Getting Over the 4-6 Hump
Greetings from the Booth!
This week, I’ll actually be in a broadcast booth, as the 2016 Shenandoah University Hornets football season begins in Washington, D.C. It never gets old, even after 16 seasons as the play-by-play voice of SU football. There is an excitement about game day that is indescribable, and even more so on opening day. Everyone is undefeated, and hope springs eternal.
First, some “housecleaning.” The Washington Nationals can lay waste to the NL East this weekend by taking care of business against the New York Mets. The Nats go into the weekend series 9.5 games up on the Mets, but as the saying goes “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” There is still work to do.
Meanwhile, my WVU Mountaineers open at home this weekend against an SEC team, Missouri. WVU played right with Alabama several years ago, and that was on a neutral site. Puskar Stadium in Morgantown is a difficult place to play for a visiting team, so I look for an ‘Eers win on Saturday. UVA & Va Tech start the season with new coaches, but should roll against Richmond and Liberty, respectively.
Now, on to today’s topic, a season preview of the Hornets. Shenandoah is coming off a third consecutive 4-6 campaign under Head Hornet Scott Yoder, and I know the guys want desperately to get over that hump. Last year looked to be the season the Hornets were going to do that, as they started 3-0, 4-2, and then dropped four straight ODAC games.
This season, Shenandoah will return some key skill players, including Sophomore QB Hayden Bauserman. The Woodstock Central product had a record-setting freshman season in 2015, but experienced the usual growing pains of a first-year signal caller. Great throws were followed by costly interceptions, and at times the “eye test” showed that the game moved a bit too fast for Hayden. This year, he has come into camp 15 pounds lighter, and has improved his decision-making skills. He has a talented corps of receivers like Leonard Scott, and the return of All-ODAC RB Cedrick Delaney will give the SU “Red Dawn” attack plenty of weapons. I see no drop off from an offense that scored over 30 points per game in 2015.
Defensively, the Hornets will have to replace defensive standouts like Mike Messick (the SU record holder for tackles) and 2015 ODAC Defensive Player of the Year Jake Payne. Simply put, you can’t replace players like that, so folks like Senior LB Michael Wroble will have to step up in leadership roles. The Hornets will show some different schemes on defense, and as is the case in the ODAC, they won’t be able to shut down the league’s high-octane offenses all the time, but will be needed at key times of games, as long as the Hornet offense puts up points.
On Special Teams, punter Christian Arias returns, as does K Jacob Newton, who had an injury-plagued season in 2015. As always, expect the unexpected, as the trick play on special teams has become a Yoder trademark.
Shenandoah will undoubtedly have a chip on it’s shoulder, having been picked to finish 7th in the 8-team Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Color me optimistic, but I see no reason why SU can’t once again start 3-0 in non-conference play, and then come up with some ODAC wins, and maybe a surprise or two. I think the Hornets finally get over that 4-6 “hump” this year and finish 6-4, maybe even 7-3.
Next week, we’ll recap the Gallaudet game and look ahead to week 2. Have a great Labor Weekend, and GO HORNETS!