Heading into the program's first October bye week in 11 years, Ashland University's football team has been spearheaded in the first six games of the 2018 season by an impressive defense.
In the Eagles' (3-3 overall, 3-1 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) 21-17 win over previously undefeated Saginaw Valley State on Saturday (Oct. 6) night at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field, the Ashland "D" kept the Cardinals to just 94 yards and seven points in the second half, allowing for a fourth-quarter comeback.
This isn't the first time AU's defense has come up clutch this season:
- In the season-opener at home vs. Indiana, Pa., the Eagles kept the Crimson Hawks (34.3 ppg.) to their lowest scoring output so far this season at 21 points.
- In Game 2 at Ohio Dominican, Ashland clamped down on the Panthers on their final four possessions (13 plays, 23 yards), allowing for a potential late rally.
- At Wayne State in Week 3, the Eagle defense capped off win No. 1 with a fumble recovery, a forced punt and an interception on the Warriors' last three drives.
- Ashland shut down Northwood's "Woodbone" offense throughout Game 4, yielding just 10 points and 152 yards of offense.
- At Ferris State, the Eagles allowed 28 points, but that is the Bulldogs' lowest scoring output in 2018, and well below their 44.3-point average. FSU gained 398 yards of offense and 126 yards on the ground, less than their season averages of 558.2 and 299.5, respectively. After the Bulldogs scored their last offensive touchdown, as the Eagles were coming back late, FSU was kept to three punts and 29 yards on its last four possessions.
PRATER STAYING IN THE BACKFIELD
Senior defensive end James Prater Jr. is Ashland's new leader in all-time tackles for loss with 40. Going back to the start of 2017, Prater Jr. has 32½ TFLs in the last 18 games.
"The record he broke, Allen Lattimore, I had a chance to coach him early in my career here," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens. "Lattimore was special, and for him to break that record is impressive. But James is an impressive player. I'm happy for him, he's deserving of the record. He's a dominant player."
Prater Jr. said, "I just wanted to win. I was focused on being a team player this week and getting a win. It was awesome."
In the first six games this season, Prater Jr. has 47 total tackles, 4½ sacks, nine tackles for loss and two pass breakups.
VAUGHN APPROACHING TD TOP 10
With a rushing touchdown and a receiving TD against the Cardinals, senior tailback Andrew Vaughn now has 26 touchdowns as an Eagle (24 rushing, two receiving).
"There's a lot of fight left in this team," Vaughn said. "To finish against a 5-0 team at the end, that's a great feeling. This is hopefully a momentum boost for us going into the bye week."
Vaughn is heading toward Ashland's top 10 touchdowns list, and No. 10 on that list is former wide receiver Joe Horn (29).
Redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Brenner is tied for the fewest interceptions thrown (one) among GLIAC starting quarterbacks, and is first in the league with a 41.5-yard punting average…Sophomore kicker Satchel Denton leads the conference in field-goal percentage (83.3), and is tied for first by hitting all 18 extra-point kicks…Ashland won Saturday night with 247 yards of offense. The last time the Eagles were victorious with fewer yards offensively was Oct. 15, 2011 (20-17 at home vs. Wayne State, 244 yards).