SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
This week's game will be broadcast live on WNCO-AM (1340), with Matt Brubaker handling the play-by-play and Don Graham providing the commentary. The game can be heard at WNCOAM.com, and can also be accessed on the football page of the AU athletics Web site - goashlandeagles.com (go to the live broadcasts tab).
LOOKING AHEAD AND BEHIND
In Week 8, the Eagles will play their final regular-season home game of the 2014 season when they welcome Northern Michigan to Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field. Ashland is ranked 24th in this week's American Football Coaches Association poll and 25th in this week's D2Football.com Top 25 Media Poll, and is 6-1 overall and in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – good for a tie for first place in the GLIAC's South Division.
Last week, Ashland won its fourth consecutive game – and second straight on the road – by a 17-7 count at Hillsdale in the annual Traveling Trophy Game. Junior safety Kyle Tomko clinched the victory with a 61-yard interception return touchdown with 9:15 left in the game.
The Wildcats are 2-5 overall and 1-5 in the GLIAC after a 33-30 home win over Wayne State in Week 7. That victory snapped a seven-game GLIAC losing streak.
LAST LOOK AT LAST WEEK
The Eagles fought windy conditions which created a stalemate for more than the equivalent of a full half before pulling away for a key win at traditional rival Hillsdale.
Ashland pulled out to a 10-0 lead in the first 9:42 of the game on an 11-yard touchdown run by sophomore tailback Vance Settlemire and a 24-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Anthony McCarthy. The Chargers answered with a touchdown late in the first quarter, then the game stayed at 10-7 until the 9:15 mark of the fourth quarter.
That's when Tomko intercepted a pass, ran down the left sideline and scored a 61-yard touchdown for what turned out to be the clinching score.
Senior tailback Anthony Taylor became the first Eagle to run for 4,000 yards in a career after recording season-highs in yards (182) and carries (29). Settlemire added 64 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and senior wide receiver Dan Piko caught seven passes for 81 yards.
Ashland's defense had its third dominant showing in a row, holding the Chargers to seven points and 254 yards of total offense, and recording four takeaways – including Hillsdale's first two lost fumbles of the season.
Senior inside linebacker Cody Bloom had 11 total tackles (eight solos), two sacks and two forced fumbles, Tomko had eight total stops (seven solos), a half-tackle for loss and the pick-six, sophomore inside linebacker Brandon Gency added nine total tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss and senior outside linebacker Chris Harvey had a diving interception to go with six total tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
The Eagles have a 16-6 advantage over the Wildcats since the series began in 1990. Ashland has won the last three meetings, and have scored 45, 42 and 52 points in those games. The Eagles have won six of the last seven matchups with the Wildcats, dating back to 2005.
The 2013 matchup was Family Day at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field, and it also was the Eagles' first win of the season. Down 10-0 early in the second quarter, Ashland scored 38 unanswered points in a span of 20:10 on the game clock. A 31-point second quarter was highlighted by a 75-yard touchdown run by Taylor, a 47-yard pass from quarterback Tra'Von Chapman to Settlemire, a blocked punt-return touchdown by Tomko and a 27-yard scoring pass from Chapman to Piko.
Taylor ran 19 times for 119 yards and a touchdown, while Piko caught six passes for 113 yards and a score. Defensive lineman Jamie Meder had 10 total tackles and a half-tackle for loss, while Tomko had four total tackles, a 34-yard interception return and the blocked punt TD.
The 2012 meeting resulted in a 42-13 victory for the Eagles at the Superior Dome in Marquette, Mich. The Wildcats scored the game's first touchdown, then AU reeled off 42 straight points. Quarterback Taylor Housewright threw four touchdown passes, and was 23-for-29 for 256 yards. Ashland's offense was an impressive 15-for-18 on third-down conversions.
In 2011 at home, Ashland topped Northern Michigan, 45-16. As has been the recent pattern, the Eagles fell behind, 13-0, only to score 31 unanswered points en route to a victory. Running backs D.J. McCoy and Jordan McCune each ran for two touchdowns, and McCune finished the day with 143 yards on 21 carries. Defensive lineman Matt Stoinoff had 10 total tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss, while defensive back Tyler McFarlin had 11 total tackles and a tackle for loss. Ashland's defense had three sacks, 10 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
"We've looked at that (pattern)," said Owens. "We've got to preach, 'Stay with it. We're going to take their best shot early.' You have to play 60 minutes."
WEEK 7 GRIDIRON CLUB AWARD WINNERS
Tomko earned last week's game ball for the victory-clinching interception touchdown. Gridiron Club weekly award winners for Week 7 were Taylor (offense), Harvey (defense) and freshman long snapper Vince Lewis (special teams).
LEADERS OF THE PACK
Ashland's captains for the 2014 season are seniors Taylor, Piko, Bloom and safety Eric Schwieterman.
SENIORS TO PLAY IN HOME REGULAR-SEASON FINALE
Saturday's game will be the final home regular-season contest for Ashland's senior class.
"It's crazy that it's come up this fast," Owens said. "We went through a lot of adversity a year ago. They came back this year and had the adversity at Ohio Dominican, and haven't look back since. It's not easy to go win at Hillsdale any time. This is a pretty tough group, mentally and physically."
EAGLES NATIONALLY-RANKED IN COACHES', MEDIA POLLS
Ashland is ranked 24th in the American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches' Poll for the second week in a row. AU is one of four GLIAC teams in this week's AFCA poll, joining Ferris State (sixth), Michigan Tech (13th) and Ohio Dominican (16th).
The Eagles also are 25th in this week's D2Football.com Top 25 Media Poll, joining fellow GLIAC squads Ferris State (fifth), Ohio Dominican (15th) and Michigan Tech (19th).
