Football Breakdown – The Defense Rises Up Again

Football Breakdown – The Defense Rises Up Again


In 2018, the statistics which jump off the page for Ashland University's football team have come from the defensive side of the ball.

On Saturday (Oct. 20) afternoon, in a 27-7 win over Michigan Tech at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field, the starting Eagle defense played in eight Huskies offensive series, and accomplished the following:

- Allowed no points.

- Allowed 88 total yards, and no more than 29 in any drive.

- Ended Michigan Tech drives on a punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, interception, punt and punt.

"We kept pressure on their quarterback, which we've done all year long," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens of a unit which has 18 sacks in seven games. "Our coverage keeps getting better and better (and) we took the run away."

Said senior defensive end James Prater Jr., who had two sacks to give him the second-most in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference this season at 6½, "I think we played well overall. It's a good feeling overall for our defense going into next week and the rest of the season."

In five of seven games in 2018, Ashland's defense has kept opponents to 94 rushing yards or less; in three games, the Eagles have allowed 202 total yards or less. Ashland has given up a total of two rushing touchdowns this season, and an average of just 2.9 yards per rushing attempt.



Junior tailback Luke Ogi continues to be prepared for when his name is called.

On Saturday, Ogi recorded his first 100-yard rushing game as an Eagle, gaining 105 yards and scoring a touchdown on 15 carries.

"I had to step up coming into this game," said Ogi, who is used to stepping up in a big spot. In the home NCAA Division II postseason opener against Northwest Missouri State last season, a 21-18 victory, Ogi ran for 82 yards on 26 totes in less-than-ideal weather conditions.

Ogi is averaging 5.2 yards per carry in his AU career, and has rushed for 13 touchdowns on 174 career carries – a rate of a TD every 13.4 carries. In 2018, his six rushing scores are tied for sixth in the GLIAC – despite having the 21st-most carries in the conference at 66.



As the leaves have changed colors and started to fall to the ground, the Eagles have done a better job of keeping the referees' yellow flags from dropping to the turf.

In the last three games – a near fourth-quarter rally at Ferris State and back-to-back home wins vs. Saginaw Valley State and Michigan Tech – Ashland has had just 10 accepted penalties for 100 yards.

The stretch is reminiscent of recent seasons, when the Eagles had the fourth-fewest penalties per game in D-II in 2017 (3.77), the second-fewest per game in the country in 2016 (3.45), and the fifth-fewest per contest in the nation in 2015 (3.91).



While Ashland still is in the hunt for the 2018 GLIAC title at 4-3 overall and 4-1 in the league, Davenport continues to be one of the top stories in the country this fall at 6-2, 3-2. In just their third season of existence, the Panthers have gone from five wins in 2016 to one win in 2017 to six victories this year in their second year of GLIAC competition.

Saturday's (Oct. 27) noon game in Grand Rapids, Mich., will feature two of the conference's top defenses – Davenport is No. 1 in the league in total defense (227.8 ypg.) and rushing defense (88.5 ypg.), while Ashland is No. 2 in those categories at 257.4 ypg. and 97.9 ypg., respectively.