On the Sunday night (Nov. 2) edition of ESPN's SportsCenter, Ashland University football fans came across a highlight they think was the best of the weekend.
During ESPN's nightly Top 10 Plays segment, Eagles senior wide receiver Dan Piko's one-handed catch from redshirt freshman quarterback Travis Tarnowski during the 37-14 win Saturday (Nov. 1) night at Grand Valley State was ranked No. 3.
Piko finished the night with a career-high-tying nine catches for the second time in the last four contests. Tarnowski ended the victory with career-highs in completions (27) and attempts (49), and five yards short of his career high in passing yards (369).
COMING UP CLUTCH IN ALL PHASES – Ashland is right where it wants to be going into its final regular-season game of the 2014 season.
The reasons for that are many, and cover all three phases of the game.
The 23rd-ranked Eagles are 8-1 overall and in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. They are a half-game ahead of Ohio Dominican for first place in the GLIAC South Division, and a half-game behind Ferris State for the overall conference lead.
And, Ashland got a key win in terms of a potential NCAA Division II playoff spot. AU was seventh in the Super Region 4 rankings last week.
How the Eagles are doing it is textbook – with contributions from all three phases of the game.
- The Eagles' 539 total yards of offense Saturday night was their third game of 500 or more yards this season, and their 37 points marked the seventh time in 2014 they've scored at least that many. Ashland's 369 passing yards were 14 short of a season-high, and its rushing offense has run up 170 or more yards in all nine games this fall.
- Defensively, Ashland has yielded just 55 points in its last five games. The Eagles' "D" continued its strong rushing defense of late by giving up 85 total yards and 3.3 yards per attempt to GVSU, and AU's fourth-down defense is a stellar 9-for-9 on stops in the last four games.
- And on special teams, sophomore kicker Aidan Simenc hit all seven of his placements Saturday night (3-for-3 on field goals, 4-for-4 on extra points), and senior cornerback Donzale Ashley accounted for the Eagles' lone turnover on a fumble recovery following a mishandled Lakers punt return.
A WINNING HABIT – Ashland's six consecutive victories are the program's most in a row since the 11 straight to start the 2012 season. Other six-plus-game winning streaks during head coach Lee Owens' tenure include seven in a row to end the 2010 campaign, six wins in a row in 2008, seven in a row to end the 2007 regular season and six consecutive victories to end the 2005 season.
Owens (11 seasons overall) now has six seasons with eight or more victories. College Football Hall of Famer Dr. Fred Martinelli (35 seasons overall) led the Eagles to nine such seasons.
TAYLOR IN MORE RARIFIED AIR – Senior tailback Anthony Taylor, the program's all-time leading rusher and touchdown scorer, now has posted three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Since 1970, only he and Keith Weaver (1992-94) have accomplished the feat at Ashland.
Taylor is the active career rushing leader (4,386 yards), fourth in career active all-purpose yards (5,001) and seventh in active career touchdowns scored (44) for all of Division II.
GLIAC TEAM RANKINGS – On defense, the Eagles are the best in the league in points allowed per game (17.1) and touchdowns scored on defense (three), and third in total defense per game (333.4) and rushing yards allowed per game (127.2). Offensively, Ashland ranks second in the conference in points per game (38.9) and third-down conversions (48.9 percent), and third in total offense per game (472.6) and rushing yards per game (253.0).
GLIAC INDIVIDUAL RANKINGS – Taylor is fourth in the league in rushing yards (1,107), all-purpose yards (1,174) and rushing touchdowns (12), and tied for second in total touchdowns (13). Sophomore tailback Vance Settlemire is third in yards per rushing attempt (8.1), Piko is second in receptions (56), senior inside linebacker Cody Bloom is tied for third in total tackles (84) and Simenc is tied for first in field-goal percentage (100.0, 7-for-7).