SU Football Notebook: Hornets’ defense delivered when needed vs. Guilford

WINCHESTER — Some of the numbers for Shenandoah University’s defense in Saturday’s win over Guilford weren’t pretty. They hardly ever are for the Hornets.

WINCHESTER — Some of the numbers for Shenandoah University’s defense in Saturday’s win over Guilford weren’t pretty. They hardly ever are for the Hornets.

The visiting Quakers put up 47 points, the third-highest total scored against SU this season, and piled up 677 yards of offense in the losing effort. Guilford sophomore quarterback Alex Manley threw for 546 yards and three touchdowns, receiver Juwan Houston caught 12 passes for 208 yards and as a team the Quakers had 31 first downs.

And yet Saturday’s performance was a win for Shenandoah’s defense. The Hornets forced five turnovers, all at critical moments in the game, held Guilford to just 2-for-14 on third downs and kept dangerous tailback De’Eric Bell in check in the running game.

“Even though they did put up some points on the board, I definitely would say it’s a successful defensive performance,” Hornets junior linebacker Tyler Williams said after the win. “A little iffy at times with some of the passing touchdowns but I would definitely say it was a step forward.”

The turnovers alone were enough to change the face of Saturday’s contest. Hornets sophomore cornerback Daquan Pridget and junior safety Nate Hill each picked off Manley twice, all four interceptions coming on Shenandoah’s side of the 50-yard line and three of those coming in the end zone.

Hill also made a jarring hit on Guilford receiver Gavin Watts to force a third-down incompletion in the end zone, prompting the Quakers to settle for a short field goal for their first points of the game late in the first quarter.

“It helps us keep our swagger,” linebacker Bernie Hayes III, who recovered a fumble on Guilford’s first possession, said of the turnovers. “That’s one thing, knowing this year we’ve been giving up a lot of points and stuff like that, when we get turnovers like that, it keeps us having that nice swagger that we know that we can play every down, every week.”

A Shenandoah defense that had given up 257.8 yards rushing per game in ODAC play also limited Guilford to just 131 yards on 36 carries. Bell, the conference’s second-leading rusher, mustered a season-low 71 yards on 18 carries (though he did have 99 yards receiving), 27 of those rushing yards coming on one carry early in the fourth quarter.

Bell entered the game averaging 6.3 yards per carry and averaged 3.9 per carry against SU, which often had four or more defenders swarming to the Guilford senior when he took the handoff.

“He’s dangerous running north and south, so (if) we got him east and west, we all could rally up to him and make a tackle, because it’s hard to make a one-on-one tackle with him,” Hayes said.

SU head coach Scott Yoder said the Hornets’ defense made it a point to not let Bell beat them.

“We pretty much tried to (have) seven, eight guys staring at him every play,” Yoder said.

FAR FROM FLAWLESS: Shenandoah’s offense returned to familiar form against Guilford, scoring a season-high 62 points and racking up 625 yards of offense while quarterback Hayden Bauserman threw for eight touchdowns in a record-shattering performance.

The Hornets also showed glimpses of the inconsistencies that have plagued them for the past month. SU’s offense was feast or famine in the first half, pairing its five touchdown drives with five three-and-outs among its 10 possessions in the first and second quarters. Hornets receivers also dropped four passes, SU fumbled twice inside its own 25 in the second half and committed nine penalties for 95 yards, including a few unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

“We left them in the game with the fumbles, the penalties,” receiver Casey Stewart said. “And we knew coming in that it was gonna be a physical game, a rough game, and we focused on doing what we do but not going over the edge. As far as some of the miscommunication on some plays, we had some dropped balls, the fumbles. It’s mental, it’s stuff that we can fix and it’s stuff we’re gonna fix.”

RECORD BREAKERS AND CHASERS: While Bauserman broke a trio of records in the win — including the ODAC’s career mark for passing touchdowns — two other Hornets broke or tied school single-season records against Guilford.

Pridget’s two-interception performance gave him seven this season, breaking the previous record of six held by a trio of Hornets (including Hill, who had six picks last season).

Stewart, who caught nine passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns in the win, has tied the SU record for TD catches in a season (14) set by Rico Wallace in 2011.

PADDING THE STATS: Saturday’s game was the highest-scoring contest in the 18-year history of Shentel Stadium. It featured 1,302 yards of total offense, 1,124 yards passing and 61 first downs.

Shenandoah and Guilford combined for 38 possessions in a game that lasted three hours and 18 minutes.