WINCHESTER – Prior to Saturday’s 56-48 loss at home to Hobart College, Shenandoah University’s football team had yet to find itself in a situation this season where it needed to deliver a key stop or complete a critical scoring drive in a late-game scenario with the game on the line. The Hornets could do neither against the Statesmen, leaving head coach Scott Yoder curious to see how his team responds to its first real adversity of the 2018 season.
Shenandoah will have two weeks to recover from its first loss of the season, as the Hornets head into their bye week this week 2-1 overall with the start of Old Dominion Athletic Conference play looming, beginning with a home game against Ferrum on Sept. 29. Yoder said following Saturday’s loss that SU needs to hit the reset button as it switches gears from non-conference to conference play.
“(The loss) is fresh right now but I think that’s the message to the team, is now you’re gonna go into conference play, a stumble like we had tonight in conference play is a lot harder to overcome,” Yoder said on Saturday night. “We played a good football team tonight and we didn’t play well enough to win, and our guys know that. I’m interested to see what this team (does) – we’ve got a lot of good senior kids that have played a lot of football. Let’s see what this does. This is the first time we’ve trailed in a game. This is the first time we had to come back, and we did and then (Hobart) came back and took the lead. We’re gonna find out. We’ll find out what kind of team we have.”
Shenandoah faced the same situation in each of the last two seasons and saw mixed results in its ODAC opener coming out of a bye week.
In 2016 the Hornets began the season with a pair of lopsided wins before falling to North Carolina Wesleyan in Week 3 and lost a close 24-19 contest to eventual ODAC champ Randolph-Macon in their conference opener two weeks later. Last season Shenandoah again opened with two blowout wins and lost to Hobart in Week 3, but bounced back to beat Randolph-Macon, 51-38, the first of three straight wins.
The Hornets didn’t play Ferrum in 2017, snapping a streak of 17 straight seasons in which the two former USA South Athletic Conference foes met on the football field, but SU has enjoyed success over its Week 5 opponent in the Yoder era. Shenandoah is 4-0 against Ferrum since 2013 and has won those contests by an average margin of 18.5 points.
Ferrum, a new addition to the ODAC this season, is 1-1 and already 0-1 in conference play after a 45-29 loss to Emory & Henry in the season opener. The Panthers host Greensboro College on Saturday.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Shenandoah quarterback Hayden Bauserman continued his assault on opposing defenses against Hobart and earned his first ODAC Offensive Player of the Week award of the season as a result.
Bauserman, who has won the weekly award three times in his career, threw six touchdown passes and no interceptions for the second straight game, and he set a new school single-game record with 46 pass completions in Saturday’s loss.
The Shenandoah QB’s 15 touchdown passes through three games this season is tied for the Division III lead with Mount St. Joseph University’s Chaiten Tomlin, and Bauserman’s 1,097 passing yards are second to Tomlin’s 1,152.
Bauserman is 20 touchdown passes shy of tying the ODAC record for career passing touchdowns (124) set by Guilford’s Josh Vogelbach from 2005 to 2008.
SPECIAL TEAMS WOES: The Hornets experienced quite the adventure on special teams in their loss to Hobart, most of it an uncharacteristic bout with inconsistency in an area SU has taken pride in over the past several years.
Shenandoah gave up a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown after pulling within a point of the Statesmen midway through the second quarter, and the Hornets muffed a pair of kickoffs in the first half, though they recovered both loose balls. SU’s kickoff coverage team also was flagged for offsides in the first half, and a holding penalty on a kick return in the third quarter caused a Hornet drive to start at the Shenandoah 10-yard line.
That possession ended with a 12-yard Brant Butler punt, the first of two such kicks that took favorable bounces for Hobart and traveled a total of 28 yards. The Statesmen failed to take advantage of the short field in either instance.
“They beat us in special teams and that doesn’t normally happen,” Yoder said, “so I think that’s something that with a bye week, we’ve gotta go back and work a little bit on but we’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.”
DARE TO RUN: Shenandoah’s high-powered passing offense will be the focal point for every defense the Hornets play this season, and SU showed against Hobart that it could establish a running game with the defense’s attention turned toward Bauserman and his receivers.
The Hornets went to their three tailbacks – Mario Wisdom, Rashadeen Byrd Jr. and Jordyn Hunter – early in the loss, as their 12-play scoring drive to open the game including six rushing plays. Each of those backs had one run of at least 10 yards in the first half.
Yoder and Bauserman both said Hobart was daring Shenandoah to run in the first half – Bauserman said the Statesmen used as few as two down linemen at times – and Hobart head coach Kevin DeWall confirmed that was the Statesmen’s approach, noting that they were willing to concede some rushing yards by clearing out the box to defend against SU’s passing attack.
Hobart made some defensive adjustments to crack down on SU’s running game in the second half, DeWall added, and the Hornets mustered just 12 yards on 11 rushing attempts over the final two quarters after running for 92 yards on 23 carries in the first half.
“This was the old ‘dare Shenandoah to run’ and I thought in the first half we did a nice job,” Yoder said, “and they made some adjustments in the second half that limited our ability to hit bigger plays in the run game. I don’t think we ever found a run that we could hang our hat on in the second half. … I thought we did a really good job of being disciplined in the first half, taking what they were giving us and still throwing the football down the field.”