Shenandoah surpassing expectations

More news about: Shenandoah
Bauserman's numbers are head and shoulders above the other ODAC quarterbacks.
Photo by Keith Lucas

By Andrew Lovell

Players and coaches on college football teams like to say they ignore the polls. National, regional, top 25, top 10; it doesn't matter. Block them out, lest they become a distraction.

Here's a little secret: they all look. They're only human, after all, and humans are perpetually curious. We want to know what others think about us.

When the players from the Shenandoah football team got their first collective glance at the ODAC preseason poll, they were less than thrilled at what their eyes beheld: 7. Shenandoah University 8 pts.

The Hornets were ranked seventh out of seven teams and their eight points in the voting results were considerably lower than any other team (Guilford was sixth with 16 points). For a team that finished 6-4 in 2016 and returned seven all-conference players led by record-setting junior quarterback Hayden Bauserman, dead last in the preseason poll was dead wrong.

"That says a lot about the perception of our school," fifth-year head coach Scott Yoder said, "but I think it also is a huge motivating factor to a bunch of really high-character kids who have built this program."

When Yoder arrived prior to the 2013 season, he inherited a program that had gone 1-9 in its first season in the ODAC. In Yoder's first three seasons at the helm, Shenandoah finished with identical 4-6 records. The Hornets weren't spinning their wheels, stuck in perennial mediocrity; they were building toward the success the program has achieved recently.

"Each year we've definitely gotten better as far as on-the-field product," Yoder said. "Sometimes, especially early, maybe our record didn't outwardly reflect that, but the quality of student-athlete and young man that we have in our program now is very high."

Over its last 15 games, dating back to the start of the 2016 season, Shenandoah is 10-5 overall and 6-3 against conference opponents. The biggest reason for the Hornets' success is Bauserman, who is as humble as he is talented. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound quarterback has already rewritten the Shenandoah record book, and is putting together an All-America-caliber season in 2017.

Bauserman leads Division III in passing yards (2,085 yards) despite playing just five games (seven of the other nine players in the top 10 have played six games). His 417 passing yards per game are 43.6 more than the next closest player. Bauserman's 24 passing touchdowns rank second in the country. With Bauserman at the helm, Shenandoah's offense ranks first in Division III in passing offense (425.6 yards per game) and fourth in total offense (539.6).

"Me personally, I don't pay much attention to it," Bauserman said. "My goal isn't to lead the nation in passing yards; it's to win as many football games as we possibly can here. However we have to do that and however I can help my team do that is the ultimate goal."

Bauserman has done everything in his power to help the Hornets win this season. After a productive offseason that saw him trim weight and add muscle, Bauserman has taken a step forward with his on-field decision making. A throw he might have forced for an interception as a freshman now results in a throwaway incompletion as a junior. The statistics speak for themselves: he's thrown for at least 300 yards and four touchdowns in all five games this season, guiding Shenandoah to a 4-1 overall record.

"I don't think there's anybody better, that I've seen, pre-snap," Yoder said. "When he's orchestrating the offense, he gets us in a good play, he knows where he wants to go, he knows where his eyes are supposed to go before the ball's even snapped."

Bauserman has proven to be equally dangerous after the snap, as Randolph-Macon and Emory and Henry -- the No. 2 and No. 1 teams in the ODAC preseason poll, respectively -- were reminded in the last two weeks. Bauserman passed for a combined 1,054 yards and 11 touchdowns in two high-scoring but convincing victories; 51-38 over Randolph-Macon on Sept. 28 and 47-24 over Emory and Henry last Saturday.

"We're kind of in unfamiliar territory in a way, just being 2-0 in the conference and playing from the front," Bauserman said. "It definitely gives us a big confidence boost, but we know there's a lot of work to be done."

Bauserman is the centerpiece of the Hornets' offense, but he's quick to credit his offensive line and surrounding skill players, like senior wide receivers Michael Ashwell and Leonard Scott, and senior running back Cory Bell, a transfer who had the unenviable task of filling the shoes of all-conference standout Cedric Delaney.

"If I do have a bad throw or a bad play or something like that, a lot of those times those guys bail me out and make me look a lot better than I am," Bauserman said.

Shenandoah's scoring average of 45.8 points per game ranks seventh in the nation. That amount of points will put pressure on any defense, but the Hornets have excelled at creating momentum-changing plays. Shenandoah ranks first in the ODAC in turnover margin and interceptions, and boasts three of the conference's top five individual sack totals. The Hornets are built to win high-scoring games.

"Let's also be realistic," Yoder said. "Our offense, while it's producing at a high level, is not defense-friendly. We work quickly, we're playing a lot of plays, but that means our defense is on for a lot of the time."

"Look at the ODAC, and look at football," Yoder added. "Nobody's really winning 17-10 anymore. I'm a defensive guy. I miss those days, but football is changing."

This Saturday brings a night Homecoming matchup against in-state and conference rival Bridgewater (3-2, 0-2), another team ranked above them (No. 5) in the ODAC preseason poll. The Hornets might not be talking about that, but you better believe they all remember it.

Muhlenberg honors late coach Donnelly

Last Wednesday brought the terribly sad news of the death of Muhlenberg head coach Mike Donnelly due to complications from leukemia. He was 65 years old.

The Mules honored the winningest coach in program history first with a moment of silence before kickoff Saturday, and then with their performance on the field. Mike Hnatkowsky rushed for a pair of short touchdowns, Nate Corvil recovered a fumbled punt for a touchdown, and Matthew Stickney rushed for a career-high 118 yards after an early injury to Nick Savant as Muhlenberg defeated previously-undefeated Ursinus 21-14.

