There are wins, and then there is the type of win Ashland University's football team earned on Saturday (Sept. 19) night in the 2015 home opener against Ohio Dominican.
The 19th-ranked Eagles defeated the 17th-ranked Panthers, 27-24, at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field. Ashland is the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference South Division leader at 3-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference (one-half game ahead of next week's home opponent, Findlay), while ODU is 1-2, 1-2.
"It's never easy. That's a good football team. You know they're going to fight until the end," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens.
For the second week in a row, the Eagle defense made the play at the end to spur the team on to victory. In Week 2 at Walsh, it was a stop on fourth down in overtime. Against ODU, it was a pass defensed by senior rover Donzale Ashley with 1:01 to go in the game.
"It feels so good," Ashley said. "I'm still in shock. I was so happy. I just wanted go hug somebody right away. I was looking for Coach O, but I couldn't find him."
Ashland's offense, which struggled for three quarters against the Cavaliers, broke out against the Panthers, scoring four touchdowns and running up 494 total yards. Junior tailback Vance Settlemire ran 25 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns coming off of missing the Walsh game due to injury.
"I was ready. They were all ready to have me back, but I was also nervous, because it's still not completely healthy," Settlemire said. "I think I did alright on it."
Sophomore quarterback Travis Tarnowski was 16-for-27 for 292 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and ran three times for 51 yards. Sophomore tight end Adam Shaheen caught five passes for 52 yards, while sophomore wide receiver Stewart Turner gained 111 yards on just two grabs – making him AU's third different 100-yard receiver this season.
Defensively, senior cornerback James Ester had 12 total tackles (11 solo) and two pass breakups, while Ashley had 12 total stops (six solo) and the key breakup to end the game. Junior nose tackle Brandon Ehlinger had the best game of his collegiate career, racking up six total tackles (three solo), two sacks and four tackles for loss.
Ashland returns home to face Findlay in a battle for first place in the South Division on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.