Ashland University's football team's defense has picked the right time to emerge as one of the best in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
In the last three games, the Eagles' "D" has given up just 13, 7 and 7 points in wins at home against Malone and Saginaw Valley State and Saturday at Hillsdale – the latter game allowing AU, ranked 24th in the country in the weekly American Football Coaches Association poll, to bring the Traveling Trophy back to campus for the first time in six years.
Points allowed, however, are just part of the story:
OPPONENT 3RD DOWNS TOTAL DEF. RUSH AVG. TAKEAWAYS SACKS
MALONE 3-for-11 258 yards 3.5 3 0
SVSU 2-for-11 182 yards 2.1 0 5
at Hillsdale 7-for-15 254 yards 3.0 4 3
Through seven weeks, the Ashland defense now ranks fourth in the GLIAC in points allowed per game (18.0) and yards allowed per game (341.3), fifth in passing yards allowed per game (197.6) and rushing yards allowed per game (143.7) and first in defensive touchdowns scored (three).
STILL IN THE RUNNING – The Eagles are tied for first in the GLIAC South Division at 6-1 overall and in the conference. A division title, a conference title (both Ferris State and Michigan Tech are 6-0 in the GLIAC) and a playoff spot all still are within reach with three regular-season games to go.
"As long as we stay with only one loss on our record, we'll play right to the last week with a chance to win it (the conference)," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens. "It's tough keeping it that way. You just can't stumble along the way."
TAYLOR CONTINUES TO PULL AWAY – Senior tailback Anthony Taylor became the first Ashland University player to rush for 4,000 yards in his career. And the more he runs, the further he puts the No. 2 players in both career rushing yards and career touchdowns in his rearview mirror.
Taylor now has 4,152 rushing yards (209 more than previous record-holder Keith Weaver) and 41 total touchdowns (six more than previous record-holder Donald Church).
Taylor now has four consecutive 100-yard rushing games and five overall this season. He has rushed for at least 100 yards 13 times since the start of the 2013 season and 18 times overall at AU. Taylor has at least 75 rushing yards in 19 consecutive games going back to the end of the 2012 season.
The entire Eagles team certainly has been the beneficiary of Taylor's success. When he rushes for at least 100 yards in a game, Ashland is 13-5.
EAGLES PULL OFF A SEASON FIRST – No opponent had recovered a Hillsdale fumble in 2014 until Ashland got two on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter on Saturday. The last time the Chargers lost a fumble was November 16, 2013 at home against Northwood.
GLIAC TEAM RANKINGS – Ashland is second in the league in points per game (38.4) and rushing yards per game (273.0), and third in total offense per game (465.0) and time of possession per game (31:56).
GLIAC INDIVIDUAL RANKINGS – Sophomore tailback Vance Settlemire continues to pace the GLIAC in rushing yards per attempt (9.3)…Taylor is third in rushing yards (873), tied for second in rushing touchdowns (nine), second in total touchdowns (10) and fifth in all-purpose yards (931)…senior wide receiver Dan Piko is third in receptions (43)…senior inside linebacker Cody Bloom is fourth in total tackles (67)…junior safety Kyle Tomko is fifth in interception return yards (83).
EAGLE NUGGETS – In the last three games, sophomore inside linebacker Brandon Gency has 27 total tackles, 2½ sacks and 4½ tackles for loss…Ashland now has won four straight games, and the program has seven such in-season streaks of four or more wins in a row under Owens (since 2004)…Sunday's win was Ashland's first when scoring 17 or less points since October 19, 2013 at Walsh (14-6).