For the full PDF version of the Week 5 game notes, go to http://goashlandeagles.com/sports/fball/2015-16/files/2015FBreleaseWK5MAL.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 game of the season at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton when they face Malone in Week 5. In Week 2 of 2015, Ashland won at Walsh in overtime, 31-24. This is the first time that AU will play at Hall of Fame Stadium twice in the same season.
This week's Ashland-Malone game will be the fourth in the all-time series.
Ashland, ranked No. 13 in Division II, is coming off a 40-28 victory against Findlay in Week 4 at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field. The Eagles ran up 495 yards and 40 points on offense, and came up with three interceptions on defense, to improve to 13-5 against the Oilers in Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference/Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
Last Look At Week Four
The GLIAC's South Division has a frontrunner in football, and it's Ashland University.
For the second week in a row, the Eagles gutted out a key division win at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field. On Saturday (Sept. 26) night, it was a 40-28 decision over Findlay. Ashland earned its ninth consecutive home win, while the Oilers fell to 3-1, 2-1.
The Eagles are a full game ahead of second-place Tiffin (3-1, 3-1) in the South, and 1½ games ahead of Findlay.
"This is good bunch of guys, and there's never any panic," said Owens. "We never lose our composure, and just keep with the plan. That (Findlay) is a good football team, a really good offensive football team."
Ashland displayed toughness, fortitude and character in the second half after Findlay twice made it a five-point contest. Ahead 26-21 late in the third quarter, on a second-and-29 play, sophomore quarterback Travis Tarnowski's swing pass to junior tailback Vance Settlemire turned into a 66-yard touchdown to put AU ahead 33-21.
Then, with the Eagles ahead 33-28 in the fourth quarter, Tarnowski capped off a 15-play, 92-yard drive that took 8:41 off the clock with a seven-yard scoring run for the final margin of victory.
"We took some time off the clock, gave our defense a chance to catch its breath," Owens said.
One week after posting a career-high 152 rushing yards at home against Ohio Dominican, Settlemire ran 30 times for 210 yards and a TD – AU's first 200-plus-yard rushing game since Anthony Taylor's 237 at home against Tiffin on Nov. 9, 2013.
Settlemire finished the night with 276 yards and two touchdowns from scrimmage, and in the last two games, he has run for 362 yards and three scores on 55 carries (6.6-yard average).
"He's such a dynamic player, such a total player," Owens said. "He catches the ball out of the backfield, he blocks well. He's good inside, he's good outside. Vance brings so much to the table."
Tarnowski was 13-for-27 for 240 yards and three touchdowns – one each to Settlemire (66 yards), sophomore wide receiver Terrance Burt (75) and senior fullback Aaron Weyer (six). Sophomore tight end Adam Shaheen caught seven passes for 70 yards.
While the offense was racking up 40 points and 495 yards of offense, the AU defense picked off Findlay quarterback Rhys Gervais, who hadn't been intercepted in 2015 prior to Saturday night, three times. Junior inside linebacker Brandon Gency had 10 total tackles (seven solo), a sack and a tackle for loss, while sophomore cornerback Dale Irby posted nine total stops (seven solo) and an interception.
The young series between the Eagles and Pioneers has been all Ashland, 3-0.
Last season at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field, Ashland took a 42-13 decision. All six AU touchdowns came on the ground, including two each from tailbacks Anthony Taylor and Jordan McCune. Ashland ran for 382 yards, and the Eagle offense collected 552 total yards. Defensively, AU allowed just 258 yards to Malone's offense, while forcing three turnovers.
The closest game in the series to date was in 2013 in Ashland. The 27-20 AU victory came after the team rallied for 20 unanswered points following a 14-7 first-quarter deficit. Quarterback Tra'Von Chapman was 20-for-31 for 235 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver David Soucie caught six passes for 118 yards. Current Cleveland Brown Jamie Meder had 10 total tackles, 1½ sacks and two tackles for loss.
Ashland's only other trip to Canton to face the Pioneers came in 2012, and resulted in a 31-7 Eagle victory. Taylor ran 22 times for 212 yards and two touchdowns (37 and 82 yards), quarterback Taylor Housewright was 19-for-30 for 309 yards and two scores and wide receiver Anthony Capasso caught five passes for 123 yards and a TD. The Eagles overcame three lost fumbles thanks to a defense which yielded just one touchdown and 224 total yards.
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.
This year's captains are senior rover Donzale Ashley, senior guard Jon Cipa, junior inside linebacker Gency and Tarnowski, a sophomore quarterback.
Sophomore Shaheen Setting AU Tight End Standards
It's been a long time since Ashland University football fans have seen a tight end receiving threat like Shaheen.
It's also possible Eagle football fans never have seen a tight end receiving threat like Shaheen.
Shaheen caught seven passes for 70 yards in AU's victory on Saturday night against Findlay. The Eagles are undefeated, and Shaheen's production and versatility has been a key early in 2015.
Lining up as both a traditional tight end and a wide receiver, Shaheen leads the Eagles with 24 catches and 314 receiving yards, and is tied for the team lead with two touchdown catches. That yardage total is the most in a season by an AU tight end in the Lee Owens era, and the catches are two short of the best over the last 12 seasons.
