For the full PDF version of the Week 2 game notes, go to http://www.goashlandeagles.com/sports/fball/2015-16/files/2015FBreleaseWK2WAL.pdf.
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 also can be accessed on the scoreboard page on the home page of the AU athletics website - GoAshlandEagles.com.
Head coach Lee Owens also can be heard during his weekly appearance on WRDL-FM 88.9's morning show, "The Early Bird's Word," every Thursday at 8 a.m.
Looking Ahead and Behind
The Eagles will play their second consecutive road game to start the 2015 season when they travel to Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium to take on Walsh. This will be Ashland's fourth meeting with the Cavaliers, with AU winning each of the previous three.
With a win against Walsh, AU will start a season 2-0 for the fourth time in Owens' tenure.
Ashland began 2015 with a 56-22 win at Lake Erie on Sept. 3. The Eagles' balanced offense racked up 376 yards and four touchdowns rushing and 303 yards and four touchdowns passing, while the AU defense recorded five sacks, eight tackles for loss and two takeaways.
Last Look At Week One
The Eagles opened the new season on Sept. 3 at Jack Britt Memorial Stadium against Lake Erie, and came away with a 56-22 decision.
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 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.
The brief history between the Eagles and the Cavaliers has come in the previous three seasons, with AU winning all three meetings.
In Week 2 of 2014, Ashland defeated Walsh, 41-17, at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field. The Eagle offense ran up 402 yards and scored four touchdowns, and the defense added a fumble-recovery TD and kept the Cavaliers to just 70 yards rushing while picking off a pair of passes.
The two teams' only other meeting in Canton was a hard-fought 14-6 Ashland victory. The Eagles overcame five turnovers (four of those lost fumbles) to come away with the win. Helping the cause was running back Anthony Taylor, who had 184 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries.
The first-ever meeting in the series saw AU hold Walsh to 116 yards of total offense.
2012 Ashland 30, Walsh 0 (at Ashland)
2013 Ashland 14, Walsh 6 (at Canton)
2014 Ashland 41, Walsh 17 (at Ashland)
Leaders Of The Pack
The 2015 Ashland University football captains are split evenly between offense and defense, and they span across three classes in eligibility.
Irby Adds Excitement To Kickoff Returns
Before the 2015 season, Owens was excited to see what sophomore cornerback Dale Irby could do on kickoff returns.
It's safe to say the excitement still is there.
Irby returned four kickoffs for 135 yards in the Eagles' win at Lake Erie. He came up 39 yards short of the program's single-game record of 174 yards by Carlin Isles in 2008, and Irby's total was the team's most in a game since current AU wide receiver coach Joe Horn's 153 yards at home against the Storm in 2010.
"I like to see him with the ball in his hands," Owens said. "He keeps campaigning to get in on offense. The best I can do for him right now is as a punt and kick returner, but he's elusive in the open field. He creates some field position for us."
The Very Definition Of Offensive Balance…Maybe
In the opener at Lake Erie, the Eagles' offense posted 376 yards and four touchdowns rushing and 303 yards and four touchdowns passing. It doesn't get much more balanced than that.
"We always pride ourselves on being balanced," said Owens. "The reality is, when you define a balanced offense, it's not necessarily having the same number of passing yards as rushing yards. To me, a balanced offense is that when have to throw, you can throw, and when you have to run, you can run. We want to be able to do both whenever we have to do either or."
Young Eagle Receivers Step Up
One of the questions about Ashland University's football team in the preseason was who would step up at wide receiver in 2015.
In the season-opener, the answer was many of them.
A position group which returned just nine catches from 2014 (all by senior Drew Brenner) ended Game 1 with 14 catches for 254 yards and three touchdowns. Wilcox led the way with three catches for 117 yards and a score – the Eagles' first 100-plus-yard receiving game by someone other than Dan Piko since Oct. 26, 2013.
"Both our youngsters played well," Owens said. "I thought (junior Jamie) Hence and Wilcox played really good. I think both our transfers (Turner and Burt) played well. It was exciting to see them execute the way they did, and plus, we've got a guy behind center that, he just makes such great decisions with the ball and he delivers it on time."
Eagles Gaining National Recognition
After just one week of the 2015 college football season, Ashland University is getting some increased national recognition.
In this week's American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II Coaches' Top 25 Poll, the Eagles moved into the No. 24 spot after not being ranked in the preseason. Ashland is one of four GLIAC teams in the AFCA Top 25, along with Ferris State (sixth), Ohio Dominican (seventh) and Grand Valley State (20th).
The HERO Sports (www.herosports.com) weekly rankings have Ashland 20th in Division II.
Win The Turnover Battle, Win The Game
Ashland was plus-1 in turnover margin in the opener at the Storm. Over time, at every level of football, the numbers prove that winning the turnover margin most likely results in winning the game.
In fact, the Eagles have won the last nine games in which they were plus-1 or better in turnovers.
The Eagles' Last 100
In the last 100 games, dating back to the last game of the 2005 season, Ashland University's football team is 67-33 (.670) overall. During that time, the Eagles are 64-26 (.711) in GLIAC games, and have made three NCAA Division II postseason appearances (2007, 2008 and 2012).
- Thursday's win was Owens' 80th at Ashland and his 120th as a college head coach. It also was the Eagle football program's 460th all-time victory.
- Senior defensive tackle Tim Lehr nearly matched his career sack total prior to 2015 (three) in the opener at the Storm (2½).
"The defensive line, as a whole, is really playing well," Owens said. "Tim Lehr, like many of the players on our defense, is much-improved from a year ago."
- Taylor recorded his first collegiate 100-yard rushing game (115 yards, one touchdown on nine carries) in Week 1.
"We have three seniors," Owens said of Taylor, McCune and Reid Masters. "I think all three seniors ran well. Mike, he's quick on the outside and makes guys miss. Having those three seniors is a real big deal."
- Owens quipped Vaughn's new nickname is "The Legend" after his first-ever-carry TD against the Storm.
Meder Preps For Opening Day With Browns
Former Ashland University All-American defensive lineman Jamie Meder is preparing for his first opening day on a National Football League 53-man roster as a member of the Cleveland Browns.
Meder, 24, recently finished his second NFL training camp and his first with Cleveland. He became the first former Eagle to play in a regular-season game for the Browns in Week 17 of the 2014 season at Baltimore, recording one solo tackle. Meder originally was an undrafted free agent with the Ravens last year, and spent more than two months on their practice squad before joining Cleveland.
In four 2015 preseason games (one start), Meder finished with 11 total tackles (eight solos), one sack and a forced fumble. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Meder graded out as the Browns' best player in the preseason.
Cleveland's first regular-season game of 2015 will be Sunday (Sept. 13) at 1 p.m. at the New York Jets.
Following in a long line for highly-decorated AU defensive linemen, Meder was a two-time All-American, Ashland's first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year (2010), a two-time GLIAC Defensive Lineman of the Year (2012-13) and a four-time All-GLIAC first-teamer.
His collegiate career totals include 247 total tackles (96 solo), 35 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Meder is the eighth former Eagle to play in an NFL regular-season game.