Lake Erie (0-4/0-3 GLIAC) at #13 Ashland (4-0/3-0)
Saturday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m.
Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field at Dwight Schar Athletic Complex
Sights and Sounds
This week's game will be broadcast live on WNCO-AM (1340) with Matt Brubaker on the play-by-play and Don Graham handling the commentary. The game can be heard at wncoam.com. This week's game is also being televised on tape delay by SportsTime Ohio. The game will be shown on Monday, Oct. 1, at noon. The STO broadcast team is comprised of Ted Klopp and Ken Dworznik.
Looking Ahead and Behind
Ashland is coming off a 42-13 win at Northern Michigan last Saturday. This is AU's first home game since a 7-0 win over Wayne State on Sept. 8. AU is ranked 13th in this week's AFCA poll and 19th in this week's d2football.com poll. The Eagles were 17th in last week AFCA's poll. Ashland sits alone in first place in the GLIAC South Division. AU is looking to go 5-0 for the first time since 1991.
Lake Erie is still seeking its first win in 2012. The Storm lost at home last Saturday night against Saginaw Valley State, 51-24. This is Lake Erie's third year as a GLIAC member.
The teams have met twice and the series is tied, 1-1.
- This is the second time LEC has played at Ashland. In 2010 the teams met for the first time and AU won, 87-17. In that game, AU set school records for points, points in a quarter (42) and margin of victory (70 points). AU established GLIAC records for points, touchdowns (12), third quarter points (42), second half points (49) and margin of victory.
- Last year, on the final weekend of the season, the Storm won in Painesville, Ohio, 45-42.
- This is the first time LEC will play a night game at Ashland.
- In that first meeting, AU wide receiver Joe Horn tied a school record for touchdowns (six). Horn also set the school, single-season record for touchdown passes (12) in that matchup. The wide receiver tied GLIAC single-game records for points (36) and touchdowns. Horn scored on a 93-yard kickoff return, caught four touchdown passes and scored on an 8-yard run.
- AU head coach Lee Owens is 1-1 against Lake Erie.
Ashland-Lake Erie – 2011
The Storm won a 45-42 shootout with the Eagles thanks in large part to quarterback Sean Bedevelsky and wide receiver Brandon James.
Bedevelsky, the LEC quarterback, completed 17-of-23 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 99 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. James caught six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
LEC led, 10-7 after one quarter, 24-14 at halftime and 38-28 after three quarters. The Eagles closed to within, 38-35 with 12:20 to go in regulation. Lake Erie responded with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Bedevelsky to James with 8:08 left and LEC led, 45-35. Back came the Eagles, Housewright finding Capasso with a 28-yard scoring pass. That narrowed the Storm advantage to 45-42 with 5:56 left. The Storm embarked on an extended drive (10 plays, 38 yards, 5:48) and didn't give the ball back to the Eagles until there was one second left on the clock.
The AU air game more than held its own on this afternoon. Quarterback Taylor Housewright (Ashland, Ohio) completed 23-of-37 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Anthony Capasso (Columbia Station, Ohio/St. Edward) had 13 receptions for 205 yards and three touchdowns. That reception total is one shy of the school, single-game record (14, Michael Hull vs. Findlay, 2002) and that yardage total is the highest by an AU player since Vance Kinney had 269 yards receiving yards against Slippery Rock in 1992 (that's the school record).
Housewright's touchdown passes covered 64, 10, 18 and 28 yards. This was a difficult day all-around for the defenses. Lake Erie led in total offense, 502-433. There was one turnover in the game, a lost fumble by the Storm. The best defensive numbers were turned in by AU linebacker Cody Bloom (Napoleon, Ohio), who led all players in the game with 12 tackles (eight solo). Bloom had one tackle for loss (six yards).
Ashland Head Coach Lee Owens
Lee Owens is in his ninth season as AU's head coach. He was named to that position in December, 2003. He is the 14th head coach in AU football history.
- Owens is 59-33 at Ashland. He is second in career wins, trailing only Dr. Fred Martinelli (217). Owens is third in career winning percentage (.637) at AU. The only coaches he trails are Bob Brownson (.672/1954-57) and Martinelli (.641/1959-63).
- Owens has guided the Eagles to the NCAA playoffs twice (2007, 2008). He is the only football coach in school history to do that and he is the lone Ashland football coach to win a postseason game (27-16 over Minnesota State, 2008).
