The Dead Zone

Greetings From The Booth!

This time of the year, our Views From The Booth is about dissecting the previous week’s Shenandoah University football game and looking ahead to the next contest. Our every-other-year trip to Hampden-Sydney College is usually taken in October, and is a bit more Fall-like. This year we missed the Autumn colors as we made our way to Charlottesville on I-64, and then wound our way to Farmville on Routes 20 and 15. This year, the trees were still green, and the broadcast booth was a bit steamy as the 2-0 Hornets took on the 0-2 Tigers in the ODAC opener for both teams.

The game started with a 7-0 SU lead and a dominating first quarter. Then, just like that, things turned for the worse, as HSC scored three times in the second stanza, then turned the lights out on the Hornets early in the third for a decisive 28-7 win. Some games are easy to analyze, and this game was one of them.

Shenandoah missed out on 3 red zone opportunities, went 0-for-4 on fourth downs, couldn’t convert a fake punt into a first down on a play the Hornets will make 99 times out of 100. And a 32-yard field goal by the usually reliable Patrick Ritchie sailed wide left. Two of the aforementioned red zone trips were from the 2-yard line. Add all of these missed opportunities up and you get zero points. It’s a much different game if we don’t leave all those points on the table.

That being said, the Hornets, after an early stop and interception, could not find a way to pressure HSC quarterback Tanner Bernard, and slow down a running game that coming into the contest had averaged just 1.8 yards per carry. Even when the SU defense got some pressure on the senior signal-caller, he was able to roll out and find wide-open receivers in the Hornet zone. The Shenandoah defense was back on it’s heels the entire game. There are days like this…

This week it’s a bye week for Shenandoah, as they get ready for a familiar foe, the Bridgewater Eagles. These two teams should be very familiar with each other, as they played 3 times in the 5-game Spring schedule, 2 of which were won by BC in tight ball games. Like SU, the Eagles are 2-1, but 0-1 in the ODAC. With one less conference game on the schedule this year (Emory & Henry is no longer in the ODAC , although they will play the league’s teams as a non-conference playing partner), getting off to an 0-2 start in the ODAC would all but eliminate a team from championship contention. So, it’s a huge game against a rival, and it’s Homecoming at Shenandoah. Motivation should not be a problem. I would expect a much different Hornet team a week from Saturday at Shentel when Bridgewater invades the Sprint Field at 7pm.

To be successful, SU will need to turn the dead zone into the red zone.

Until October 2nd at 6:30 on The River 95-3, that’s it from The Booth. GO HORNETS!

RW

A Return to Their Roots

Greetings from The Booth!

Don’t look now, but the Shenandoah Hornets football team is 2-0 after a 30-21 win this past Saturday at North Carolina Wesleyan. All in all, a great road trip, punctuated by a couple of rib-eyes, a fine hotel, a Saturday morning workout on the treadmill, and a Hornet victory. Of note is the unique perspective we had Saturday as we called the action on the radio. The temporary facility at NCW had no broadcast booth, so under a 2-man tent in the stands (thank you Sydney Anderson!) we called the game surrounded by lots of friendly Shenandoah fans who made the 4-plus hour drive to Rocky Mount. There were some technical challenges, but it was great to be among the crowd celebrating an SU win.

The game itself was a trip back in time as the Hornets racked up 223 rushing yards, and consumed 12 minutes of the 4th quarter clock in wearing down the Bishops’ defense. 132 of those rushing yards were gained by Rashadeen Byrd, Jr., who was a Clydesdale on Saturday. On a warm day, Byrd got better as the game wore on. In the bend, he got his reward, a short TD run on his final carry of the afternoon. An added dimension was the running of freshman QB Steven Hugney, which gave the Wesleyan defense one extra thing to think about.

Eventually, Hugney was spelled by senior signal-caller Zack Mathis, who connected with another senior, Brant butler for the play of the game, a 33-yard strike on third-and-11 that effectively iced the game. And while we’re talking about seniors, mention must be made of defensive end Mason Caldwell, whose 9 tackles and 2 sacks earned him D-3 Team Of The Week honors. The unsung hero was Patrick Ritchie, who booted 3 field goals, the final one giving the Hornets the lead for good. All in all, gutsy team win.

This week it’s on to Hampden-Sydney, as the ODAC season gets underway. The Tigers are 0-2, but in reality, everyone starts 0-0 again, and with one less league game on the slate this year, this is a big game. Starting 0-1 in the ODAC is not insurmountable, but 1-0 is a lot better. The Tigers feature the passing combo of senior quarterback Tanner Bernard to senior receiver Dillon Costello, who will test a Shenandoah secondary that picked off 4 passes last weekend.

I think it’ll be vitally important to jump out to a lead this week on the road. The Hornets have been a resilient team so far, having to come from behind in each of it’s first 2 games. The formula this week will be to get out in front on the scoreboard, run the football, and defensively, make Bernard uncomfortable.

The Hornets have spoiled a few Homecomings and Hall Of Fame Weekends over the years, and I think they’ll do the same this weekend, making our postgame meal at Macados in Farmville that much tastier. Final: Hornets 27 Tigers 23.

Listen to the 12:30 Saturday broadcast on the River 95-3, and until the next visit, GO HORNETS!!!!!!!

RW