Shaheen also has two of the top three reception games and the top two receiving yardage games for an Ashland tight end in the Owens era.
"It's fun. In my entire coaching career, I've never had a tight end with that kind of versatility," Owens said. "It's fun creating schemes and formations and plays which give them a mismatch and create problems for the defense. We're using sets and formations that we've never used before."
Settlemire's Work Load, Production Increasing
In two games after missing Week 2 due to injury, junior tailback Vance Settlemire is racking up big numbers:
- A career-high number of rushing yards in back-to-back games, including 210 yards against the Oilers.
- A career-high in carries in back-to-back weeks, including 30 versus Findlay.
- A career-long 57-yard run for the second week in a row.
- A career-long 66-yard reception for a touchdown against Findlay.
Settlemire leads the GLIAC in rushing yards per game at 135.7 and all-purpose yards per game at 169.7, and is third in the conference at 6.7 yards per carry.
Still, Owens would prefer to not use Settlemire as much as he has against the Panthers and Oilers.
"I really don't want to have to play him as much as we have the last two weeks," he said. "He was worn down at the end of both of those games. I'd like to keep fresh legs on the field. We need to get more productivity out of our backup tailbacks."
In three career games against his hometown college, Settlemire has rushed 41 times for 337 yards (8.2 avg.) and three touchdowns.
Eagle Defense Coming Away With The Ball
The Eagle defense has six interceptions and eight takeaways this season, already getting close to its 2014 full-season numbers (eight picks, 14 takeaways). Ashland's "D" is on a pace for 15 interceptions in the 10-game regular season, which would be the program's highest single-season total since 2011 (15).
"The back end of our defense is probably as skilled as we've had here, in my tenure for sure," said Owens, speaking of senior cornerback James Ester, Irby, Ashley and junior free safety Terrell Hudson. Junior whip Daivon Barrow leads AU with two interceptions. "When you're as skilled in the back end (as we are) and the ball's in the air as it has been, we're going to come down with some balls."
Eagles Ranked In Three National Polls
Ashland University's football team has stayed at No. 13 in the latest American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II Coaches' Top 25 poll, released on Monday, Sept. 28.
Ashland is one of three GLIAC teams in the Top 25, along with Ferris State (fourth) and Michigan Tech (T-18th).
The No. 13 ranking continues to be Ashland's highest in the AFCA poll since the final poll of the 2012 season (No. 9).
In addition, the Eagles moved up to No. 14 in the latest HERO Sports poll, and to No. 19 in this week's D2Football.com poll.
Nationally, the Eagles are seventh in net punting average (40.8), 12th in kickoff-return average (27.0), 15th in yards per completion (15.4) and 16th in total offense per game (502.5).
Individually, junior punter-backup quarterback Austin Bruns is second in Division II with a gross punting average of 47.1, Settlemire is 12th in rushing yards per game, Irby is 12th in kickoff-return average (30.4) and Tarnowski is 14th in yards per completion (15.4) and 17th in yards per passing attempt (9.07).
Ashland is first in the conference in kickoff-return average, second in rushing (228.5 ypg) and interceptions, third in scoring (38.5 ppg) and fourth in total offense.
In addition to Settlemire's high GLIAC individual rankings, Irby is first in kickoff-return average, Tarnowski is tied for third in touchdown passes, Bruns is first in gross punting average and tied for fourth in punts inside the 20-yard line (six), Ester is tied for first with five pass breakups, Barrow is tied for second in interceptions and senior defensive tackle Tim Lehr is tied for third with 3½ sacks.
- Against the Oilers, Tarnowski threw touchdown passes of 75, six and 66 yards. Three of Tarnowski's nine TD tosses in 2015 have been for 50 yards or more. His longest of 16 touchdown passes in 2014 was 38 yards.
- Through the first four games of 2015, six players have scored AU's 11 rushing touchdowns, and seven players have scored the Eagles' 10 receiving touchdowns. Ashland is averaging 502.5 yards of total offense per game – 274.0 through the air and 228.5 on the ground.
- AU has had four 75-plus-yard receiving games from four different players in the first four games of 2015.
Fan, Media Information For Renovated Benson Stadium
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium continues to be renovated while in use this fall. The following is information to keep in mind for Saturday's game:
- The visiting (north side) of the stadium will be shut down and blocked off and will be off limits at all times.
- All fans must enter through gates 7 and 8, which are located on the top of the stadium. This gate is located directly next to the high school. No one will be permitted to enter from any other gate. The teams will enter through gates 1 and 2, but no fans can enter through this gate. All fans will be seated on the south side (press box side) of the stadium. There will be sections reserved between both 40-yard lines for Malone fans, and a section at about the 30-yard line on the press box side for students of Malone and another section for the Malone band. Ashland fans are encouraged to sit anywhere else, and are welcome to use either end zone seating section.
- The Blake lot, which is located off Blake Avenue and is assessable through fenced gate, is open to Ashland administration and radio personnel.