SU tops Ferrum for Yoder’s 1st win

Posted: September 16, 2013

Special to The Winchester Star

FERRUM — Entering its game against Ferrum College, Shenandoah University’s football team had lots of negative numbers that were akin to a tightening noose around its metaphorical neck.

Consider these facts:

The Hornets has lost 10 straight games dating to last year.

In its series against the Panthers, one that includes USA South Athletic Conference games and non-league encounters, Shenandoah was 2-14 with eight consecutive setbacks.

Shenandoah erased those numbers from the slate in Scott Yoder’s second game as head coach Saturday at W.B. Adams Stadium with a 43-29 triumph that spoiled Ferrum’s 2013 home opener.

En route to the victory — the first for Yoder at SU — the Hornets (1-1) wiped out a 21-7 deficit by scoring 22-unanswered points during the second and third quarters.

Then, the Hornets broke a 29-29 stalemate by pitching a 14-0 fourth-quarter shutout.

The game’s pivotal swing came in the fourth quarter and favored Shenandoah after the Hornets had taken a 36-29 advantage.

Starting at its 37-yard line, Ferrum (0-2), featuring the running of junior Tae Gilbert and a fourth-down conversion pass completion between quarterback Tim Reynolds and Marty Haley that covered 18 yards, advanced the ball to the Shenandoah 7.

Gilbert and Reynolds combined for six yards, all on the ground, on Ferrum’s next three plays.

On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Reynolds brought the Panthers to the line of scrimmage quickly and tried to sneak the ball across the goal line, but he was stopped short by Shenandoah’s interior defenders.

“Fourth and one, the game is on the line, there is only one thing you can do ...When we saw them rush up the line, we kind of expected a quarterback sneak. The nose guard and I blew it up and our linebackers came over the top,’’ sophomore lineman Jake Payne said. “It all worked out. ...We had to get a stop and we did.’’

Reynolds, the reigning USA South Offensive Player of the Year, attested that he got the ball in the end zone with 7:43 left.

“I was in [the end zone], I know I was in. That’s a gimme for me — two inches is a gimme,’’ said Reynolds, who was emotionally distraught after the loss. “The ball was over [the goal line]. My body wasn’t, but my shoulder was over. They pushed me back.’’

“I think that’s one of those things that, sometimes, that’s an automatic. You just get up [to the line of scrimmage] with no call and run it,’’ Ferrum head coach David Harper said.

“From my angle and from everyone else who I’ve talked to said [Tim] was in. The ball crossed the goalline and [the referees] saw that, but the ball got pushed back when [the referees] ran into the pile. It’s an inch. You would think you’d get an inch,’’ Harper said. “...I don’t think the game should have come down to an inch.’’

Shenandoah responded with a 99-yard scoring drive, one that secured a positive verdict — the Hornets’ first since last year’s season opener and their first over Ferrum since an overtime triumph at Adams Stadium in 2004.

“That [the defensive stop and final scoring drive] was one of those defining moments in a game, hopefully, in a season,’’ Yoder said. “It was a great job defensively to buckle down and offensively, we couldn’t go three-and-out and give the ball right back to them. “It got a little hectic, but we made some plays. I think we grew up a little bit today.’’

The rushing of Andrew Smith was the key to the 13-play drive, a march that saw the Hornets keep the ball on the ground and burn more than six minutes from the clock.

Smith ran for 54 — of his game-best and career-high 185 yards — on the drive. On first and 10 from the Ferrum 11, Josh Wells took a handoff on a delayed draw and rushed up the middle for the finishing score.

“That comes from our offensive line and they did a great job on our last drive,’’ Shenandoah quarterback Drew Ferguson said. “I know they were tried, but they worked hard every single play.’’

Wells and Smith each scored twice for the Hornets, who accumulated 472 yards of offense on 90 plays from scrimmage: 298 rushing and 174 passing. Ferguson was 17 of 29 for 152 yards and two TDs and Justin Neff completed 3 of 9 passes for 22 yards.

Ferrum’s loss spoiled a three-touchdown, 136-yard rushing performance by Gilbert, who was returning to the Panthers after missing the 2012 campaign.

Gilbert’s scoring runs of 17 and 39 yards in the first quarter put Ferrum ahead 14-0.

Shenandoah cut the deficit in half when Ferguson scored from the 1 to cap a 16-play, 68-yard drive in the second quarter, but Ferrum responded when it claimed a Ferguson fumble and converted it into points when Reynolds hit an open Malcolm McCoy in the end zone with a 13-yard scoring toss.

During its comeback, SU scored 15 of its 22 points in a period of 3:09 in the second quarter.

It started when Byron Mitchell blocked a Wesley Franklin punt out of the end zone for a safety with 3:27 left in the first half. Upon retaining possession, Shenandoah put together a two-play scoring drive: a 35-yard run by Smith and a 20-yard Ferguson pass to Cedrick Delaney for the TD.

Ferrum’s DeRon Dillard was able to block Tim Frye’s point-after-touchdown (PAT) try which left the Hornets six points behind, 21-15.

Shenandoah’s defense held Ferrum inside its 30 yardline on its next series and got the ball back for its offense with 1:43 left.

Then, Ferguson engineered a eight-play, 56-yard scoring drive that produced the Hornet’ first lead. He started the march with two pass completions, but it was Smith who kept the drive alive with a 14-yard run on fourth and two.

With 18 seconds to go, Ferguson completed a 10-yard TD toss to Smith. This time, Frye made the extra point to give the Hornets the lead, 22-21.

Shenandoah opened the second half with an 11-play drive that produced points when Wells scored from 18 yards. Starting at the Ferrum 26, rushes by Smith and Wells accounted for 48 of the drive’s 74 yards.

“We just stayed relaxed as a team, we didn’t get overwhelmed,’’ Ferguson said of Shenandoah’s comeback. “We ran the plays that we normally run and we ran them correctly from all positions,’’

Ferrum was able to tie the score, courtesy of a short-field score on its last offensive series of the third quarter. It was set up when Anthony Orton returned a nine-yard punt, 33 yards to the Shenandoah 9.

On third and goal from the 3, Gilbert scored to bring the Panthers within two points, 29-27. Then, Reynolds ran for the 2-point conversion to equal the count.

Besides the blocked punt, Ferrum committed a fumble on special teams and Reynolds was the victim of several dropped passes by his receivers. Penalties also proved costly with, Ferrum committing 13 for 149 yards.

“It was a lack of focus [on our part], it wasn’t anything [Shenandoah] did,’’ Harper said when asked about the Hornets’ run of unanswered points. “We never could get the momentum in a consistent way. We were always shooting ourselves in the foot.”