- Under Owens, the Eagles have won eight or more games in a season four times and have won nine games twice (9-2/2005, 9-4/2008). He went 5-6 in his first season at Ashland (2004). In the two seasons before he arrived the Eagles won a total of four games.
- Since Owens became the head coach 10 players have been recognized as All-Americans. Last year, defensive lineman Jeris Pendleton was taken in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He's the first AU player to be drafted since 1972.
- Before arriving at AU, Owens spent nine years as the head coach at the University of Akron. His career record as a college head coach is 99-94. He also served as an assistant coach under John Cooper at Ohio State (1992-95).
- As a high school head coach in Ohio, Owens had an 89-32-2 mark in 11 seasons. His 1985 Galion team won a state title with a 14-0 record. Owens was also the head coach at Massillon Washington (1988-92), Lancaster (1987), Galion (1983-87) and Crestview (1981-82).
- Owens is a 1977 Bluffton College graduate and he earned his master's degree at AU in 1981.
Last Look at Last Week
AU survived a trip to Northern Michigan's Superior Dome last Saturday afternoon, running its record to 4-0 with a 42-13 win. NMU scored on its first play from scrimmage, a 77-yard pass play from quarterback Ryan Morley to wide receiver Julian Gaines. The momentum the 'Cats received from that play was short lived. Ashland scored the game's next 42 points. With the win, AU improved to 6-5 all-time in the Superior Dome.
For the second consecutive week, Housewright fired a quartet of TD passes. His scoring throws in this game measured 3, 22, 15 and 18 yards. Housewright completed 23-of-29 passes for 256 yards. His favorite target was Capasso, who had five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. Defensive back Brian Gamble (Massillon, Ohio/Illinois) took some snaps at wide receiver and caught four passes for 63 yards. All of those catches came on AU's final drive in the first half. That drive ended in a 1-yard TD run by sophomore tailback Anthony Taylor (Arlington, Va./Washington-Lee). Taylor narrowly missed posting the second 100-yard game of his career. He had 98 yards on 18 carries.
Ashland outgained the Wildcats, 453-238. Northern Michigan was held to 74 yards on the ground. AU was 15-of-18 on third down conversions (83.3 percent) and had the ball for 34:11. The Eagles had four scoring drives of 69 yards or longer.
Listed below are Ashland's Top 25 rankings in this week's NCAA statistics.
Category Player Rank Number
Pass Efficiency Housewright 5 174.33
Punting Housewright 13 42.2 ypp.
Total Offense Housewright 25 280.25 ypg.
Category Rank Number
Pass Efficiency 8 169.40
Scoring Defense 14 14.75 ppg.
Pass Efficiency Def. 20 101.46
Housewright is the GLIAC leader in pass efficiency and punting. He's third in passing yards per game (272.8). Capasso is fourth in the conference in receiving yards per game (74.8) and Bloom is fourth in the league in tackles per game (10.0). Freshman fullback Steve Nagy (Hudson, Ohio) is tied for fourth in the loop in scoring (36 points/9.0 ppg.). Sophomore wide receiver Eric Thompkins (Canton, Ohio/South) is tied for eighth in receiving yards per game (62.0).
In the team statistics, AU is the GLIAC leader in pass efficiency and is second in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. Ashland is third in pass offense (273.25 ypg.) and pass defense (171.5 ypg.), fourth in net punting (36.67 ypp.), and kickoff return average (23.7 ypr.) and fifth in turnover margin (1.00).
Throughout his career, Housewright has been known for his ability to protect the football. Here's how some of Ashland's top quarterbacks stack up with career touchdown passes vs. interceptions and yards and completion percentage.
Quarterback TD PASS INT YDS COMP %
Billy Cundiff 79 16 9,143 64.5
Taylor Housewright 50 12 5,279 64.8
Mike Healy 35 22 3,281 48.0
Dave Biondo 32 24 4,344 52.9
Marcus Lee 31 30 4,207 51.2
This year, Housewright has completed 83-of-121 passes (68.6 percent) for 1,091 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Owens was asked if he was an opposing coach what he would do to try and unsettle Housewright.
"I'd try to find a way to confuse him so he's not in the right route, the right run-pass combination," said Owens. "I'd try to take away the easy throw, do something to confuse him in the secondary."
Through four weeks, no team has been able to accomplish that. Owens pointed out that over the last two weeks, Housewright has played as well as any point in his career.
