SU Football Notebook: Hornets still battling stretches of poor execution

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University football coach Scott Yoder said he left the field after last Saturday’s 52-50 loss at Emory & Henry happy with the fight shown by his team, which trailed by 22 points late in the third quarter and by 15 with less than four minutes remaining and had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds. But the loss also showcased, once again, the flaws in execution that have sent SU reeling to three losses in its past four games.

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University football coach Scott Yoder said he left the field after Saturday’s 52-50 loss at Emory & Henry happy with the fight shown by his team, which trailed by 22 points late in the third quarter and by 15 with less than four minutes remaining and had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds. But the loss also showcased, once again, the flaws in execution that have sent SU reeling to three losses in its past four games.

“I don’t question at all how hard we played as a team, and we addressed that,” Yoder said Wednesday, “but in the last couple weeks there’s been five to 15 plays a game where we aren’t executing what we normally and can execute, and need to execute, and we dug ourselves into that hole. Give Emory credit, they played well at times, but we shouldn’t have been down 22. That’s on us, so I think we’ve gotta own that and we’ve gotta find a way to get this thing back on track as soon as possible with three games left.”

Both sides of the ball, Yoder said, are to blame for the mishaps that have helped knock the Hornets out of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference race with a 1-3 league record. Against Emory & Henry, he said, the offense lacked a “killer instinct” on a couple drives midway through the second half, going three-and-out twice when given a chance to piece together a potential game-tying drive. The defense, he added, seemed it could do nothing right in the first half as the Hornets went into halftime trailing 31-14, a margin that turned into a 24-point deficit early in the third quarter.

That Shenandoah’s struggles with execution are still arising seven games into the season is the disappointing part for the Hornets, who travel to Bridgewater on Saturday.

“You’re late in October; you need to be sharp,” Yoder said. “… It’s just routine plays that kind of snowball, and by the time you get it back on the tracks, you’re in a huge hole. In a way, it kind of reminds me of our first couple years together, when we were just trying to figure it out. And that’s not a good memory at this point. But we also have really good kids, and they understand, and they’ve answered every challenge that we’ve given them. We’ve just gotta find a way as a group to get that thing fixed. We’re still the same team that (three) weeks ago hung 59 on Hampden-Sydney and felt really good about ourselves. We haven’t changed at all; we’ve just gotta get back to that.”

LET’S GET PHYSICAL: Shenandoah’s inability to create separation and make plays in the passing game against physical man-to-man coverage was a big topic of discussion for the Hornets last week. Junior wide receiver Casey Stewart said last weekend’s game showed the progress that the receiving corps has made after getting exposed in blowout losses to Ferrum and Randolph-Macon.

Shenandoah’s offense, held to two of its worst statistical outputs of the season in those two losses, got back to putting up big numbers against E&H, which Stewart said played primarily man coverage. Senior quarterback Hayden Bauserman threw for 406 yards, while two young receivers — freshman Ethan Bigbee (14 receptions, 117 yards) and sophomore Jake Wallace (six receptions, 100 yards) — reached the 100-yard mark.

“We’re getting better, and we’re gonna continue to get better at it,” Stewart said of improving against man coverage. “We’re focused a lot this week on physicality because as receivers, (defensive backs), they’re gonna grab us, they’re gonna hold us — and they have. We kind of haven’t fought through it how we should, and it’s frustrating to run your route, and somebody be holding you, but we’re not complaining about it because it’s part of the game. If it doesn’t get called, it doesn’t get called. We’re really focusing on being physical as well this whole week, and we’re gonna get after it. We’re gonna go as far as we can as far as physicality and make them call an offensive pass interference and see how far they’re gonna let us go, as well.”

RECORD CHASERS: Following a five-TD performance against E&H, Shenandoah senior quarterback Hayden Bauserman is five passing touchdowns shy of matching the ODAC’s all-time career record (124) set by Guilford’s Josh Vogelbach from 2005-08.

Bauserman, who is averaging over four passing touchdowns per game, has three more contests left to break the record. He has 30 TD passes in seven games this fall and has thrown five or more in a single game four times. He’s on pace for 42 touchdown tosses this season after throwing 41 — a school record — last year.

Stewart, who caught two more touchdown passes last weekend, has 11 TD receptions this season and is three shy of matching Shenandoah’s single-season record of 14 set by Rico Wallace in 2011. Last Saturday’s game was the fourth multi-touchdown contest for Stewart this season, during which he’s posted career highs in catches (35), receiving yards (529) and TD receptions.