WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University got off to a slow start against Randolph-Macon College on Saturday and could never recover.
The Hornets turned the ball over three times and had a punt blocked in a 45-14 loss to the Yellow Jackets in an Old Dominion Athletic Conference football contest.
Shenandoah head coach Scott Yoder said the turnovers were simply too much to overcome.
“You turn it over three times and with a punt blocked you don’t have a good chance to win any football game, let alone against a real good football team,” Yoder said.
After being forced into a three-and-out to start the game, Shenandoah faked a punt. However, punter Brant Butler’s pass fell incomplete to give Randolph-Macon great field position for its first possession.
“We’ve always been aggressive here,” Yoder said of the fake punt. “We’ve always had things ready to go. And we saw a look that we liked with a good matchup. And it’s easy to sit here and look at what happened and say I wish I wouldn’t have done that. But we play aggressively and I liked the call. And the situation presented itself and we didn’t execute.”
The Yellow Jackets (5-1, 3-0 ODAC) took advantage by driving 33 yards on five plays for a 7-0 lead. Randolph-Macon running back Tre Frederick’s 3-yard touchdown run capped the drive with 11:10 left in the opening quarter.
An interception by Randolph-Macon linebacker Anthony Williams set-up another score. The Yellow Jackets went 87 yards on 11 plays with Eric Hoy’s 7-yard TD run giving them a 14-0 edge with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.
Shenandoah freshman running back Rashadeen Byrd said he didn’t feel like the team was ready to go from the start of the game.
“I think we just came out a little bit lackadaisical (Saturday),” Byrd said. “I think we should have come out stronger than what we did. Something we will correct this week.”
On Shenandoah’s next possession, Randolph-Macon linebacker Yonis Blanco intercepted a Hayden Bauserman pass at midfield.
“(Randolph-Macon head) Coach (Pedro Arruza) always wants us to make a play,” Blanco said. “And the opportunity was there and I made a play. And that was good for the defense.”
The Yellow Jackets went 50 yards on eight plays. Randolph-Macon quarterback Burke Estes scored on a 10-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 21-0 with 9:09 left in the second quarter. Estes finished the game with 84 yards on six carries in addition to passing for 164 yards on 11-for-18 passing. Estes said he just tried to do what he could to help his team win and the plays were there to be made.
“You’re just a football player. You’ve been playing this game for 13, 14 years, and it’s nothing really special,” Estes said. “You’re just an athlete trying to make plays for your team.”
The two teams traded punts until Randolph-Macon’s Aaron Cox blocked a Shenandoah punt. The ball was recovered by Randolph-Macon’s Joel Calkins and returned to the Shenandoah 13.
One play later Randolph-Macon’s Jordan Foster ran it in for a 13-yard touchdown with 4:05 left in the first half and a 28-0 lead.
Going into the game the Yellow Jackets had been led all season by Frederick and the Hornets did a solid job of containing him. Frederick ran for 66 yards on 17 carries. Shenandoah linebacker Bernie Hayes said he was pleased with the job the defense did against Frederick but they couldn’t stop Estes.
“We tried to make sure we contained Frederick, and with stuff like that we just have to make plays at that point,” Hayes said. “(Estes) made plays and we did not.”
The Hornets (3-3, 1-2 ODAC) came into the game averaging 524.8 yards per game. However, against Randolph-Macon, the Hornets had only 391 yards, most of which came in the second half when the game was out of reach.
Arruza said they tried to learn from last year’s mistakes, in a 51-38 loss to Shenandoah. The Hornets threw for 558 yards in that win.
“We had a tough day against them last year, and it was really important for us to play well,” Arruza said. “And I think our kids were really dialed in. And we just played really hard and did a good job of executing the game plan.”
The Hornets trailed 45-0, before scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Bauserman connected with Casey Stewart for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 13:32 left in the game. With 4:13 remaining Bauserman threw a screen pass to Byrd, who finished with 82 rushing yards on 14 carries. He went 33 yards for the touchdown.
“When I caught the ball, I turned around, looked upfield and saw all of the good blocking,” Byrd said. “Justin Ayers sealed the corner inside really good for me. Our receivers are really good at blocking as well as catching. It was really good.”
Bauserman went 30-for-59 passing with 297 passing yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Stewart had nine catches for 113 yards. The Yellow Jackets kept the Hornets’ offense from making the big plays.
“They kept everything in front of them,” Yoder said of R-MC’s defense. “And they were trying to get extra guys on the pass game. But at the same time take away some of our downhill run looks, which I thought was the best thing that they did. I thought they also did a great job of 50-50 balls. When Hayden (Bauserman) puts the ball up usually it’s us or nobody and it seemed like every catch was contested. So tip your hat to them on that part.”
After five straight home games, Shenandoah travels to Emory & Henry next week. Hayes said it’s important for the Hornets to bounce back quickly and get ready for the next game.
“We know we got Emory & Henry next week. We got to shake (the loss) off,” Hayes said. “And make sure we go into the next four games at the best of our ability – don’t hang our heads down after we just took this loss.”