A lot was on the line for Ashland University's football team Saturday (Nov. 1) night at Grand Valley State.
The No. 23-ranked Eagles needed a victory to stay in first place in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's South Division, and stay in the postseason hunt after being placed seventh in this week's regional rankings.
And a victory AU (8-1 overall, 8-1 GLIAC) most certainly earned, as all phases of the game clicked in a 37-14 win at the Lakers (4-5, 4-4). It was Ashland's sixth consecutive victory, and third in a row away from Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field.
The 37 points were the second-most Ashland ever has scored against GVSU, and the 14 points allowed are tied for the second-fewest AU ever has yielded to the Lakers.
A 36-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Aidan Simenc put Ashland up 3-0 early, then redshirt freshman quarterback Travis Tarnowski hit senior wide receiver Dan Piko for a 27-yard touchdown pass with 5:10 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles received another field goal-touchdown combination in the second quarter, as Simenc connected on a 25-yarder with 11:05 left until halftime, then Tarnowski found sophomore wide receiver Kamaron Green for an 18-yard passing score – and a 20-0 halftime advantage.
Senior tailback Anthony Taylor scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in the second half – from 37 yards in the third quarter and 15 yards in the fourth quarter. Grand Valley's first touchdown of the game was sandwiched between the Taylor TDs.
Simenc closed the Eagle scoring with a 25-yard field goal before the Lakers added another touchdown just outside the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
Tarnowski was 27-for-49 for 369 yards and two touchdowns, while Piko tied a career-high with nine catches and added 112 receiving yards and a touchdown. Taylor ran 19 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns. It was his 20th 100-yard rushing game as an Eagle.
Defensively, senior linebackers Cody Bloom (12 total tackles, a half-tackle for loss and a half-sack) and Chris Harvey (eight total tackles, 2½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks) led the charge for a unit which kept its fifth consecutive opponent to two touchdowns or less.
Simenc ended the game going 3-for-3 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points.
The victory was Ashland's first against Grand Valley State since 1993.
Ashland will finish the regular season with a trip to Michigan Tech in Week 10. Kickoff from Houghton, Mich., will be Saturday, Nov. 8, at 1 p.m.