The ghosts of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium have been exorcised.
Ashland University's football team, ranked No. 13 in Division II and leading the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's South Division, has had trouble in Canton in the past. That trouble ended on Saturday (Oct. 3) afternoon, as the Eagles scored 28 consecutive first-half points en route to a 42-17 victory over Malone.
AU is 5-0 overall and in the GLIAC, while the Pioneers are 0-5, 0-5.
Malone began the game by recovering an Eagle fumble on the opening kickoff, then scoring a touchdown six plays later just 3:05 into the game. Ashland didn't waste any time rallying, however, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Travis Tarnowski to sophomore tight end Adam Shaheen at the 9:01 mark of the first quarter, then on a two-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Vance Settlemire at the 6:14 mark.
Malone scored on the final play of the first half and added a third-quarter field goal to make the Pioneer deficit 28-17, but AU finished off the victory with another Tarnowski-to-Shaheen TD pass, this one 12 yards in the third quarter, then a nine-yard scoring run by Settlemire in the fourth quarter.
Settlemire ran 28 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and has posted strong numbers in the last three contests – 83 carries, 512 yards and five scores. He is the first AU player to have three consecutive 150-plus-yard rushing games since all-time leading rusher Anthony Taylor from Oct. 5-19, 2013.
Tarnowski was 17-for-26 for 201 yards, a season-high four touchdowns and an interception. Saturday's game was his third this season with three or more TD passes, and his fifth such game as an Eagle.
Shaheen caught six passes for 46 yards and two scores, and his 30 catches this season already are the most for an AU tight end in the Lee Owens era.
Ashland was a season-best 7-of-10 in third-down conversions.
The Eagles had plenty of standouts on a defense which gave up just two touchdowns and 242 total of offense, and recorded four sacks, 13 tackles for loss and two interceptions.
Junior inside linebacker Brandon Gency had a team-high 15 total tackles (six solo) and 2½ tackles for loss, while sophomore cornerback Dale Irby had two interceptions. Senior defensive tackle Tim Lehr added five total stops, a half-sack and two tackles for loss.
Ashland was helped by 13 Pioneer penalties for 125 yards in markoffs. The Eagles were penalized once in the victory.
The Eagles will begin the second half of the regular season on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at Saginaw Valley State.
EAGLE NUGGETS: Ashland has scored at least 40 points three times so far in 2015, and 18 times since the start of the 2012 campaign…Burt has just two catches in the last two games, but both went for touchdowns and covered 110 yards…The Eagles had five first downs by penalty – almost has many as the Pioneers had either rushing (six) or passing (six).