Closing In On The Century Mark
If the Eagles win this week, they will give Owens his 100th victory as a college head coach.
Owens got the first win of his career on Sept. 30, 1995, at Akron's Rubber Bowl when the Zips defeated Central Michigan, 16-13. Owens remembers the game well.
"We got crushed the week before against Kansas State, just crushed," recalled Owens. "They scored 10 or 11 – that's touchdowns, not points," said Owens of a 67-0 loss to the Wildcats.
After that game, KSU coach Bill Snyder asked Owens if he could address the Zips in the locker room. Owens said that Snyder told the Zips, "I like how hard you play and you keep doing it, you're going to win games.' I've credited Coach Snyder, I don't know if we could have picked ourselves up and won the next week if he's not in the locker room," said Owens.
Central Michigan was the defending Mid-American Conference champion.
With a 4-0 record and the chance to go 5-0 for the first time since 1991, it would appear that very little has gone awry for the Eagles in the first month of the season. Still, when Owens addressed his team on Sunday night after last week's win, he had targeted several areas he wants to see improved.
The first of those is to be more efficient running the ball on first down. The second is to reduce the number of big plays allowed on defense. The third is to field the ball better on special teams.
The Good Hands Guy
Senior defensive back Tyler McFarlin (Ashland, Ohio) is this week's Gridiron Club special teams player of the week. McFarlin got that award in part because of his ability to field two punts at NMU without incident. As Owens pointed out, that was not an easy assignment. The lighting in the Superior Dome is different than what the Eagles are accustomed to and the ball was coming off the foot of a left-footed punter.
While Owens praised McFarlin's work last Saturday, he acknowledged that this is an area the Eagles need to improve. For the season, AU has seven punt returns and is averaging 2.9 ypr. The longest punt return of the year is five yards.
"Our kick return game has got to get better," Owens said.
More Special Teams
Owens may not be pleased with the return game, but he is happy with the depth his special teams units have displayed. The Eagles are getting contributions from a number of players on the special units. For example, the Eagles have a true freshman as the long snapper – Danny Scholz (New Richmond, Ohio) and a redshirt freshman – Cameron Casey (Rochester, Mich./Adams).
Here are some unique numbers concerning the AU speciality units. Last week, all three quarterbacks on the trip had a punt. The trio combined to average 38.7 ypp., and the third quarterback in the game, sophomore T.K. Rock (West Lafayette, Ind./Harrison), got off a 38-yard kick.
"What can you say?" offered Owens. "I'm sure that will be the clinic talk I'm asked to do this year, 'The Punting Quarterback."
Bloom led the Eagles in tackles last season with 109 (53 solo). He's the first AU player to reach the century mark in tackles since safety-linebacker Tom Brenner in 2008 (126). Brenner and Bloom are the only AU players to post 100 tackles in the last seven seasons. The last player to notch consecutive 100-tackle seasons was linebacker-safety Devin Conwell (118/2004, 121/2003). OhioCollegeFootball.com picked Bloom as its 2012 preseason defensive player of the year and he was tabbed as a preseason honorable mention All-American by Beyond Sports Network. Bloom has a team-high 40 tackles this season.
It should come as no surprise if Gamble sees more time at wide receiver. Last week, he caught four passes for 63 yards in the final scoring drive of the first half. Playing wide receiver is not a big transition for Gamble, he played wide receiver in the Rose Bowl for Illinois. The only question for Owens and the coaching staff is how they utilize him on offense. They don't want to do anything to take away from his effectiveness on defense.
The situation at Northern Michigan last weekend was the perfect place to insert him on offense.
"We said, 'Let's go two-minute, we'll get Brian in there and he's got halftime to catch his breath," said Owens.
"We practice the two-minute offense with him every day," continued Owens. "He knows it really well. He can be a good change of pace, we can get some offense, change the tempo."
At the start of this season, AU was faced with the task of replacing defensive linemen Jeris Pendleton and Matt Stoinoff. Pendleton is in the NFL now and Stoinoff is an assistant coach with the Eagles. Both players earned all-conference laurels.
As the numbers indicate, there has been no regression with the defensive line. Part of the reason for that is the strong play of senior defensive end Tyler Houska (Wadsworth, Ohio/Medina Highland).
"He had the best game against Ferris State he's had since he came here," said Owens. "He played well a week ago against Northern Michigan. He's playing his best football."
