Explosive Offense, Timely Defense Leads AU Over ODU

Explosive Offense, Timely Defense Leads AU Over ODU


THE TURNING POINT: After Ohio Dominican closed its deficit to 30-21 with 8:42 to go in the third quarter, Ashland's defense kept the Panthers to 68 total yards and two turnovers on downs the rest of the way.

STAT OF THE GAME: The Eagles and Panthers combined for 68 points, 962 yards of offense, 44 first downs – and no turnovers.

It was a beautiful night on Saturday (Sept. 9) for a football game at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field – sunny with a tinge of fall air.

Ashland University's football team showed a beautiful result on the scoreboard, earning win No. 1 of the 2017 season, 47-21, over former conference rival Ohio Dominican. The Eagles are 1-1 on the young season, while the Panthers are 0-2.

Both teams were among teams receiving votes in this past week's American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Top 25 coaches' poll.

"It was a big game," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens, whose team won its 18th consecutive regular-season home game and who recorded career win No. 99 at Ashland. "I think we understood that and respected that."

On offense, Ashland showed consistent balance in racking up 563 total yards. Senior quarterback Travis Tarnowski picked up his 10th career 300-yard passing game, going 22-for-30 for 377 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target was senior wide receiver Matthew Wilcox, who grabbed five passes for 147 yards and two scores for his fourth career 100-yard contest.

Junior tailback Andrew Vaughn churned out his fourth 100-yard rushing game as an Eagle (21 carries, 124 yards, two touchdowns), as Ashland boasted a 100-yard rusher and receiver and 300-yard passer in the same game for the first time since Sept. 10, 2016 at home vs. Wayne State.

Vaughn also caught five passes for 82 yards, giving him 206 total yards from scrimmage.

"If they try to concentrate on a lot of the underneath stuff, they didn't have the coverage on the check-down with Andrew," said Owens. "He had a good day."

Defensively, the Eagles kept the Panthers to 29 rushing yards on 23 attempts. As a team, Ashland collected seven tackles for loss and four sacks, paced by junior defensive end James Prater Jr. with six total stops, 1½ for loss and a half-sack.

For ODU, quarterback Grant Russell was 24-for-35 for 370 yards and three touchdowns, while both David Turner (nine catches, 164 yards, two touchdowns) and Cory Contini (six catches, 156 yards, one TD) each had 100-yard receiving games.

"He's (Russell) a good player," Owens said. "With that guy behind center, they are never out of it."

Cameron Kohl added 13 total tackles, a sack and 2½ tackles for loss.

With the game tied at 7 early in the second quarter, Tarnowski and Wilcox hooked up for their first scoring pass of the night – a 74-yarder with 11:26 left until halftime. That began a run of 20 consecutive points for the Eagles.

Ohio Dominican made it a 30-21 deficit with 8:42 to go in the third quarter, but while the Ashland offense put up 17 more consecutive points to end the game, the Eagle defense put the clamps down on the ODU offense. AU allowed 68 total yards and forced two turnovers on downs on the Panthers' final three drives.

Ashland finished the night with 38:55 of time of possession, its most in a single game since eating up 39:28 at home against Walsh on Nov. 5, 2016.

UP NEXT: Back on the road on Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. to start Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play vs. Northwood.