WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University slot receiver Jalen Hudson is most effective when he can use his speed and athleticism in open space, but he’s proving to be quite a weapon when the field shrinks inside the opposing teams’ 10-yard line as well.
The senior caught two touchdown passes early in Saturday’s 59-21 win over North Carolina Wesleyan, both on plays that began inside the Bishops’ 10-yard line in the first five minutes of the game.
Hudson’s first touchdown catch of the game came on a first-down play from the N.C. Wesleyan 2-yard line on the game’s opening drive, when quarterback Hayden Bauserman found the senior with a quick pass in the flat along the goal line.
On Shenandoah’s next possession, the Hornets threw a receiver screen from the 8-yard line to Hudson, who followed a wall of blockers and walked into the end zone untouched.
“I mean, he’s an athlete,” Bauserman said of Hudson, who led all SU receivers with 11 receptions for 109 yards in the win. “Any time you get somebody locked up man-to-man with him he can make plays and do different things. He’s obviously the best when he’s out in space, but I think that is a new wrinkle to him – is going down inside the 10-yard line and just making plays and using his speed and athleticism to run away from guys. Obviously, I have faith in him, and I’ll go to him whenever.”
Getting quick passes out to Hudson on the perimeter inside the red zone isn’t necessarily a new thing this season. Bauserman said the Hornets did some of that in 2017 – Hudson’s first season as a slot receiver after moving from tailback – though the QB added that SU went to Hudson more frequently than usual inside the 10-yard line against the Bishops.
Bauserman targeted the 5-foot-8 Hudson twice more inside the 10 in the first quarter, including on a fade pass that sailed through Hudson’s hands with a defender in his face on a third-down snap from the 7.
“I wanna let Hayden know that I’m open, you can get me the ball anytime you want,” Hudson said. “I’m in the red zone, your red zone guy, I’m there whenever you need me. I let him know that, that I’m open. Everybody is a red zone player, that’s how I feel.”
LOCAL CONNECTION: There were plenty of touchdown receptions to go around in the Hornets’ win over N.C. Wesleyan – Bauserman matched his school record with six scoring tosses in the rout – and several players with local ties played starring roles in the prolific passing display.
Bauserman, himself a Woodstock native and 2014 graduate of Central High School, twice connected with 2014 Warren County High School grad Casey Stewart for touchdown passes in the second half against the Bishops, one a 24-yarder on fourth down late in the third quarter and the other an 11-yard toss to the back of the end zone to start the fourth.
Junior receiver Adrian DeNeal, a Winchester native and 2013 graduate of Millbrook High School, found himself wide open in the fourth quarter and hauled a 6-yard grab for his first career TD catch, and freshman Trammel Anthony, another Millbrook alum, caught his first collegiate touchdown pass when backup QB Ben Agostino found him for a 7-yard score with 3:03 to play.
Anthony also recorded his first career reception earlier in the contest, plucking a tipped pass out of the air for a 27-yard gain during the third-quarter drive that eventually ended with Stewart’s first TD grab of the game.
“Some guys that are playing well are gonna play more for us as the year goes on,” Hornets head coach Scott Yoder said, “so good to see them have some success.”
A GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE: Saturday’s lopsided score allowed Shenandoah to get its reserves some valuable game experience for the second straight game. Among that group of players were Agostino and fellow sophomore backup quarterback James McPhillips.
Agostino, who completed 9 of 19 passes last season, entered Saturday’s game with 8:44 to play and led a 12-play, 84-yard touchdown drive that ended with his first career touchdown pass to Anthony with 3:03 left. Agostino completed both of his pass attempts for 12 yards on the drive, and McPhillips made a brief appearance during the possession and completed a third-down pass for 13 yards to junior Tom Rahme. That pass was the first career pass attempt and completion for McPhillips and the first career reception for Rahme.
Sophomore tailback Jordyn Hunter also saw an extensive run on SU’s final possession and finished the game with eight carries for 43 yards.
“The thing you worry about, you wanna get guys in, but you wonder when’s the right time? Is it too early? Those guys have been sitting around for two hours, can we get something going?” Yoder said. “Because you don’t just want three-and-outs and then your defense is back out there. That’s sometimes when games kind of get a little crazy on you. But I thought they did a great job. I thought our quarterbacks came in, did a nice job. We found a little bit of a running game, hit a couple key passes to keep a drive alive, melt some clock and get some guys some valuable playing time, so you gotta love that.”
COSTLY HIT: Hornets sophomore free safety Nate Hill was penalized for targeting and ejected late in the first quarter of Saturday’s win following a crushing hit he put on N.C. Wesleyan receiver Trey Lancaster to force an incompletion on a pass deep down the middle of the field.
Hill was initially ruled ineligible for the rest of the half with the play to be reviewed at halftime, and referees confirmed the targeting call at intermission and removed Hill from the remainder of the game. Hill, who returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown in a Week 1 win over Methodist and led the Old Dominion Athletic Conference with six interceptions last season, remained on SU’s sideline for the second half.
Yoder said Hill is eligible to play in Saturday’s home game against Hobart.