SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
This week's game will be broadcast live on WNCO-AM (1340), with Matt Brubaker handling the play-by-play and Don Graham providing the commentary. The game can be heard at WNCOAM.com, and can also be accessed on the football page of the AU athletics Web site - goashlandeagles.com (go to the live broadcasts tab).
LOOKING AHEAD AND BEHIND
This Week 7 matchup is one between longtime rivals. Ashland and Hillsdale have been playing for the Traveling Trophy since 1970, and the Traveling Trophy game is one of only a few NCAA-recognized trophy games. The winner of the game gets to keep the trophy at their institution until the next meeting.
As for this year's Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings, Ashland is in second place in the South Division at 5-1 in the GLIAC and 5-1 overall, while Hillsdale is tied for fourth in the North Division at 2-3 in the league and 2-4 overall.
The Eagles are ranked No. 24 in this week's American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches' Poll – the first time AU has been in the poll since September 9, 2013.
In Week 6, the Eagles won the annual Homecoming game at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field, a 38-7 decision over Saginaw Valley State, while the Chargers lost a 9-3 decision at nationally-ranked Ohio Dominican.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK
The Eagles won their fifth of six Homecoming games at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field last week, a 38-7 decision against Saginaw Valley State.
It was a day of history, as senior tailback Anthony Taylor became the program's all-time leading rusher. Taylor now has 3,969 yards, having passed newly-minted Ashland University Sports Hall of Famer Keith Weaver (3,943), who was in attendance at the game.
Taylor ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
Ashland's defense yielded a season-low 182 yards to the Cardinals, and just 129 yards after SVSU's only scoring drive. Sophomore linebacker Brandon Gency paced the "D" with eight total tackles (seven solos), 1½ sacks and 2½ tackles for loss.
Offensively, the Eagles racked up 473 yards. Redshirt freshman quarterback Travis Tarnowski was 16-for-29 for 217 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Senior wide receiver Dan Piko grabbed a career-high nine passes for 99 yards. Sophomore tailback Vance Settlemire ran 11 times for 72 yards in the victory.
Perhaps the most storied Trophy Game in Division II has been contested since 1970, and the Eagles and Chargers had played each other every year from then until 2011. Ashland and Hillsdale didn't play in 2012 and 2013 due to conference schedule rotation.
Hillsdale has won 25 of the 42 previous meetings, including the last three. In 2011, the Chargers prevailed in three overtimes, 40-34, at Muddy Waters Stadium. In a game of momentum swings, Ashland led 10-0 midway through the second quarter, then Hillsdale had a 20-10 advantage through three quarters before the Eagles forced OT with a 17-point fourth quarter.
Wide receiver Anthony Capasso caught a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Taylor Housewright in the loss. Housewright also ran for a touchdown. Defensive lineman Jamie Meder had 10 total tackles, 2½ tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
In 2010, the last time Ashland played host to Hillsdale, the Eagles lost, 27-17. Housewright was 11-for-22 for 195 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while running back D.J. McCoy ran 18 times for 78 yards. Linebacker Julian Goodwine had 12 total tackles, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
The 2009 game also was in Ashland, and Hillsdale's first trip to Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field resulted in a 38-19 victory. Quarterback Billy Cundiff was 17-for-26 for 227 yards and two touchdowns – one each to wide receivers Christian Livingston and Nick Bellanco. Linebacker Marcus Council posted nine total tackles, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a sack.
Ashland's last time bringing home the Traveling Trophy was 2008, following a 24-17 victory at Hillsdale. Cundiff threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver Joe Horn caught five passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Safety DeWyan Allen had 15 total tackles, a half-tackle for loss and broke up two passes.
WEEK 6 GRIDIRON CLUB AWARD WINNERS
Taylor earned the game ball following the Homecoming victory. Gridiron Club award winners by phase of the game went to Piko on offense, sophomore linebacker Daivon Barrow (five total tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss) on defense and sophomore quarterback/punter Austin Bruns (32.3-yard average on three punts, 2-for-2 passing for 13 yards and three carries for 11 yards) on special teams.
LEADERS OF THE PACK
MORE ON THE TRAVELING TROPHY
Most of Ashland's success in the series with Hillsdale came between 1990 and 2008, when the Eagles were 12-7 during that stretch.
Here are all the scores in the Ashland-Hillsdale series over the years:
1970 L 13-42 1984 L 31-35 1998 W 30-27 (OT)
1971 L 13-16 1985 L 7-23 1999 L 17-29
1972 W 20-6 1986 L 18-20 2000 W 17-10
1973 L 0-16 1987 L 0-39 2001 W 24-10
1974 W 28-13 1988 L 10-35 2002 L 7-37
1975 L 6-17 1989 L 0-10 2003 L 21-24
1976 W 17-16 1990 W 10-7 2004 W 24-0
1977 L 21-23 1991 W 29-7 2005 W 7-3
1978 L 7-20 1992 L 21-24 2006 W 30-24
1979 W 21-6 1993 W 20-18 2007 L 28-49
1980 W 14-10 1994 W 31-20 2008 W 24-17
1981 L 12-20 1995 L 7-28 2009 L 19-38
1982 L 6-26 1996 L 0-21 2010 L 17-27
1983 L 0-6 1997 W 27-3 2011 L 34-40 (3OT)
"Traditionally, I have enjoyed coaching in this game," Owens said. "It is a rival game, but it is a clean, healthy, good college football game."
THE NEW ANTHONY TAYLOR WATCH
Taylor, already the Eagles' all-time leading rusher and touchdown scorer, has a program first in his sights. With 31 more rushing yards, he would become the first player in the 95 seasons of AU football to rush for 4,000 career yards.
