THE TURNING POINT: Down 31-14 with 5:21 left until halftime, No. 5 Ashland outscored No. 7 Ferris State 25-0 for the remainder of the game to stay undefeated.
STAT OF THE GAME: Saturday's win was the Eagles' 14th consecutive regular-season victory, and snapped the Bulldogs' 28-game regular-season win streak.
Ashland University's football team doesn't always play road games, but when it does, it likes to come from behind to win them.
The No. 5-ranked Eagles, down 31-14 with 5:21 to go in the first half at No. 7 Ferris State on Saturday (Sept. 24), scored 25 unanswered points to take a 39-31 decision. Ashland continues to lead the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's South Division (4-0 overall, 3-0 GLIAC), while the Bulldogs (3-1, 3-1) fall out of first place in the GLIAC North.
Ashland improves its regular-season win streak to 14 games, while Ferris State's 28-game regular-season victory streak was snapped.
Saturday's game at Ferris State was 11 months to the day since the Eagles' last road game – Oct. 24, 2015 at the Superior Dome against Northern Michigan. In that game, Ashland scored on a touchdown pass with seven seconds remaining in regulation to win 41-40.
The 17-point deficit is the largest overcome for a road win in the Lee Owens era. Each of Ashland's last five road games have been contests in which the team has come back from a deficit at some point to win.
The Eagle comeback against the Bulldogs began late in the second quarter. Junior kicker Aidan Simenc' 23-yard field goal cut the AU deficit to two touchdowns, 31-17, at halftime.
Then, Ashland moved to within eight points at 31-23 with 6:44 to go in the third quarter when junior quarterback Travis Tarnowski found junior tight end Adam Shaheen for a 70-yard touchdown pass. While the extra point was blocked, the Eagles had momentum on their side.
Simenc hit a 29-yard field goal with 12:24 left in the game to cut the Ferris State lead to 31-26, then Ashland took its first lead since late in the first quarter when Tarnowski found sophomore wide receiver Kamaron Green for a 33-yard score. The two-point conversion pass failed, but the Eagles led 32-31 with 6:08 to play.
The icing on the Ashland cake came just 80 seconds later, when senior inside linebacker Brandon Gency got a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a 39-yard fumble-return touchdown on the same play for the final margin of victory.
Gency paced the revitalized Ashland defense with 15 total tackles, the sack, 1½ tackles for loss, the forced fumble and the touchdown.
Tarnowski was 21-for-38 for 350 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, while Shaheen caught seven passes for 152 yards and a score. Shaheen has seven grabs in three of four games in 2016, the 152 yards are a career high and he has caught at least one touchdown in seven of the last nine games going back to 2015.
The Eagles, ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II in third-down conversion percentage (70.5) coming into the game, were 50 percent (9-for-18) on Saturday. They fell 26 yards short (474) of going for at least 500 yards of offense in each of the first four games of 2016.
Ashland is 31-14 (.689) as an American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Top 25 team, is 13-1 as a ranked team since the start of 2015 and is 3-1 as a ranked team against Ferris State all-time.
UP NEXT: Ashland will open up October with a GLIAC game at Tiffin (2-2, 1-2) on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 1:30 p.m.