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). It can also be heard live at 88.9 WRDL.
LOOKING AHEAD AND BEHIND
The Eagles and Lakers are meeting for the first time since the 2009 season due to conference scheduling rotation. Ashland is in first place in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's South Division at 7-1 overall and in the GLIAC. Grand Valley State sits third in the GLIAC's North Division at 4-3 in the league and 4-4 overall.
Last week, the Eagles finished off a perfect 5-0 regular-season home slate with a 44-14 win over Northern Michigan at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field. It was Ashland's fifth win in a row, and seventh consecutive victory at home.
In Week 8, the Lakers won at Findlay, 42-36. Grand Valley now has won four of its last five games after an 0-3 start.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK
Ashland finished its regular-season home schedule undefeated for the second time in three seasons following its 30-point win against Northern Michigan in Week 8.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Travis Tarnowski broke a stadium record by throwing for five touchdowns – a mark that also ties the overall program single-game mark. Tarnowski finished 17-for-22 for 263 yards, and wasn't sacked. Senior tailback Anthony Taylor ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries, and sophomore tailback Vance Settlemire added 77 yards on 12 attempts. Senior wide receiver Dan Piko caught four passes for 57 yards and two scores.
Defensively, the pair of sophomore outside linebacker Adam Wallace (six total tackles, two sacks and 2½ tackles for loss) and senior defensive end Chase Hoobler (five total tackles, one sack, 3½ tackles for loss) caused havoc for the Wildcats throughout.
ASHLAND-GRAND VALLEY STATE
The Eagles and Lakers have played 18 times in both the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference and the GLIAC. Grand Valley has a 16-2 all-time series lead, and has won 14 straight meetings.
In the last AU-GVSU matchup in 2009, in the Lakers' only appearance at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field, sixth-ranked Grand Valley came away with a 34-7 victory. Ashland running back Dawon Harvey ran for 109 yards on 15 carries, and both Harvey (156) and running back Carlin Isles (131) racked up more than 100 all-purpose yards.
The 2008 meeting was between the top-ranked Lakers and the 23rd-ranked Eagles in Allendale, Mich. The result was a 48-42 GVSU victory after the Lakers scored 27 unanswered points in the second half. Ashland quarterback Billy Cundiff was 28-for-44 for 358 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, and wide receivers Joe Horn (12 catches, 183 yards) and Johnny Long (eight catches, 106 yards) each scored a pair of touchdowns through the air.
AU SEVENTH IN INITIAL REGIONAL RANKINGS
In the first official regional rankings released this week, the Eagles are seventh in Super Region Four. The top six teams advance to the NCAA playoffs.
The Eagles have earned a spot in the postseason on five other occasions (1986, 1997, 2007, 2008 and 2012).
SUPER REGION FOUR
RANK/SCHOOL D-II RECORD OVERALL
1. Ferris State 8-0 8-0
2. Colorado State-Pueblo 6-1 7-1
3. Ohio Dominican 6-1 6-1
4. Colorado Mines 7-1 7-1
5. Indianapolis 7-0 7-1
6. Michigan Tech 6-1 6-1
7. ASHLAND 7-1 7-1
8. Texas A&M-Commerce 5-1 6-2
9. Chadron State 5-2 5-3
10. Angelo State 5-2 5-2
"We're going to play playoff-like teams in Weeks 9 and 10 on the road," Ashland head coach Lee Owens said. "We should be playoff-tested. As long as we continue to win, we will be relevant in the discussion. It's all you can really ask for at this point."
WEEK 8 GRIDIRON CLUB AWARD WINNERS
Tarnowski and the Eagles' 20 seniors all received game balls followed the win over Northern Michigan. Honorees in the three phases of the game went to senior wide receiver Eric Thompkins (offense), sophomore outside linebacker Adam Wallace (defense) and junior fullback Reid Masters (special teams).
LEADERS OF THE PACK
EAGLES NATIONALLY-RANKED IN COACHES', MEDIA POLLS
Ashland is ranked 23rd in this week's American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches' Poll. The Eagles were ranked 24th in the weekly AFCA poll each of the previous two weeks. Also representing the GLIAC on this week's AFCA poll are Ferris State (fifth, one first-place vote), Ohio Dominican (12th) and Michigan Tech (21st). Grand Valley State was among those teams receiving votes this week with four.
The Eagles also are ranked 24th in this week's D2Football.com Top 25 Poll, moving up one spot from last week. Other GLIAC teams in that poll include Ferris State (third) and Ohio Dominican (13th).
EAGLES FINDING A HOME AMONG D-II LEADERS
Ashland is among the national leaders in fewest turnovers lost (seven, tied for second), fewest tackles for loss allowed (28, third), fewest fumbles lost (two, tied for fourth), rushing yards per game (263.4, 12th), fewest penalties (37, 12th), fewest sacks allowed (six, 12th), scoring offense (39.1, 19th) and fewest penalty yards (370, tied for 20th).
Taylor is 15th in the country in rushing yards (984).