EAGLES FINDING A HOME AMONG D-II LEADERS
As a team, Ashland tied for first in Division II in fewest fumbles lost (one), and is ranked in a tie for third in fewest tackles for loss allowed (26) and fewest turnovers lost (six), a tie for eighth in fewest penalties (30), ninth in rushing offense per game (273.0), 10th in fewest penalty yards (295) and 11th in fewest sacks allowed (five).
"The guys have some discipline, which is good," said Owens. "We talk about not beating yourself. And those things help, especially on the road."
Taylor is the 15th-leading rusher in the country after seven weeks with 872 yards.
ASHLAND PLAYERS AMONG GLIAC ELITE
Settlemire continues to pace the GLIAC in rushing yards per attempt (9.3)…Taylor is third in rushing yards (872), tied for second in rushing touchdowns (nine), second in total touchdowns (10) and fifth in all-purpose yards (930)…Piko is third in receptions (43)…Bloom is fourth in total tackles (67)…Tomko is fifth in interception return yards (83).
AU GLIAC TEAM RANKINGS
Through seven weeks, the Ashland defense ranks fourth in the GLIAC in points allowed per game (18.0) and yards allowed per game (341.3), fifth in passing yards allowed per game (197.6) and rushing yards allowed per game (143.7) and first in defensive touchdowns scored (three).
Offensively, the Eagles are second in the league in points per game (38.4) and rushing yards per game (273.0), and third in total offense per game (465.0) and time of possession per game (31:56).
EAGLES' "D" GETTING STRONGER EACH WEEK
Ashland University's defense has picked the right time to emerge as one of the best in the GLIAC.
In the last three games, the Eagles' "D" has given up just 13, 7 and 7 points in wins at home against Malone and Saginaw Valley State and Saturday at Hillsdale – the latter game allowing AU to bring the Traveling Trophy back to campus for the first time in six years.
Points allowed, however, are just part of the story:
OPPONENT 3RD DOWNS TOTAL DEF. RUSH AVG. TAKEAWAYS SACKS
MALONE 3-for-11 258 yards 3.5 3 0
SVSU 2-for-11 182 yards 2.1 0 5
at Hillsdale 7-for-15 254 yards 3.0 4 3
THE EAGLES AT JACK MILLER STADIUM/MARTINELLI FIELD
This is the Eagles' sixth season with Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field as its home. The Eagles were victorious in their first-ever game at the new facility on Broad Street, a 34-28 decision over Michigan Tech on September 12, 2009.
Here's a look at how Ashland has fared at its new home to date:
- 2014: 4-0
- 2013: 3-2
- 2012: 6-1 (includes 33-28 loss to West Texas A&M in Super Region 4 Semifinals)
- 2011: 4-1
- 2010: 5-1
- 2009: 3-2
TOTAL: 25-7 (.781 pct.)
EAGLES IN THE NFL
One former Ashland defensive lineman was looking to stick with a National Football League team for the 2014 season, while another was trying to make his first NFL regular-season roster right out of college.
Meder (Baltimore) was a rookie free agent with the Ravens, but was released on the team's final cut on Labor Day Weekend. In four preseason games with Baltimore, Meder saw action in 54 plays (47 on defense, seven on special teams) and recorded four total tackles (two solos, two assists) and a pass breakup.
Following the mandated final preseason roster cutdown to the 53-man regular-season roster, the Ravens brought Meder back to their 10-player practice squad.
Jeris Pendleton (Indianapolis) suffered a knee injury in the first game of preseason and was placed on the reserve/injured list by the Colts. He played one regular-season game for Indianapolis in 2013 after seeing action in four regular-season games for the Jacksonville Jaguars as a rookie in 2012 after being selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
- Ashland has clinched a winning record for the eighth time in Owens' 11 seasons.
- Sophomore inside linebacker Brandon Gency has 28 total tackles, 2½ sacks and 4½ tackles for loss in the last three games.
- Ashland now has won four straight games, and the program has seven in-season streaks of four or more wins in a row under Owens.
The Scouting Report – Northern Michigan Wildcats
Head Coach – Chris Ostrowsky
This Year's Record – 2-5/1-5 GLIAC
Northern Michigan's football program began in 1904…Wildcats head coach Chris Ostrowsky is in his third season at NMU. He also serves as the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach…first-year defensive line coach John Parrella was a second-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in 1993 and played as a National Football League defensive lineman for 12 seasons (1993-2004) with the Bills, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders…leading rusher Wyatt Jursain's father, Bobby, was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the Canadian Football League and was enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
- Northern Michigan won the Division II national championship in 1975, defeating Western Kentucky, 16-14, in the title game.
Sophomore quarterback Shaye Brown has thrown for 1,513 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014…junior tailback Jurasin has 160 of the Wildcats' 225 carries, 642 of the team's 723 rushing yards and five of the team's eight rushing touchdowns…junior wide receiver Marcus Tucker averages 18.8 yards per catch and has a team-high four receiving touchdowns, and is averaging 27.9 yards on 21 kickoff returns…junior wide receiver Austin Young averages 16.4 yards on 18 punt returns…senior defensive lineman Trever Kruzel leads the team in sacks (5½) and tackles for loss (10½)…sophomore linebacker Dalton Stenberg has a team-high 52 total tackles, and also has posted two sacks and four tackles for loss…freshman kicker Ryan Laberge is 18-for-18 on extra points and 8-of-11 on field goals.
"They're scary. They really are. They are in every game," Owens said. "They played (Michigan) Tech right until the end. They could easily be 5-2. They're a much-improved football team."
In Week 9, the Eagles will head back on the road for a key game against Grand Valley State. The matchup from Allendale, Mich., will take place on Saturday, November 1, at 7 p.m.
FB / DS