At any level of football, an offense has a hard time producing when the opposing team's defense consistently is in the backfield.
Ashland University's football team's defense has made a habit of collecting sacks and tackles for loss in bunches through the first eight games of the 2017 season. The leaders of that charge – especially in the 13th-ranked Eagles' 38-24 win on Saturday (Oct. 21) afternoon at Tiffin – have been junior defensive end James Prater Jr. and senior stud Austin Utter.
A unit which has 17 sacks and 56 tackles for loss so far this season has seen Utter record a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference-leading six sacks and eight tackles for loss (seventh in the GLIAC), and Prater Jr. lead the conference with 13½ stops behind the line of scrimmage and add five sacks, tied for second in the league.
In the victory at the Dragons, Prater Jr. had one of the top overall defensive performances in recent Eagle memory – seven total tackles (five solo), five tackles for loss, 2½ sacks, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup – and fell a tackle for loss short of tying the school record. Utter wasn't too far behind, collecting five total stops (four solo), 2½ tackles for loss, 1½ sacks and a pass deflection.
Ashland is third in the GLIAC with 17 sacks, and remains second in the conference in scoring defense at 12.6 points per game.
Good Health, Blocking Keep Running Game Humming
The Eagle offense ran for a season-high 294 yards on Saturday at Tiffin, and is averaging 220.8 yards over the last four games. Against the Dragons, Ashland had long runs of 36, 30, 26, 39 and 33 yards.
Plaudits, however, need to be given to the starting offensive line – sophomore left tackle Ryan Maguire, senior left guard Matt Murphy, senior center Dominic Giunta, senior right guard Damon Stewart and senior right tackle John Conner – along with tight ends Michael Schweitzer (redshirt freshman), Jack Holl (junior) and Ben Fago (sophomore).
Finally, there's the emergence of junior tight end-turned-fullback Mack Mikulski, who also is healthy and adding to the offense with blocking, running (six carries, 25 yards and a touchdown) and receiving (three catches, 34 yards).
Eagles Continue To Play Keep Away
In the last three games, Ashland's time of possession has been 34:19, 37:07 and 36:09. In five of eight games so far this season, the Eagles have possessed the ball at least 34 minutes.
Shaheen's Bears Win, Meder's Browns Lose In Week 7
Former Ashland University football All-Americans Adam Shaheen and Jamie Meder each played for their respective teams on Sunday (Oct. 22) afternoon in Week 7 of the 2017 National Football League season.
Shaheen, a rookie tight end for the Chicago Bears, played off the bench in a 17-3 home win over the Carolina Panthers. Meder, a fourth-year defensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns, had a solo tackle in a reserve role in a 12-9 home overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans.