Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships.
If Ashland University's football team is going to win the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's South Division and/or make the Division II playoffs, it will be able to thank a defense which has become more and more stingy as the weeks in the 2014 season go on.
The Eagles' "D" has allowed just 20 points in back-to-back home victories against Malone and Saginaw Valley State, and has given up just 258 and a season-low 182 total yards of offense, respectively, in those games.
"It's always great to have a game like that defensively," said senior inside linebacker Cody Bloom. "Our defense is starting to mesh, leaders are stepping up and guys are making plays when we have to. Great pursuit out of everybody."
Thanks to the stellar shutdowns of the last two weeks, the Eagles now are fourth in the GLIAC in points allowed per game (19.8), fifth in rushing yards allowed per game (151.0) and seventh in total yards allowed per game (355.8) and passing yards allowed per game (204.8).
ANOTHER GOOD OMEN? – Ashland has scored 252 points through six games. In its three postseason runs under head coach Lee Owens, the Eagles scored 257 points (in 2007), 213 points (in 2008) and 245 points (in 2012) through six games.
The Eagles have scored at least 38 points in their five wins in 2014. Since Owens took over in 2004, Ashland has scored at least 38 points in a game 43 times.
THE TAYLOR WATCH ISN'T OVER – Senior tailback Anthony Taylor broke the AU all-time rushing yards record Saturday afternoon, and broke the program's all-time touchdown record earlier this season. He also has a slew of other program single-game and single-season records.
Now, there is a new target – becoming the first AU running back to go past the 4,000-yard mark. He sits at 3,967 career yards going into the Week 7 game at Hillsdale.
Taylor has at least 75 rushing yards in 18 consecutive games going back to the end of the 2012 season. He also has four 100-yard rushing games in 2014, 12 since the start of the 2013 season and 17 overall as an Eagle.
He has at least four college games left to play, so reflection will have to wait until after the season.
"Just focus on each game, the next game. Think about all that after the season is over, think about your accomplishments and everything like that," Taylor said.
PIKO'S CLIMB CONTINUES – Thanks to a career-high nine catches, senior wide receiver Dan Piko now has 128 career receptions, which is fourth in AU history. He now has 1,748 career receiving yards, which is ninth all-time at Ashland.
"It was a great day," said Piko. "It was my last Homecoming. It means a lot."
GENCY STEPPING UP – Sophomore inside linebacker Brandon Gency has had to play most of the last two games due to an injury to fellow sophomore Zach Olszewski, and Gency has made the most of it. He now is third on the team in total tackles (36), first in solo tackles (28), first in sacks (two) and first in tackles for loss (5½).
"Brandon is an amazing football player," Bloom said. "I never seen anyone fly to the ball like he does. He's playing pretty good football."
FIRST ONE TO COUGH IT UP LOSES? – The Week 7 Ashland-Hillsdale game will feature two of the best in the GLIAC when it comes to not turning the ball over. The Chargers have fumbled twice and not lost either in six games, while the Eagles have fumbled three times and lost just one in six contests.
UPDATED GLIAC SOUTH STANDINGS – Ashland (5-1 overall, 5-1 GLIAC) still is a game behind first-place Ohio Dominican (6-0, 6-0), and 1½ games ahead of third-place Findlay (4-2, 3-2).
EAGLE NUGGETS – Ashland will finish the regular season with three of its last four games on the road for the first time since 2002…Taylor is fourth in the GLIAC in rushing yards (690), second in rushing touchdowns (nine) and total touchdowns (10) and sixth in all-purpose yards (747)…sophomore running back Vance Settlemire continues to lead the GLIAC in yards per carry (10.6)…Piko is third in the conference in catches (36)…sophomore kicker Anthony McCarthy has made all 17 extra points and both field goals since being reinstalled as the Eagles' regular placement kicker.