WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s football team continued what has become a trend over the last three years when the Hornets handcuffed Gallaudet University’s offense in a 43-6 rout in the season opener in Washington, D.C., last Saturday.
SU’s defense limited Gallaudet’s triple-option attack to 146 yards (112 yards rushing) in the win, which marked the fifth time in six career meetings that the Hornets have held the Bison to 6 points or fewer.
“Defensively I was thrilled that it didn’t take us a while to get used to that option speed,” Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said Wednesday. “Right from the start we were ready. They got us on a couple (plays) but we just gave the offense time to get their feet underneath them and before you knew it we were kind of putting the clamps down on the game.”
Shenandoah limited Gallaudet to just 2.3 yards per rush, and while the Hornets made good on their initiative to create more turnovers (SU had an interception and two fumble recoveries that led to three touchdowns), Yoder said he was most impressed with the play of the defensive line.
The Hornets’ starting defensive front of ends Xavior Williams and Thomas Whalen and tackles Jake Shaffer and Gladimir Dupalis combined for 19 total tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss. Shaffer, a senior, also snagged an interception that he returned 57 yards to set up a 15-yard touchdown drive late in the first half that put SU up 22-0.
“The d-line really dominated it,” Hornets senior outside linebacker Malik Sims said. “They did their thing and that helped the defense as a whole be dominant. Keeping the ball at the line of scrimmage, not giving them much offensive line penetration through the d-line, so the defense did pretty good all thanks to the d-line.”
Gallaudet also converted just 1 of 13 third downs, a product of what Yoder said was SU’s success at limiting the Bison on first and second down.
“It was probably third-and-6-plus most of the night. At least it felt that way,” Yoder said. “And to be honest, it’s easy as a coach to call that. You know, you’ve still gotta execute, you’ve still gotta make the tackles, but when you’ve got an option team in a situation where they’ve gotta gain six or seven more to keep the drive going it’s in great shape for us. And the d-line just was in the backfield all day long, and that makes it pretty easy.”
Shifting gears: After their defensive success against the triple-option, the Hornets must now prepare for the other end of the offensive spectrum against Ferrum College, which is running an up-tempo spread offense under first-year head coach Rob Grande.
In a 39-38 comeback win over Emory & Henry last weekend the Panthers, who had previously run an option offense, gained 401 yards, including 227 passing behind the arm of new quarterback Harvey Taylor.
Though shifting focus defensively after spending extended time preparing for the triple-option is a challenge, Yoder said the process has been eased by the fact that SU’s defense sees an up-tempo spread offense every day in practice.
“The fact that we can do this week good-on-good and it makes sense is huge for us because that’s some of the best work that we get, where (when) you play an option team you can’t really do that,” Yoder said.
Knocking off the rust: The Hornets’ ability to stifle Gallaudet’s offense provided ample time for SU’s offense to find its rhythm last Saturday.
Despite racking up 440 yards of total offense, senior running back Cedrick Delaney said the Hornets suffered from a combination of turnovers, missed assignments and missed blocks early against the Bison. Shenandoah also converted just 3 of 11 third downs.
SU’s first drive of 2016 ended after just three plays when sophomore quarterback Hayden Bauserman threw an interception.
“It definitely took us a couple drives to get back into it but … it was kind of just knocking the rust off and things like that,” said Bauserman, who completed 17 of 29 passes for 194 yards and four touchdowns before sitting the entire fourth quarter.
“We had a couple turnovers, a couple missed blocks, things like that, simple things that we can correct. It wasn’t anything too over the top or anything like that, and luckily we didn’t let those things hurt us in the long run. But I think it was just kind of knocking the rust off and first game, kind of first-game jitters or whatever it is. But I think we got it out of the way.”
Yoder said he was pleased that SU’s offense remained aggressive despite its slow start and added that he was impressed with the ability of Gallaudet’s defensive front six to limit the Hornets’ rushing attack before the passing game took off. Bauserman completed touchdown passes to four different receivers.
Strong debut: Last Saturday marked the first career college start for Hornets inside linebacker Cody Miller, and the senior responded by leading the team with eight total tackles (five solo).
“We were thrilled with Cody,” Yoder said. “We actually were really pleased with how all of the linebackers played and I think that showed in just how we were able to limit Gallaudet. But Cody did a really nice job. Cody’s not flashy but if my job’s to be here, he’s there and he did a really good job of that and I think that showed up on Saturday night.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org