Hornet Week 6 Preview: “The Hunt For (A) Red October”
I have spent this week re-familiarizing myself with Shentel Stadium, as the Shenandoah University Hornets haven’t been there in awhile. This weekend, the Hornets return home after 3 consecutive road games, and find themselves in a very good place, at 3-1 and 1-0 in the ODAC, following a big 51-38 win over Randolph Macon.
This week’s opponent is Emory & Henry, the pre-season favorite to win the ODAC. The Wasps come in to Shentel at 2-2 and already have one league loss. They certainly will be playing with a sense of urgency, knowing that 2 ODAC losses would be a tough hill to climb, especially when this year’s schedule contains one fewer league game.
It was last year that the Hornets went down to “the bottom of Virginia” and beat E&H, a signature win that propelled SU to a 4-0 October and put them in position to win the ODAC heading into November (when losses to Hampden-Sydney and Washington & Lee ended the Cinderella story).
Shenandoah now boasts the nation’s leading Division-III passer in Hayden Bauserman, in terms of yards-per-game. The Junior signal-caller has thrown for almost 400 yards per game , and almost 1600 for the season. For perspective, in the Hornet’s inagural season of 2000, SU threw for less that 600 yards for the entire season! These are crazy numbers, as the yardage and points pile up in this 2017 season.
The challenge for an opposing defense is that there’s not one player to stop. Bauserman uses a bevy of receivers, and more are being worked into the offense each week. And, when you try to stop the pass and put 8 defenders in the secondary, the Hornets can also run the football. And the Shenandoah O-line has for the most part given Hayden a clean pocket in which to stand and pick out an open receiver.
Let’s mention the Hornet defense, while we’re at it. In a league known for it’s offense, defenses are usually the “bend and don’t break” variety. SU has given up it’s share of yards and points, but has made key stops during the course of the season, and has already recorded 2 “pick-6” interception returns.
It’s a formula for success, and when you add the “chip on the shoulder” for being picked to finish last in the ODAC, it truly feels like something special is happening as we enter the month of October.
There should be a playoff-type atmosphere at Shentel on Saturday afternoon, as Shenandoah tries to go 2-0 in the league. While 1-1 would not ruin the season or dash any playoff hopes, a win would go a long way toward “the next step” for the Hornet football program under Scott Yoder.
I see another high-scoring affair in the crystal ball, as football cleats get traded in for track shoes. The game at Randolph Macon was about which team would impose it’s style on the other. This week it’s about getting a key defensive stop or two, and simply outscoring the opponent. Emory & Henry is a talented bunch, but this week the Hornets show another ODAC opponent that they are not a last-place team.
Bauserman and his receivers shine again, and even add some running attack, in a 42-38 Shenandoah win…as the Hunt For Red October begins. It ain’t midnight yet for Cinderella.
That’s it from the Booth! Hope to see you at the Stadium.