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.
GENCY STEPPING UP
Sophomore inside linebacker Brandon Gency has played the majority of the last two games, stepping in for injured fellow sophomore Zach Olszewski – and he has made an impression. In back-to-back home wins against Malone and SVSU, Gency has 19 total tackles, 1½ sacks, 2½ tackles for loss and two pass breakups.
Gency 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).
"He's really a great player. We know that," Owens said. "He needs to continue to limit the kind of mistakes he makes out there. (But) he's a one-man wrecking crew."
EAGLES CLIMBING THE NATIONAL LADDER
Ashland is 24th in this week's American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches' Poll – its first appearance in the poll in more than a year.
"You look at our schedule, and particularly the last two weeks, we'll have every opportunity to show that we deserve to be in," Owens said. "If we can get to that point (7-1 going into the last two games), we can control whether we make the postseason."
Also representing the GLIAC in the AFCA poll are Ohio Dominican (No. 7), Ferris State (No. 11) and Michigan Tech (No. 20).
EAGLES FINDING A HOME AMONG D-II LEADERS
Taylor is tied for 12th in Division II in rushing touchdowns (nine) and tied for 20th in points per game (10.0).
The Eagles are tied for fourth in the country in fewest fumbles lost (one), fourth in fewest tackles for loss allowed per game (3.5), tied for seventh in turnovers lost (five), tied for eighth in fewest penalties (26), 10th in rushing offense (272.5 yards per game) and fewest sacks allowed (four), tied for 13th in points per game (42.0), 15th in fewest penalty yards (257), tied for 16th in offensive first downs (148) and red-zone offense (89.7 percent) and 19th in third-down conversion percentage (48.0).
ASHLAND PLAYERS AMONG GLIAC ELITE
Settlemire continues to lead the GLIAC in yards per carry (10.6). Taylor is second in the league in rushing touchdowns (nine) and total touchdowns (10), fourth in rushing yards (690) and sixth in all-purpose yards (747). Piko is third in receptions (36) and eighth in receiving yards (426).
AU GLIAC TEAM RANKINGS
The Eagles are first in the conference in rushing touchdowns (24), second in points per game (42.0), total offense (479.3) and red-zone percentage (89.7 percent) and third in rushing offense (272.5).
EAGLES IN THE NFL
One former Ashland defensive lineman was looking to stick with a National Football League team for the 2014 season, while another was trying to make his first NFL regular-season roster right out of college.
Meder (Baltimore) was a rookie free agent with the Ravens, but was released on the team's final cut on Labor Day Weekend. In four preseason games with Baltimore, Meder saw action in 54 plays (47 on defense, seven on special teams) and recorded four total tackles (two solos, two assists) and a pass breakup.
Following the mandated final preseason roster cutdown to the 53-man regular-season roster, the Ravens brought Meder back to their 10-player practice squad.
Jeris Pendleton (Indianapolis) suffered a knee injury in the first game of preseason and was placed on the reserve/injured list by the Colts. He played one regular-season game for Indianapolis in 2013 after seeing action in four regular-season games for the Jacksonville Jaguars as a rookie in 2012 after being selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
- Ashland has scored at least 38 points – its total in the win against Saginaw Valley State – 43 times in Owens' 10½-plus seasons.
- Piko is in the AU all-time Top 10 in receptions (128, fourth) and receiving yards (1,748, ninth).
- The Eagles are playing three of their final regular-season games on the road for the first time since 2002.
- Sophomore kicker Anthony McCarthy has made all 17 extra points and both field goals since being reinstalled as the Eagles' regular placement kicker.
The Scouting Report – Hillsdale Chargers
Head Coach – Keith Otterbein
This Year's Record – 2-4/2-3 GLIAC
Three of the Chargers' four losses have been by eight points or less, and all of those defeats have been on the road…Hillsdale head coach Keith Otterbein is in his 13th season leading the Chargers, and is third in program history in victories (79-62)…Last season's 5-6 overall record snapped a streak of six straight winning seasons for the Chargers…Two former Chargers – Arizona Cardinals tackle Jared Veldheer and Oakland Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes – currently play in the National Football League…Hillsdale defensive coordinator Craig Blanchard was the defensive coordinator for the Arena Football League's Columbus Thunderbolts in 1991…Ex-Charger Cam White, playing tight end for the Fall Experimental Football League's Boston Brawlers, scored the league's first-ever touchdown last week on a 21-yard pass from former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.
- The Chargers are looking to avoid their first four-game losing streak (same season only) since 2004.
Hillsdale's tailback group of sophomore Bennett Lewis (390 yards, five touchdowns), junior Wade Wood (236 yards, one touchdown) and sophomore Jack Wiseman (227 yards, two touchdowns) has combined for 853 yards and eight touchdowns in six games…the Chargers have a bona fide deep threat in junior wide receiver John Haley (21 catches, 469 yards, two touchdowns)…senior defensive back Tim Moinet leads Hillsdale in total tackles (48), is second in solo tackles (26) and tied for first in interceptions (two)…sophomore defensive lineman Zach Swaffer paces the Chargers with 2½ sacks and five tackles for loss.
"They haven't changed at all," Owens said. "They just look the same. That's what makes them such a strong program. I do feel they are a lot like us…don't beat yourself. We both like to be considered a physical team. What's traditionally been the case is the best team has won."
In Week 8, Ashland will play its final home regular-season game of the 2014 campaign. The Eagles will play host to Northern Michigan on Saturday, October 25, at 1 p.m.
FB / DUSTY SLOAN