WINCHESTER – One of the most surefire ways to limit Shenandoah University senior quarterback Hayden Bauserman and the
Hornets’ high-scoring passing attack is to keep that unit on the sideline. Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said Wednesday he is “truly expecting” Hobart College to take that approach when the Statesmen visit Shentel Stadium on Saturday night.
Yoder, whose team is averaging 53.5 points and 509 yards per game after opening the season with blowout wins over Methodist and North Carolina Wesleyan, is anticipating Hobart to take a deliberate pace on offense in what will be the second all-time meeting between the two schools.
The game within the game, Yoder added, could very well be whether the Hornets can start fast on offense, as doing so not only means Hobart would be forced to abandon any type of down-tempo game plan, but it would also put pressure on Hobart first-year QB Ryan Hofmann.
“I think the more that they can keep (Hofmann) out of situations where he’s gotta make a lot of big plays, the better off they’re gonna feel,” Yoder said of the Statesmen. “So the more that they’re in the game and controlling the game and controlling the tempo, they’ve gotta feel really good about it. I think we’ve gotta find that edge of not pressing too much but can we start fast, and if we can get up 14-0 or 17-7, that makes the keep-away game not as viable. That’s a key component.”
Limiting Hobart’s running game figures to be another. In last season’s meeting between the two schools, the Statesmen ran all over Shenandoah in the second half and piled up 368 yards rushing on their way to a 56-30 win.
Former Statesmen running back Joe Letizia rushed for 162 of those yards but has since graduated, and sophomore Dakota Harvey (22 carries, 131 yards and three TDs vs. SU) has been dealing with an injury, according to Yoder, and has missed the first two weeks of the 2018 season. Yoder added that the Hornets are expecting to see Harvey play on Saturday.
With Harvey sidelined Hobart is averaging just 59.5 yards on the ground, and the Statesmen had only 5 yards rushing on 18 carries in a blowout loss to Brockport in Week 1.
Shenandoah, which entered the season placing an emphasis on its run defense after allowing nearly 250 yards on the ground per game in 2017, is allowing 119 yards rushing per game through its first two contests. In last week’s 59-21 win over North Carolina Wesleyan, the Hornets limited the Bishops to 60 yards rushing on 29 attempts (2.1 yards per rush).
“These past couple games our defensive line and linebackers have definitely taken control of the run for us,” Hornets junior safety T.J. Heflin said, “so (in the) secondary we haven’t really had to come up and make those stops a lot, how we did last season.”
The anticipated slow pace of Hobart’s offense could mean limited scoring chances for Shenandoah’s, and Bauserman said such a scenario means the Hornets need to be “even closer to perfect” on offense against the Statesmen.
Both Bauserman and junior receiver Casey Stewart said the offense has a lot of confidence in SU’s defense to prevent Hobart from maintaining long drives and milking the clock.
“We’re just gonna have to rely on our defense to make plays, which we know they can do, which they have done thus far,” Stewart said. “They’re playing at a high level right now, so we’re gonna be banking on them to make plays and they’re gonna be banking on us to go out there, give them a little break, put points on the board so there’s not as much pressure on them.”
MORE SECURITY: The local area looks like it will be spared from the heavy impact of Hurricane Florence, according to recent forecasts, but the threat of rain still looms over Saturday’s contest, placing ball security in an even more paramount position for the Hornets against a traditional top-25 caliber team in Hobart.
After throwing an interception and losing two fumbles in Week 1 against Methodist, SU did not turn the ball over against N.C. Wesleyan in a game that was played primarily through steady rainfall. The Hornets were fortunate against the Bishops on a few occasions last weekend, however, as a tipped pass over the middle fell right into the hands of SU receiver Jalen Hudson in the first half and N.C. Wesleyan couldn’t hold onto a pair of potential interceptions.
“That’s not always gonna happen,” Yoder said of the Hornets’ lucky bounces. “… If we lose the turnover battle this weekend, that’s really gonna hurt our chances. I think we have to take care of the football. In that respect we still have to live on that edge of we’re a push-the-ball-down-the-field team, and sometimes when that happens you’re gonna have an interception, you’re gonna have a fumble, but can we make enough big plays to overcome that? We can’t just give it away, and we gave it away the first week on an exchange and just some extra-effort plays. We can’t do that. If we don’t turn the football over we’ll be very hard to stop.”
HOBART CONNECTION: Saturday’s contest will mark Yoder’s second as an opposing coach against his alma mater, and though former longtime Hobart head coach Mike Cragg stepped down following the 2017 season to take an administrative position at the school, there is still a familiar face at the helm of the Statesmen.
Kevin DeWall, who served as Hobart’s offensive coordinator for 12 seasons under Cragg and spent the past three years as the head coach at Endicott College, has returned to Hobart as the team’s head coach. Yoder – who was the defensive coordinator for six seasons for the Statesmen from 2007-2012 – and DeWall were coordinators together on Cragg’s staff, and were also teammates on Hobart’s football and lacrosse teams.
DeWall is serving as his own offensive coordinator, and Yoder’s familiarity with DeWall gives him an idea of what to expect from Hobart’s offense on Saturday night.
“I think you still see that blueprint. He certainly has changed and evolved but it hasn’t gone too far, as far as lots of different sets, gonna play a lot of people. He’s not a tempo guy but he keeps you off-balance by playing two, three tight ends and then four wide receivers and just mixing and matching personnel,” Yoder said.
“He kind of makes your life as a defensive coordinator really hard. I think (SU defensive coordinator Brock McCullough has) got a good plan and we’ve been talking a lot back and forth about what we think they’re gonna try to hang their hat on. But (DeWall’s) gonna try to keep you off-balance and I think the key is can we kind of flip the tables on him and say if we can get out to a lead and put pressure on them and make them push the ball down the field and play from behind, that’s out of their comfort zone.”