Week 5: Randolph-Macon Preview
Greetings from The Booth!
The weather is getting a bit cooler, and the leaves are gradually changing color, and that means it’s getting a little more serious in college football. The September non-conference “tune-up” games are now in the rear view mirror, and for teams with championship hopes, it’s time to make hay. So it is with the (dare I say “surprising”) Shenandoah University Hornets, who find themselves at 2-1 on the ODAC, and 3-1 overall, with a huge game this weekend at Randolph-Macon.
Just when you think you have these 2019 Hornets figured out, they do something you didn’t see coming. After pounding out 270 yards rushing against Guilford 2 weeks ago, it seemed as though this would be Shenandoah’s modus operandi for this season, a return to the running game. Especially with 2 inexperienced quarterbacks at the helm.
Then, last Saturday night, SU quarterback Ben Agostino has a night for the ages, completing 36 of 44, for 509 yards and 6 TDs in a 42-14 win over Southern Virginia. Who are these Hornets, and did we somehow sneak a number 12 jersey on Hayden Bauserman against the Knights?
The answer to the latter question is “no.” Agostino has learned very well from former Hornet QB Bauserman, who is now the quarterback coach at Shenandoah, but Ben has his own style and Saturday’s performance shows why he has emerged as the starter at SU.
The answer to the former question is not so clear-cut. I’d like to think the Hornets have multiple personalities that they can alternate as the situation dictates. Coach Yoder certainly wants to be more balanced in 2019, but also needs to get the ball to his playmaker receivers, who in his words, are “game changers.” Still, the ability to run when the opposition shuts down the pass, and vice-versa, doesn’t bode well for ODAC defenses.
That being said, the Hornets may need all their personalities for this week’s opponent, Randolph-Macon. The Yellow Jackets sit atop the league at 3-0 (4-1 overall), and have just one personality: physical.
RMC builds its foundation on big offensive and defensive lines. They like to run the football, and run it some more. Then, when your defense loads up to stop the run, the Jackets will burn you with a play action pass.
They are not an offensive juggernaut by any means, averaging 366 yards per game and balanced almost evenly between run and pass. The Yellow Jackets feature one of the best backs in the league in Tre Frederick, who averages close to 100 yards per game.
Randolph-Macon hangs it’s hat on a defense that gives up less than 300 yards per game, and fewer than 19 points per contest. The Yellow Jackets boast this week’s ODAC Defensive POW in senior linebacker Calvin Whitehead, who averages almost 9 tackles per game.
The key to a Shenandoah win will be, like last week, stopping the run and make the Yellow Jackets throw the ball when they have to, not when they want to. SU Defensive Coordinator Brock McCullough has done a masterful job of devising a weekly game plan, and I think will do the same this week.
On the other side of the ball, I think the Yellow Jackets will have the SU screen and short passing game well-scouted, so I see the Hornets needing to take some deep shots with the football on Saturday.
Finally, don’t look for a shootout. RMC doesn’t light up the scoreboard, and the SU defense is vastly improved. The Hornet offense is versatile, but will be challenged on Saturday. I think this game is winnable for SU. The Yellow Jackets are 4-0 in the ODAC, but their average margin of victory is just 10. If Shenandoah can keep the game close early, I like our chances of spoiling the Randolph-Macon Homecoming.
Until next time from The Booth…GO HORNETS! Let’s shock the ODAC!