WINCHESTER — With eight straight wins and an Old Dominion Athletic Conference title under its belt, the Washington & Lee University football team is a special team having a special season.
The Generals haven’t necessarily been a dominant team, though. If Shenandoah University can put everything together, the Hornets might be able to make their Senior Day extra special.
W&L (8-1, 5-0 ODAC) will take on the Hornets (6-3, 2-3) at 1 p.m. today in the regular-season finale at Shentel Stadium.
The Generals are looking to cap a perfect ODAC season. SU is looking to earn its seventh win of the season, something that has never happened under ninth-year head coach Scott Yoder. The Hornets haven’t won seven games since their USA South championship season of 2004.
Since beating Guilford 63-7 in its ODAC opener on Sept. 18, W&L has been pushed hard by its conference foes. The Generals own a 25-24 win over Randolph-Macon, a 32-30 win over Hampden-Sydney, a 17-0 win over Bridgewater in which it was 7-0 at halftime, and a 28-24 win over Ferrum last week.
“They’ve been in some close games, and they’ve found a way to win them all,” Yoder said. “They’re going to be extremely tough.”
On Wednesday, Yoder hoped that the Hornets would be close to full strength on the injury front for today’s game.
Freshman quarterback Steven Hugney (118 of 215, 1,417 yards, 12 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) suffered a severe cut on the index finger of his right (throwing) hand in last Saturday’s 35-16 win over the Apprentice School. Yoder said Hugney will have to decide if he’s comfortable enough as far as gripping and throwing the ball to play.
Yoder said senior left tackle Zach Morris was limited in practice by the leg injury he suffered against Apprentice. Yoder thinks Morris will try to play, but might not be 100 percent.
Defensive end Nigel Duberry, a graduate student, did not play against Apprentice. Yoder said Duberry will suit up this week. He ranks fourth on the Hornets with 38 tackles (he has 5.5 for losses, including one sack.)
Defensively, the Generals rank second in the ODAC in points per game (17.1) and first in yards allowed per game (276.7), including just 82.7 ypg rushing.
“This might be the best W&L team defense I’ve seen in my nine years here,” Yoder said. “They play as a group really well together. We’re going to have to string plays together and make the plays that are there.
“If this turns into a fistfight in a phone booth, we’re going to lose. I think it’s that simple. If we can make it about our athletes isolated on their kids in space, huge advantage to us. But that’s much easier said than done.”
W&L has five players with multiple sacks and ranks first in the ODAC with 26. SU has only allowed five.
“They really get after the quarterback,” Yoder said. “They’re good up front, and they play such good coverage. They reroute receivers and take away space, and before you know it, [you’re sacked]. We’re going to have to play really well up front.”
W&L’s triple-option offense ranks second in the ODAC in points per game (34.8) and third with 382.1 yards per game, including a conference-best 323.7 rushing ypg on 5.9 yards per attempt. Running back Josh Breece has 137 carries for 713 yards and 11 TDs and quarterback Stephen Murrin has rushed for 597 yards and five TDs on 80 carries and completed 20 of 45 passes for 255 yards, three TDs and four INTs.
“You think you’ve stopped them for a series or two, but they always have good adjustments,” Yoder said. “They’re going to find a way to move the ball. We’ve got to play great team defense.”
SU has 21 seniors, and Yoder would love to send them out with a win. The main thing he wants is the Hornets’ best effort.
“They’ve given so much to the program over an unprecedented time, certainly for college sports but just for the country in general [because of COVID-19],” Yoder said. “I really am appreciative for what they’ve done for our program. They’ve embraced everything and really influenced our culture in a positive way. They’ve made a lot of plays.
“I told the younger guys in front of the seniors that the best way to honor them is to go out and play really, really hard, and be unselfish for them. It’s easy as a young kid to say, ‘next year’ or ‘next week.’ Now you’ve got 21 guys that don’t have a next year or a next week. This is it. The best way we can send them out is playing a great 60 minutes of Shenandoah football.”