MIDLAND, Mich. – Going into the fourth quarter on Saturday (Sept. 28) at Hantz Football Stadium, the odds of Ashland University's football team earning all-time win No. 500 weren't great, trailing 20-10.
Three touchdown runs by freshman tailback Gei'vonni Washington and three Eagle takeaways in the final 15 minutes led to that 500th victory, 31-28, over Northwood on Homecoming on Saturday. Ashland improves to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2019, while the Timberwolves are 0-4, 0-2.
"The guys showed a lot of heart today," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens. "The tradition we have here, never giving up at the end, expecting to win, that's all part of our tradition. That's why we have 500 victories. All the players who have come before here, all the coaches that have come before here, that's how we've always played.
"It's probably a good thing it was a game like this, because it exemplifies the program and the tradition of the program. You don't lose your poise, you don't lose your composure. I'm proud of the guys and the way they played."
Ashland becomes the 31st NCAA Division II football program to win 500 games.
THE MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
- Northwood got on the board first thanks to a 47-yard field goal from kicker Parker Blust on the Timberwolves' first possession. That capped a drive which took 6:07 off the first-quarter clock.
- Following a fumble on the ensuing kickoff which Northwood recovered, the T'Wolves erased another four minutes, but Blust's 33-yard attempt was blocked by senior stud Tristan Reichelderfer.
- To start the second quarter, Ashland chewed up 78 yards and 5:16 of clock on 10 plays, and took a 7-3 lead when sophomore quarterback Austin Brenner found junior fullback Hunter Williams for a two-yard touchdown pass. It was Williams' first career touchdown as an Eagle.
- Northwood didn't waste any time coming back to regain the advantage, going ahead 10-7 on the ensuing drive following a 22-yard scoring strike from quarterback Joe Garbarino to wide receiver Alex Spicuzzi. That major finished off a 12-play, 73-yard drive which took up 5:55.
- In the hurry-up offense to end the first half, the Eagles cashed in when junior kicker Satchel Denton's 41-yard field-goal attempt split the sticks for a 10-all tie. In the even more hurried-up offense to end the half, the Timberwolves set up a 37-yard Blust field-goal try, which was good to give Northwood a 13-10 lead going to the locker room.
- Northwood made it 10 straight points on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, when Garbarino hit junior wide receiver Christian Martinez in stride for a 48-yard touchdown pass and a 20-10 advantage.
- Ashland's defense halted a potential Timberwolves scoring drive with a fourth-down stop inside the NU 10-yard line, and with 2:17 left in the third quarter, the Eagles still trailed by 10 points. Washington brought AU to within 20-17 with 11:50 left in regulation when he scampered into the end zone on a 30-yard touchdown run, his first as an Eagle.
- Then, following junior safety Jason Harrison's second interception of 2019 just 43 seconds later, Ashland had the ball on its own 44. Washington's second touchdown of the quarter, a one-yarder, put Ashland back in front at 24-20 with 7:14 left in the fourth.
- Redshirt freshman cornerback Jourdan Swett recovered a Northwood fumble at the Timberwolves' 39 for Ashland's second consecutive takeaway, setting up Washington's third rushing score of the fourth and giving the Eagles a 31-20 advantage with 2:08 to play.
- Northwood stopped Ashland's momentum with a touchdown drive of its own which took just 61 seconds, and was finished off by Garbarino's one-yard touchdown pass to slotback Tajae Leslie. Garbarino then ran in for the two-point conversion, leaving the Eagles' lead at 31-28 with 67 ticks left on the fourth-quarter clock.
- The swings in the game continued to go the Timberwolves' way, as the ensuing onside kick was recovered by Northwood, leaving them 54 yards away from the winning touchdown. Harrison, however, ended the game with 52 seconds left with his second pick of the quarter.
- Washington finished with his first 100-yard rushing game in college, toting the ball 30 times for 125 yards and the three scores.
"It feels good for me to be able to contribute to my team winning today," Washington said. "In my head, I knew I could handle it, no matter how many times we wanted to run the football."
"We were able to pound it and pound it and pound it, and, hopefully, it starts to wear them down," Owens said. "We've got to continue to do that."
- With three takeaways on Saturday, Ashland's defense now has nine in the first four games of the season – after having 13 in all of 2018.
"We definitely struggled in the first half," Harrison said. "Coming out in the second half, we just made big plays and made it happen."
- The Eagles' 228 rushing yards are a season-high, as are the 49 rushing attempts.
"It's something we made a commitment to," Owens said. "It helped our play-action game."
- Ashland's first 13 offensive plays ended up as rushes. The Eagles' first pass attempt came inside of the 11-minute mark of the second quarter, a 43-yard pass from Brenner to junior wide receiver Logan Bolin.