks in the bottom half of the ODAC in scoring defense (fifth, 30.5 ppg), total defense (fifth, 442.8 ypg) and rush defense (sixth, 240.5 ypg). “We were able to do that (against Randolph-Macon), make a team play the way they don’t wanna play. Well, can we do the same with Emory? Can we slow their run game down enough where they feel like they’ve gotta throw it more, when they don’t want to? We’ve gotta make them play left-handed.”
Emory & Henry is 4-1 all-time against Shenandoah, though the Hornets knocked off the Wasps, 36-33, in Emory last season.
Saturday’s contest marks the first of two straight home games for the Hornets, who play three of their next four games at Shentel Stadium after playing three consecutive road contests.
“We’re back in our comfort zone and I feel like that could definitely play a major role,” SU senior receiver Leonard Scott said. “We’ve been playing good so far but I feel like the best is yet to come. Now we’ve got our home crowd, we’ve got that home energy. We can definitely do some damage.”