Shenandoah’s offense looks to get going against Guilford
WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University senior wide receiver Qiydaar Murphy is naturally excited about seeing his first game action in three weeks today, but that’s not the only reason he’s looking forward to the 1 p.m. Homecoming contest against Guilford College at Shentel Stadium.
“I’m going to have fun against Guilford,” said Wallace, who missed the Hornets’ last game two weeks ago against Bridgewater College (a 17-14 loss) with a concussion. “Because they play man 90 percent of the time. Man to me goes beyond 11-on-11. That’s one-on-one all day.
“If they put one guy in front of you, it’s his job to stop you. It’s not, ‘Is Guilford better than Shenandoah?’ It’s ‘is this corner better than [me]?’ It makes it a a little more personal when they go man-to-man, but I definitely accept the challenge.”
Individual battles like Wallace’s is just one of the ways in which SU’s offense is looking to prove itself today against the Quakers.
The offensive personnel of the Hornets (1-3, 0-1 Old Dominion Athletic Conference) have watched their defensive counterparts play at a spectacular level all year (just 16.8 points and 292.2 yards per game allowed, both second in the ODAC), but they’ve been unable to get going themselves.
SU is averaging ODAC-lows in points (13.5, 11.5 behind No. 7 Guilford) and yards (252.0, 93 behind No. 7 Hampden-Sydney). But in the Quakers (1-3, 0-1), the Hornets might have found the opponent that can get them going. Guilford, which is coming off a 42-21 loss to Washington & Lee, is giving up a conference-worst 381 ypg and ranks seventh (31.2 points) in scoring defense.
And based on stats, the running game might be there a lot more than the passing game (Guilford’s giving up an ODAC-worst 227.5 rush ypg).
“They run either one safety high or they walk them both down so there’s no safeties. They run cover-zero,” said SU sophomore quarterback Corey Taylor, who made his first start against Bridgewater. “They like to disguise their blitzes and not show who’s coming.
“I feel like we can run the ball and throw the ball against them.”
Taylor’s presence on the field is one of the reasons why the Hornets feel more confident in their offense. But really, it’s the work that everyone on that side of the ball put in over the last two weeks of practice that has them optimistic.
Essentially, SU — which has used three quarterbacks and has had to use several different wide receivers because of injuries — took full advantage of its bye week to get everyone on the same page.
“It’s been about getting the reps for the offense and getting the continuity of the same guys practicing together,” said SU head coach Paul Barnes, whose team has not used three quarterbacks since 2006, and has never started three in a year until now. “We went against our defense quite a bit the last two weeks, and I think we really stepped it up as far as the intensity, and meeting [the defense’s] intensity and aggression.
“I thought we really improved in the last couple of weeks. I saw Corey improve, I saw the receiving corps improve, and I believe the line improved.”
SU middle linebacker Josh Rogers said he was impressed with what the offense accomplished during the bye, and Murphy was encouraged by practice performance as well.
“We’re actually competing with our defense now [in practice],” Murphy said. “We’re giving them a good look, and making them understand that even though we didn’t necessarily score as many points as they would have liked during our losses, we’re definitely coming along, and we’re going to meet them halfway.”
SU’s defense should get a decent test from its opposition today. Freshman quarterback Matt Pawlowski is 85 for 143 for 842 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions, and he was the ODAC Player of the Week in the Quakers 45-35 win over Averett two weeks ago.
The Quakers are also paced by receivers Adam Smith (26 catches for 270 yards and two touchdowns) and Nick Mearite (17, 174, three) and running back Mike Williams (35 carries, 254 yards, one touchdown).
Rogers said Guilford is more of a spread team, and when they go to the I-formation they clearly plan on running the ball.
“They do a lot of bubble screens and zone read,” Rogers said. “We’ve just got to play our game.”
For the first time since Stevenson in the 2011 season opener, the Hornets will face a team they’ve never faced before. And since it’s an ODAC game, today could be a good opportunity to show the rest of the conference what it’s in store for.
“It comes down to trying to impose your will on the other team and trying to do what you do best,” Barnes said. “Whoever can control the tempo of the game is going to win it probably.
“It has to be a total team win. We know the defense is there, our special teams is there, and we’re trying to get the offense up to those two places.”
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1