PAINESVILLE – One game down, one win down for Ashland University's football team in 2015.
The Eagles opened the new season on Thursday night (Sept. 3) at Jack Britt Memorial Stadium against Lake Erie, and came away with a 56-22 decision.
"We're pretty strong on both sides of the ball. We have some depth, we have some size," said AU head coach Lee Owens, who won his 80th game guiding the Eagles. "We're young, particularly on offense…but I think they're pretty good players. We had our way up front today."
After a three-and-out on defense to begin the game, Ashland's offense wasted no time getting to work. A varied eight-play, 65-yard drive was finished off by junior tailback Vance Settlemire, who dragged a Storm defender and scored on a four-yard touchdown run at the pylon with just 5:03 into the game.
The Eagles' "D" forced a second consecutive punt, turning the ball over to the offense at the AU 13. Eighty-seven yards later, Ashland had a 14-0 lead, with the last 53 yards coming on a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Travis Tarnowski to freshman wide receiver Matthew Wilcox.
The first takeaway of the night came courtesy of a fumble recovery by sixth-year senior defensive end Chase Hoobler, putting the Eagles 11 yards away from another touchdown. It only took two plays to get that score, as junior backup quarterback Austin Bruns – in the game because Tarnowski had to go out after his helmet came off during the previous play – threw a 16-yard scoring fade to sophomore tight end Adam Shaheen with 4:32 remaining in the opening quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Storm All-American senior tailback Anthony Bilal broke out for his first big run of the night, an 89-yard cutback score to make it a 21-7 contest. That jaunt finished off a four-play, 99-yard Lake Erie drive.
Ashland answered with 11:58 to go until halftime, as redshirt senior tailback Jordan McCune scored his seventh career rushing TD against Lake Erie on a 23-yard scoring run to make it a 28-7 score. The lead was increased to 35-7 with 8:02 to go until the break when Tarnowski hit sophomore wide receiver Terrance Burt in stride for a 14-yard touchdown pass.
The Storm attempted to cut their deficit after starting a drive at the Eagle 39, but senior cornerback James Ester's interception at the AU 6 thwarted the effort.
Starting the second half, Tarnowski fired his third touchdown pass to a third different receiver, sophomore wideout Stewart Turner, for 20 yards – and a 42-7 advantage with just 2:27 in. At the 7:02 mark of the third quarter, senior tailback Michael Taylor scored on a 1-yard TD run to move the score to 49-7.
Bilal scored his second touchdown of the night on a 12-yard touchdown run with 3:58 left in the third, and a 2-point conversion made it a 49-15 game. His third scoring run of the game, from 15 yards out at the 1:42 mark of the third, cut the Storm deficit to 49-22.
Lake Erie's momentum was abruptly stopped, however, by redshirt freshman tailback Andrew Vaughn, who took his first collegiate carry 55 yards for a touchdown just 45 seconds after Bilal's third score to put the lead back to 34 points at 56-22.
Ashland will play a second consecutive road game on Sept. 12 at noon against Walsh at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.