THE TURNING POINT: With the game tied at 31, Ashland marched 47 yards in 10 plays and won the game on a 29-yard field goal by senior kicker Aidan Simenc.
STAT OF THE GAME: The Eagles have won three of the last four meetings with Grand Valley State.
Ashland University senior kicker Aidan Simenc had a chance to be the hero in his next-to-last regular-season home game at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field.
Simenc didn't waste the opportunity, hitting a 29-yard field goal as time expired on Saturday (Nov. 4) night to give the No. 11-ranked Eagles a 34-31 victory over No. 19-ranked Grand Valley State. Ashland has clinched at least a share of its third Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship (2012, 2015), and the victory moves the Eagles to 9-1 overall and 8-0 in the GLIAC.
"As a kicker, you always dream about that moment," said Simenc. "After IUP, I was a little down. I knew the guys on this team always had my back. Fifth-year senior, I had to step up and make that kick, and I'm just happy it turned out the way it did."
The Lakers are 7-3, 6-2.
Grand Valley State had outscored Ashland 24-7 in a quarter-and-a-half span in the second half to knot the game at 31 prior to the Eagles' game-winning drive.
Kicking off from the 20-yard line following a personal foul, the Lakers gave up a 31-yard kickoff return to Ashland senior cornerback Dale Irby. Later in the drive, the Eagles made their only fourth-down conversion of the game when junior fullback Mack Mikulski got the yard he needed to move the chains.
Ashland got a first down on a three-yard run by junior tailback Andrew Vaughn, and a facemask on the play put the Eagles at the Laker 13-yard line with 45 seconds to play.
Three plays later, Simenc split the uprights for Ashland's ninth straight win and 21st in a row at home in the regular season.
"The field position really helped us," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens. "It put us in a position where we knew we needed about four first downs to win the game. We went back to the things that were working for us, and our guys executed. You have a fifth-year senior quarterback and a fifth-year senior kicker, you feel pretty good about having a chance to win the thing at the end.
"I'm awfully proud of our guys."
Vaughn ran for 161 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on 23 carries. It was his fourth consecutive 100-yard game and sixth of the season, and his third game in a row with at least 150 yards and two scores on the ground.
On defense, the Eagles were paced by junior safety Isaiah Stiverson, who has eight total tackles; senior stud Austin Utter, who collected four total tackles, 2½ tackles for loss and a sack; and senior cornerback Michael Griffin, who broke up four passes and made two total tackles.
"We didn't lose faith in each other," Utter said, "faith in the guys running the ball, faith in the guys trying to stop the offense. We did what we had to do, and we got the job done."
Simenc hit all four extra points and both field goals, a career-long 43-yarder and the game-winner, while Irby ran back three kickoffs for 65 yards and three punts for 62 yards.
UP NEXT: Senior Day, Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field vs. Saginaw Valley State (5-5, 3-5).