AU has also received strong play from another senior defensive lineman – Mikel Berry (Upper Arlington, Ohio/Penn State). Berry is the starting nose guard. Berry has 10 tackles and Houska has seven stops and two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
Gridiron Club Players of the Week
After every game the Eagles win this season, the AU Gridiron Club will honor a player of the game for offense, defense and special teams. This year's recipients can be found below.
Game Offense Defense Special Teams
Indianapolis Housewright Gamble Capasso
Wayne State Thompkins Meder Housewright
Ferris State Housewright Houska Casey
No. Michigan Housewright Harrison McFarlin
Yard Markers and Milestones
- Ashland is third in winning percentage among the 21 schools that have played GLIAC football. Grand Valley State (.794./239-60-3) is first, Butler (.750/22-7-1) is second and the Eagles (.593/130-89) are third. Saginaw Valley State (.588/185-111-3) is fourth.
- Doug Geiser is the only assistant coach on the Ashland staff who has been with Owens all nine years the head coach has been at AU.
- AU's all-time record at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field is 12-4 (.750)
- In his career, Capasso has four 100-yard receiving games.
- Dating back to 2008, only once in five years has AU failed to return a kickoff for a touchdown. The Eagles have one kick return for a score this year. The only time in the last four years Ashland didn't reach paydirt on a kick return was in 2011.
- Ashland has outscored the opposition, 41-0 in the second quarter and 75-14 in the first half.
- The last time AU started a season 5-0 was in 1991. That team won its first seven games. In the first four games, AU defeated Valparaiso (30-7), Ferris State (35-7), California (51-10), Hillsdale (29-7) and Wayne State (26-6).
- AU was 15-of-18 on third down last week. That conversion rate – 83.3 percent – is AU's best under Owens. It passes the 72.2 percent (13-of-18) the Eagles converted against Northern Michigan on Oct. 13, 2007.
The Scouting Report – The Lake Erie Storm
Head Coach – Mark McNellie (16-32, sixth year)
Last Year's Record – 3-8/2-8 GLIAC
LEC lost at home to Saginaw Valley State last week, 51-24…the Storm has suffered a couple of close losses on the road this season – 36-33 at Gannon and 35-31 at Wayne State…the Storm start two true freshmen on defense – defensive backs Nick Kirschner and Aturo Morgan…only two seniors start on offense – quarterback Patrick Nicely and center Bryant Loparo…Lake Erie was picked fourth in the GLIAC South Division…McNellie was an assistant coach at Mercyhurst for 17 seasons before arriving at Lake Erie…LEC runs out of the spread formation on offense and uses the 4-3 on defense.
Quarterback Patrick Nicely is a transfer from Akron. The 6-4, 223-pound senior lettered three times at Akron. With the Zips, he completed 308-of-619 passes for 3,358 yards with 18 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Nicely has completed 50-of-104 passes for 654 yards with six TD passes and four interceptions…the Storm has a impressive pair of freshmen running backs. Anthony Bilal has rushed for 313 yards and is averaging 6.4 ypc., and 104.3 ypg. Bilal is third in the GLIAC in rushing. Brandon Phenix has rushed for 247 yards on 42 carries (4.9 ypc.). Phenix gained 76 yards on 12 carries last week against Saginaw Valley State…LEC's top receiver is freshman wide receiver Anthony Kukwa, who has 11 catches for 135 yards (12.3 ypc.) with four touchdowns…kicker Sam Marcotte, a 6-1, 190-pound senior, is 6-for-8 on field goal tries and is 3-for-4 from 40 yards or longer. Marcotte is also LEC's punter…linebacker Marcus Rogers, a 6-3, 220-pound sophomore, has a team-leading 38 tackles (13 solo) and 4.5 tackles for loss (11 yards)…Nick Kirschner, a 6-1, 190-pound freshman defensive back, has 29 tackles (14 solo). He has 3.5 tackles for loss (10 yards).
Owens on Lake Erie
"They're scary. They want to get you in a shootout like they did last year. Their backs are extremely quick, it reminds me of the Javey-Harvey combination we had. The quarterback is a Division I guy. He's a big, physical, football player. He has a cannon for an arm. Once again, they're scary on offense. They're going to score points on you. You don't stop that kind of offense, you try to stall it. We've got to play our game. We need to dictate the style of play and not get caught up in fast break football."
The Eagles will visit Ohio Dominican next Saturday (Oct. 6, 1 p.m.).