It was a win. Just like the other nine.
But not really.
Ashland University's football team, ranked No. 5 in Division II and already having won a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference South Division championship, earned an undefeated regular season for the second time in four years with a 40-14 win on Saturday (Nov. 7) afternoon against No. 22 Michigan Tech at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field.
"I'm just really proud of this football team," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens of the Senior Day victory. "I'm just awfully proud of that senior group. That's ultimately what it was all about, finishing the regular season the right way. It was against a nationally-ranked football team.
"Our guys just played really well. We played at a high level today."
The Eagles improved to 10-0 overall and in the GLIAC, clinched at least a share of their second GLIAC championship and set a new program record for most consecutive home victories with 12.
"We've got a pretty nice place to play," Owens said. "Great support between the students and the alumni. They've really been behind this football team. And I'm honored to have a chance to coach these guys."
Ashland's four-year total of 34 wins is the most in any four-season period in program history.
Sophomore quarterback Travis Tarnowski was 24-for-34 for 283 yards and four touchdowns, completing passes to 10 different receivers. He finishes the regular season with 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, and is on the verge of his first 3,000-yard passing season (2,845).
"End of one season, start of another," Tarnowski said. "We're excited for what comes here in the next couple weeks. Those guys (the receivers) have played great. We wouldn't have that if it wasn't for all the other guys stepping up and playing the way they've been playing.
"It's good to see going forward."
Sophomore tight end Adam Shaheen grabbed five passes for 66 yards and a score, and continues to lead all NCAA tight ends in receptions with 62. That mark also is the best in program history for a tight end in a single season.
"It feels great," Shaheen said. "There's no feeling to describe working in the summer, winter, spring, and then coming out here and finishing (the regular season) undefeated and getting that conference championship.
"We were pretty good in the spring, and I'm just glad that we could put it all together and get 10 wins."
The Eagle defense forced five Huskies turnovers, and the first-team defense kept Tech to just seven points. Junior inside linebacker Brandon Gency turned in a career game with 17 total tackles (eight solo), two tackles for loss and an interception, fellow junior inside linebacker Zach Olszewski had nine total stops and a fumble recovery and senior rover Donzale Ashley added five total tackles, two interceptions and a pass breakup.
AU was plus-4 in turnovers on Saturday, leaving its turnover margin for the season at plus-8.
After Ashland and Michigan Tech traded touchdowns to start the game, the Eagles took the lead for good when Tarnowski found junior tailback Vance Settlemire for a seven-yard touchdown pass with 1:54 left in the opening quarter.
The Eagles had four more scoring drives of 60 or more yards in Week 10, giving them 42 such drives for the season.
"All year long, we've never panicked," Owens said. "We haven't been behind that often, but when we have, our team would make a run. We'd always answer. That's the sign of a good football team."
Ashland has a bye in Week 11. The Eagles will find out about the first stop in what will be their sixth NCAA Division II playoff appearance - and potentially their third-ever home postseason game - on Sunday, Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. when the selection show will be on NCAA.com.
EAGLE NUGGETS: Settlemire ran for 79 yards, giving him 1,058 for the season – Ashland's 20th 1,000-yard rushing season all-time…This was Settlemire's third consecutive game with at least two touchdowns, and his 31 career touchdowns put him tied for eighth in Ashland history…Ashland was 11-for-15 on third-down conversions against the Huskies, and is 32-for-46 (69.6 percent) in the last three games.