The path to success doesn't always follow a straight line.
Ashland University sophomore tailback Luke Ogi's collegiate career has had its fits and starts, but he came up big for the No. 9-ranked Eagles in their second NCAA Division II postseason victory, 21-18, on Saturday (Nov. 18) afternoon against Northwest Missouri State at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field.
"It's kind of been a roller coaster of a year," Ogi said. "I went down, and I was hurt through the most of the middle of the year. I've been getting healthier the last few weeks, finally."
After redshirting in 2015 following one of the best rushing careers at West Holmes High School, Ogi burst on to the scene in 2016, finishing fourth on the team in rushing with 268 yards and tied for second in rushing touchdowns with five – despite carrying the ball just 17 times.
His 75-yard touchdown run in the opener at home vs. Mercyhurst was the Eagles' season-best, and of his 17 carries, five went for at least 20 yards.
Ogi was so proficient as a redshirt freshman with one particular play that they changed the name of it to include his last name.
"It's probably my favorite play in the offense," he said.
In 2017, Ogi was looking to pick up more playing time, and despite injury, ran 32 times for 130 yards and a TD in the first three games of the campaign. Because of injury, however, he got just 10 carries in the next seven contests.
Ogi's next extensive playing time came at home vs. Saginaw Valley State on Nov. 11, thanks to an injury to junior tailback Andrew Vaughn, and Ogi gained 29 yards on 11 carries.
His breakout game, however, came against the Bearcats – the two-time defending NCAA Division II national champions and the top-ranked defense in the country.
The result? A career-high 26 carries for a season-high 82 yards.
"Luke rushed the ball against them as well as good as anybody in the country has all year long," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens, whose team as a whole ran for 114 yards against a unit which finished the season giving up 62.0 rushing yards per game.
"I had to step up against Saginaw, and then step up again in the playoff game," Ogi said. "It was nice to get in there and get some playing time.
"That's (the workload) kind of crazy. I'd say I was ready. That time was Saturday, and I was ready."
Ogi's next challenge will be to once again help Ashland achieve some offensive balance in a game in which possessions may be at a premium. On Saturday (Nov. 25) at noon, the Eagles (11-1) play in a Super Region Three semifinal at home against Harding (9-3), the top-ranked rushing team in the nation.
"Whatever the team needs, I'll be ready," he said.