WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University’s offense got production out of the usual suspects in Saturday’s 59-34 win over Hampden-Sydney, but several other Hornets enjoyed breakout performances in SU’s record-setting day.
Rashadeen Byrd Jr., a freshman tailback, rushed for 129 yards and two long touchdowns, becoming the first Hornet to top the 100-yard mark in a full year. Senior wide receiver Adrian DeNeal, a Millbrook High School grad who spent three seasons in a reserve role with the Hornets and had just three catches to his name entering the year, caught two TD passes in what was easily the best game of his college career.
Another senior wideout, Justin Ayres, has been dinged up this season and had his best game of 2018 against the Tigers, and freshman Ethan Bigbee also had a career day that included four catches, 61 yards and a TD grab.
Those performances were a product of SU’s offensive efficiency — the Hornets punted just once and sustained drive after drive, allowing more people to get involved in the rout — but the Hornets also feel like the performance showed off their depth and talent at the skill positions.
“We’ve got a lot of really good football players on the offensive side of the ball,” Hornets quarterback Hayden Bauserman said after Saturday’s win, “and I think the talk in the offseason was how many guys we were losing, but a lot of people lost sight of the fact of the amount of people that were gonna step up or were coming in. … I think we’re pretty versatile on offense and I think those guys gained a lot of confidence from today.”
Of all the breakout performances, Byrd’s was probably the most welcome for an SU offense that hasn’t been known for its running prowess. Byrd averaged 21.5 yards on six carries, scored on runs of 46 and 25 yards and showed elusiveness that could spark the Hornets’ rushing attack moving forward.
“Rashadeen is probably our best slow-to-fast back,” head coach Scott Yoder said, “meaning as he’s getting the ball he’s really good at kind of diagnosing what’s happening, and then when (a hole) opens he sticks his foot and goes. We’ve worked really for three weeks now trying to get the run game, O-line and the backs, to work together as well as we can and I think we found something today.”
Ayres, who was granted a fifth year of eligibility before this season, also seems to be rounding back into form after catching four passes for 49 yards and muscling through contact in the end zone for a 3-yard TD catch. Ayres caught 57 passes in 2016 and 2017 but had just three receptions for 35 yards entering Saturday’s game.
PASS D PROGRESS: The Hornets’ defensive secondary knew it would give up yards to Hampden-Sydney quarterback Alec Cobb, and they did, surrendering 445 yards to the Division III leader in passing yards per game. But SU’s defensive backs are also seeing progress.
Yoder said after the win that the defense had a great game plan to slow down Hampden-Sydney — sophomore cornerback Daquan Pridget said that plan included playing physically against Tigers No. 1 receiver Major Morgan in order to “take him out of his game” — and Shenandoah’s DBs made timely plays, including two interceptions, on several occasions to force key stops.
On the Tigers’ opening drive, SU cornerback Mike Amobi made a great play in the end zone to separate the ball from the hands of tight end Ed Newman on a fourth-down pass at the Hornets’ 2-yard line. Cobb had a pass tipped and picked off by safety Nate Hill at the SU 3 on Hampden-Sydney’s next possession, and Pridget snagged a second interception deep in Shenandoah territory in the second half when he got inside position on a 50-50 ball to Morgan and made a leaping grab at the Hornets’ 4.
Morgan (nine catches, 116 yards, one TD) and Dillon Costello (148) each topped 100 yards receiving, though five of Morgan’s receptions and 78 of his yards came in the second half with SU up four scores.
“We hear it all the time that every team wants to pass it on us and all that,” Amobi said, “… but we really got tired of that. Today was the day we had to stop all this. This is a beginning of being better and better. We’ve just gotta keep this going.”
Shenandoah is allowing an ODAC-worst 328.4 yards passing per game but also leads the conference with 10 interceptions. Pridget has five of those, three more than anyone else in the ODAC.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Bauserman was named the ODAC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for the second time this season after throwing for 490 yards, five touchdowns and an interception against Hampden-Sydney. He set a new school record with 47 completions in 63 attempts in the win and completed passes to 10 different players.
Bauserman (1,851 yards passing, 23 touchdowns this season) ranks third in the ODAC in career completions (913) and passing TDs (112), and his 10,494 passing yards are fourth all-time. He’s 12 touchdown passes shy of matching the conference’s all-time mark.