If history is any guide, Ashland University's football team still has its goals in front of them – despite starting the 2018 season at 0-1.
On Thursday (Aug. 30) night, the No. 15-ranked Eagles lost at home to No. 4 Indiana, Pa., 21-17. Seven times in head coach Lee Owens' 15 seasons, Ashland has lost the season-opener – on the previous six occasions, four ended in winning seasons, and two (2008, 2017) ended in NCAA Division II postseason appearances.
Of the 28 teams which qualified for the 2017 D-II playoffs, 20 entered the tournament with at least one loss. Of those 20, two, including Ashland, lost in the opening week of the season.
"We've got the lesson of last year with a tough loss," said Owens, whose 2017 Eagle team rallied from a 26-23 loss at IUP to start the season to run off 11 straight victories. "It's the same path we've got to try to follow, starting next week with Ohio Dominican."
Said junior inside linebacker Clay Shreve, "We've been in this position before. We'll build upon it. It's over now, just build on it."
Vaughn Back To Form In Pacing Eagle Running Game
In his first game following a late-season injury to end 2017, senior tailback Andrew Vaughn showed he once again could carry the ground load, posting 133 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries against the Crimson Hawks.
"We practiced hard all week, game-planning running," Vaughn said. "Our offensive line responded really well. We were able to get some holes, and we really ran the ball well."
It was Vaughn's 10th career 100-plus-rushing-yards game at Ashland, and those 133 yards are the fourth-most in a game in his college career. In the 11 games in which he has been fully healthy and a starter since the start of 2017, Vaughn has rushed for at least one TD in nine of them (14 touchdowns in total).
Prater Jr. Inches Closer To All-Time AU Record
Tackles for loss have been an official statistic at Ashland since 1999, and with three more stops behind the line of scrimmage for senior defensive end James Prater Jr. in the opener, he has 34 as an Eagle. Prater Jr. trails only Allen Lattimore (38½) and current Cleveland Brown Jamie Meder (35) on Ashland's all-time list…although College Football Hall of Famer Bill Royce did end his career with 71 sacks, before tackles for loss were a separate statistical category.
First Look At The Panthers
Ashland's Week 2 game will be Saturday (Sept. 8) at 7 p.m. at Ohio Dominican (1-0), a 28-23 winner over California, Pa., at home in its 2018 opener. Junior quarterback Shane Bucenell was 20-for-26 for 299 yards and three touchdowns in the victory, while senior linebacker Ross Thompson posted 15 total tackles, 1 1/2 tackles for loss and an interception.
The Panthers were ranked No. 23 in the 2018 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Preseason Division II Coaches' Poll.
The Eagles and Panthers played their first game as non-conference rivals last season, with Ashland coming out on top at home, 47-21.