EMORY, Va. – The 2019 football season began with a thud for Emory & Henry when the Wasps dropped a 31-24 overtime decision at home to a North Carolina Wesleyan team picked to finish fourth in the USA South Conference.
Flash forward to Saturday afternoon at Fred Selfe Stadium.
Before a Hall of Fame Day crowd of 3,673, E&H delivered one of its most impressive performances in recent memory in a 56-17 win over traditional ODAC power Hampden-Sydney.
The Wasps passed for 391 yards, ran for 201 and stuffed an offense directed by one of the most creative minds in the small college ranks.
It’s no wonder that E&H head coach Curt Newsome and his players were smiling during postgame interviews.
“I thought we pretty much put it all together today,” Newsome said. “I knew that we had a chance to have a good team, and now we’re heading in that direction.”
Following the North Carolina Wesleyan loss and a bye week, E&H took a big step forward in its second game at ODAC favorite Randolph-Macon. With gunslinger quarterback Hunter Taylor back in the lineup, the Wasps held a 10-0 lead midway through the first half.
While the Wasps ended up losing 20-17 to Macon, an important point was made.
“We came into this season with high expectations within the program, and I think we needed that Randolph-Macon game to help our players realize that they can play with anybody in this league,” Newsome said.
E&H earned more affirmation last week in a 49-21 romp at Bluefield College.
“We had a lot of production on offense and played well on defense at Bluefield,” Newsome said. “We put the offense and defense together again today, and that showed in the final score.”
Consider that E&H allowed 519 yards passing in a 56-27 loss at Hampden-Sydney last season. While the Tigers graduated quarterback Alec Cobb, nine starters returned including record-setting receiver Major Morgan.
After burning the E&H secondary with 11 receptions for 181 yards and two scores in 2018, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Morgan managed just two receptions for 21 yards Saturday. Morgan’s frustration was clearly visible as the day progressed.
In addition to intercepting three passes with a clever zone coverage package, the Wasps were able to check Morgan with fearless 5-11, 165-pound sophomore cornerback Dalton Wilson from Clinton, Tennessee
“I just try to be physical and play my game,” Wilson said. “I don’t look at the size of a receiver. You just have to play hard and take that away. We’ve got a bunch of good players on defense and we all take pride in our roles.”
The E&H coaches have taken that pride factor to a new level this season with the introduction of a pre-game team walk through campus along with a turnover belt and hard hats.
Hampden-Sydney coach Marty Favret, who entered Saturday’s game with a 16-3 record against E&H, came away impressed.
“This is the best team that Coach Newsome has had, and they did a great job on both sides of the ball today,” Favret said.
So just how good did the Wasps look on offense Saturday?
The 56-point barrage was the highest point total for E&H in the 76-game series since the Wasps scored 68 in 1968 behind storied quarterback Sonny Wade.
“No doubt, this was good day for our team,” Newsome said. “Now, we just have to build off this.”
The Wasps travel to ODAC newcomer Southern Virginia next Saturday before returning to host nemesis Washington & Lee (4-1, 3-0) for homecoming on Oct. 19.
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