EAGLES' "D" GETTING STRONGER EACH WEEK
Ashland's defense has picked the right time to emerge as one of the best in the GLIAC.
In the last four games, the Eagles' "D" has given up just 13, 7, 7 and 14 points in wins at home against Malone and Saginaw Valley State, at Hillsdale and in the home regular-season finale against Northern Michigan.
Points allowed, however, are just part of the story:
OPPONENT 3RD DOWNS TOT. 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
N. MICHIGAN 6-for-15 261 yards 1.9 0 3
ASHLAND PLAYERS AMONG GLIAC ELITE
Taylor ranks third in the league in rushing yards (984), tied for third in rushing touchdowns (10), fourth in all-purpose yards (1,042) and tied for second in total touchdowns (11); sophomore tailback Vance Settlemire is tied for second in yards per carry (8.8), Tarnowski has the fourth-fewest interceptions thrown among GLIAC starting quarterbacks (four) and is tied for fifth in touchdown passes (13), senior wide receiver Dan Piko is third in receptions (47) and senior inside linebacker Cody Bloom is fifth in total tackles (72).
AU GLIAC TEAM RANKINGS
Offensively, the Eagles are second in the GLIAC in points per game (39.1), third in rushing yards per game (263.4) and first downs per game (23.6) and fourth in total offense per game (464.2) and third-down conversions (45.6 percent).
Defensively, AU is first in the league in defensive touchdowns scored (three), third in points allowed per game (17.5) and fourth in total defense per game (331.2) and rushing yards allowed per game (132.5).
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.
Jamie 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.
OPPOSING RUNNING BACKS FIND TOUGH SLEDDING
Opposition running backs haven't had much success against Ashland's defense of late. The Eagles haven't had an opposing back go past the 100-yard rushing mark since Week 1, and each opponent's leading rusher since Week 2 has averaged just 56.6 yards per game.
Here's a look at each team's leading rushers against Ashland of late:
DATE OPPONENT PLAYER RUSHING YARDS
10/25 NORTHERN MICHIGAN Terrance Dye 53
10/18 at Hillsdale Bennett Lewis 46
10/11 SAGINAW VALLEY David Nay 49
10/4 MALONE Kyle Nutter 40
9/27 at Findlay Daiquone Ford 69
9/20 at Ohio Dominican Brandon Schoen 90
9/13 WALSH Justin Keith 49
TARNOWSKI'S PERSPECTIVE THAT OF A SENIOR
Tarnowski has made just eight starts at the collegiate level. But listening to him following the win over Northern Michigan, you would think he has made 40.
"Being able to go out there as a redshirt freshman and play for guys like that…that's all I wanted to do, because when I become a senior, I want guys that are younger than me to do the same thing," he said.
Tarnowski not only posted a season-high in touchdown passes, but also completion percentage (77.3), in Week 8. He has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13-to-4, and has been sacked just five times this season.
• The AU football program now stands at 100 games above .500 in its history (461-361-29, .559).
• Taylor always has gotten stronger as the seasons progress. Over the last three seasons, he averages 98.9 rushing yards per game in August/September, 158.7 rushing yards per game in October and 136.6 rushing yards per game in November.
• Piko now is third all-time on AU's career receptions list (139), and is fifth all-time in career receiving yards (1,886).
• This will be the first time the Eagles finish the regular season with back-to-back road games since 2006.
• Ashland scored at least 38 points six times this season, and at least that many in 16 of the last 28 contests.
The Scouting Report – Grand Valley State Lakers
Head Coach – Matt Mitchell
This Year's Record – 4-4/4-3 GLIAC
Lakers head coach Matt Mitchell is in his fifth season at the helm, and previously was GVSU's defensive coordinator…six former Lakers are in the National Football League, including new Cleveland Browns starting center Nick McDonald, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dan Skuta and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr…current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was the Lakers' head coach from 1991-2003, and was 118-35-2 (.761) with back-to-back national titles in 2002-03.
Grand Valley State's all-time postseason record is 32-13, and the Lakers won national
championships four times in a five-year span (2002-03, 2005-06).
Senior quarterback Heath Parling has thrown for 1,374 yards and 13 touchdowns…senior running back Chris Robinson leads the Lakers with 690 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground…junior tight end Jamie Potts is GVSU's leading receiver with 36 catches, 606 yards and eight touchdowns…junior defensive lineman Matt Judon has team-highs in tackles for loss (15), sacks (5½) and forced fumbles (four) so far in 2014…senior defensive lineman Matt Mosley has recorded 10 tackles for loss and five sacks in eight games…senior defensive back Deonte' Hurst has a team-high 59 total tackles to go with five tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
"Grand Valley is an excellent football team," Owens said. "They have a lot of very good football players. Very skilled, very fast, very physical. They have four losses to ranked teams. There's no question that they are as good a team as you would expect to see in the playoffs."
In Week 10, Ashland will finish the regular season with a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a game against Michigan Tech. The kickoff on Saturday, November 8 is at 1 p.m.