I was fortunate enough to get to know Donnelly over the last few years. "Duke," as he was affectionately know, will be greatly missed, but so too will he celebrated.

Johns Hopkins rebounds with rout

One week after Johns Hopkins's 45-game regular-season winning streak and 40-game Centennial Conference winning streak both came to an end with a loss to Ursinus, the Blue Jays showed no ill effects in a resounding 45-7 thumping of previously-unbeaten Franklin and Marshall.

David Tammaro passed for 418 yards, 204 of which went to Luke McFadden, and connected with five different targets on his five touchdowns passes. Nine different players registered at least one-half sack, with Johns Hopkins piling up nine total. The Blue Jays out-gained the Diplomats 646-205 in total offense.

Ursinus, Johns Hopkins, and Franklin and Marshall each sport identical 5-1 (4-1) records atop the Centennial Conference standings. Ursinus has the head-to-head nod over Johns Hopkins, which now has the head-to-head advantage over Franklin and Marshall.

Quick count

Connor Blair passed for 500 yards and six touchdowns, the latter tying his own school record, as LaGrange topped N.C. Wesleyan 51-44 in a wild, high-scoring contest. Deandre Gillis rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. ... Nick Crusco passed for 295 yards and two touchdowns, both to Diamente Holloway, while Cameron Ott rushed for 111 yards and accounted for two TDs in Susquehanna's 28-21 victory against Moravian. Aaron Brown caught a pair of touchdowns in the defeat for the Greyhounds. ... Matt Sgro rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns, Jose Breece ran for 125 yards, and Michael Shields sealed Washington and Lee's 28-21 non-conference win over Washington U with an interception in the final seconds of regulation. ... Chip Taylor passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns, and added 66 yards and a touchdown on the ground in Huntingdon's 27-7 win over Averett. Sean Bowman rushed for 172 yards and a score for the Cougars. ... Alec Cobb passed for 247 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns, Mike DeMasi rushed for 111 yards, and Cam Johnson caught 13 passes for 116 yards as Hampden-Sydney held off Guilford 21-18. ... Reggie JeanCharles rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns, including the tie-breaking score with 19 seconds left in regulation, to help Gettysburg top Juniata 42-35 for its second straight win. Austin Montgomery passed for 380 yards and four touchdowns in the loss. ... O'Shay Carter passed for 273 yards and three touchdowns in Brevard's 21-14 win over USCAA program Virginia-Lynchburg. ... Tre Frederick rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns, while Eric Hoy added another pair of rushing scores in Randolph-Macon's 52-24 victory against Bridgewater. ... Steve Keoni passed for 276 yards and three touchdowns, and E'Montie Dears rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns as Methodist defeated Greensboro 41-16 for its first win of the season. ... Robert Geiss accounted for both of Dickinson's touchdown and a defense led by Thomas Nocka (two sacks) forced four turnovers in a 13-10 win against McDaniel.

Top 25: Johns Hopkins ranked again

After a one-week hiatus from the D3football.com Top 25 poll, Johns Hopkins moved back into the rankings this week at No. 24. The Blue Jays were the only team from the Centennial, ODAC, or USA South to draw votes in this week's poll. 

Contact me

I'm always happy to hear from you, whether it’s questions, feedback or story ideas. Please reach out to me by email at andrew.lovell@d3sports.com and follow me on Twitter (@andrew_lovell).

More features

November 21, 2018 St. Norbert defense flying high The Green Knights began their defensive turnaround way back in Week 1, of 2017, and it showed last Saturday in Indiana. Now...
November 20, 2018 Big test coming for Centre corner Cal Lewellyn isn’t the player opposing quarterbacks want to throw in the direction of on Saturday afternoons. After he...
November 14, 2018 Cowboys saddling back up The fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs for Hardin-Simmons will start with a familiar foe, but the Cowboys are hoping...
November 13, 2018 Gebele, Denison facing the challenge Canaan Gebele wants to begin his career in analytics next year. For now, though, the senior quarterback is focused on finding...
November 7, 2018 Berry cruises into Week 11 with 14 on the brain Justus Edwards' Week 4 injury not just cost him his season, but perhaps his football career. Even with him recovering miles...
November 6, 2018 Thomas More road show coming to a close It's been a long run this season for Thomas More, the only independent in Division III football. The Saints, who will have...
October 31, 2018 With bid within reach, Pirates aren't coasting Whitworth has taken down the top teams on its schedule this season and just needs one more win to clinch the Northwest...
October 30, 2018 Martin Luther thinking big Martin Luther is a small school with a small recruiting base and, of course, a small football team. But the Knights have been...
October 24, 2018 Defense lights UW-Whitewater's fire After three seasons out of the Stagg Bowl and one season out of the playoffs altogether, the Warhawks are working their way...
October 24, 2018 Zooming their way to the top Kalamazoo was 1-9 a year ago, and that wasn’t particularly unusual. What is unusual is the Hornets' 7-0 start to the...

Andrew Lovell

Andrew Lovell is a writer based in Connecticut and a former online news editor for ESPN.com, as well as a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has written feature stories for ESPN.com, currently contributes fantasy football content to RotoBaller.com, and has been a regular contributor to D3sports.com sites since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing.

2012-2015 columnist: Adam Turer
2007-2011 columnist: Ryan Tipps
2003-2006: Pat Cummings
2000: Keith McMillan
1999: Pat Coleman

Other Columnists