No. 5 Eagles To Host No. 9 Lakers In Key Game Saturday Night

No. 5 Eagles To Host No. 9 Lakers In Key Game Saturday Night

For the full PDF version of the Week 9 game notes, go to


Sights and Sounds

This week's game will be broadcast live on WNCO-AM 1340, with Matt Brubaker handling the play-by-play and Don Graham providing the commentary. The game can be heard at, and also can be accessed on the scoreboard page on the home page of the AU athletics website -

Head coach Lee Owens also can be heard during his weekly appearance on WRDL-FM 88.9's morning show, "The Early Bird's Word," every Thursday at 8 a.m.


Looking Ahead and Behind

The Week 9 contest between Ashland and Grand Valley State has plenty of subplots.

The Eagles are ranked No. 5 in the country, the Lakers No. 9. GVSU is No. 4 in the first Super Region 4 rankings, AU is No. 6 (top seven teams go to the playoffs). Ashland has won eight straight games, Grand Valley State five straight.

A big game on Halloween night? Absolutely.

This is the first Top 10 matchup Ashland has been a part of since the first year of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Top 25 coaches' poll in 2000.

In Week 8, the Eagles needed a Travis Tarnowski-to-Adam Shaheen touchdown pass with seven seconds left to win at Northern Michigan, 41-40.


Last Look At Week Eight

When a play was needed at the end of the Week 8 game at Northern Michigan, the Eagles got one.

Sophomore quarterback Tarnowski found sophomore tight end Shaheen for a 10-yard touchdown pass with seven seconds left in regulation to give Ashland a 41-40 road victory against the Wildcats.

Ashland overcame 26 answered Wildcat points and three second-half turnovers (two interceptions and a turnover on downs) to remain undefeated with two regular-season home games to play in 2015.

Tarnowski was 25-for-41 for 327 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, while Shaheen caught a career-high 11 passes for 125 yards and a score. Junior tailback Vance Settlemire ran 23 times for 162 yards and two scores.

Defensively, junior free safety Terrell Hudson recorded 13 total tackles (10 solo) and 2½ tackles for loss.

Ashland racked up 524 yards of offense, and was 10-of-15 on third downs.

After the Eagle defense forced a punt following a three-and-out on the first series of the game, the AU offense went to work. A seven-play, 67-yard drive was capped off by a 12-yard touchdown run by Settlemire for the game's first points.

Ashland's season-long penchant for long scoring drives continued after forcing another punt. Starting at their own 10-yard line, the Eagles went 90 yards in 11 plays, and increased their lead to 14-0 on another Settlemire touchdown run, this one from 13 yards out.

Early in the second quarter, AU marched a long distance for a third touchdown and a 21-0 advantage. A nine-play, 73-yard drive culminated in a one-yard touchdown by senior tailback Michael Taylor. The Wildcats got on the board shortly thereafter on a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Shaye Brown to wide receiver Austin Young.

The back-and-forth continued on the Eagles' next series. After a 44-yard kickoff return by sophomore cornerback Dale Irby, AU moved the remaining 55 yards in just four plays and scored on a three-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Jordan McCune. Ashland led 28-7 with 7:44 to go until halftime.

Northern Michigan scored for a second consecutive drive on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Brown to wide receiver Keyondre Craig to make it a 28-14 game with 4:15 to go until the break. The Eagles put their lead back to three touchdowns just 16 seconds later when Tarnowski hit redshirt freshman wide receiver Matthew Wilcox for a 53-yard scoring strike.

The Wildcats had the last word in the first half, scoring on a Brown-to-fullback Edward Christian four-yard touchdown pass to make the AU halftime advantage 35-21.

The scoring slowed down for most of the third quarter, but the Wildcats cut their deficit to 11 thanks to a 32-yard Tyler Blackburn field goal with 2:53 left until the final stanza. Then, with five seconds left in the third, running back Terrance Dye scored on a five-yard run, and it was a 35-31 AU advantage going into the final quarter.

A 38-yard Blackburn field goal cut the Wildcat deficit to 35-34 with 8:24 to go in regulation. Then, with 3:39 left in the fourth, Northern Michigan running back Jake Mayon scored on a 16-yard run, and while the two-point conversion failed, the Eagles trailed for the first time, 40-35 - setting up the late-game heroics.


Ashland-Grand Valley State

This will be the 20th all-time meeting between the Eagles and the Lakers, all coming since 1990, when Ashland joined the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference.

"The guys are looking forward to it," said Owens. "We've got so much respect for their program, so much respect for what they've been able to accomplish. Just to be able to compete with them is ultimately what we've hoped to be able to do. They are the program in Division II."

The Eagles' win against the Lakers last season was their first since 1993, and their first on the road since 1992.

Ashland and Grand Valley State are two of the most successful programs in the history of the MIFC/GLIAC - the Lakers having an all-time winning percentage of .791 (best in league history) and 18 league titles, and the Eagles having a cumulative winning percentage of .629 (fourth-best in league history) and two league championships.

In the last decade (2006-15), the Lakers (80) and the Eagles (70) are the two winningest GLIAC programs in terms of conference-only victories.


Leaders Of The Pack

The 2015 Ashland University football captains are split evenly between offense and defense, and they span across three classes in eligibility.

This year's captains are senior rover Donzale Ashley, senior guard Jon Cipa, junior inside linebacker Brandon Gency and Tarnowski, a sophomore quarterback.


First Set Of Regional Rankings Released

The first NCAA Division II regional football rankings for 2015 were released on Monday (Oct. 26) afternoon, and Ashland University is ranked sixth in Super Region 4.

Seven teams from each of the four super regions will be chosen for the 28-team Division II playoffs. The top seed in each super region will have a first-round bye.

Super Region 4 consists of teams from the GLIAC, Great Lakes Valley Conference, Lone Star Conference and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

The second regional ranking will be Monday, Nov. 2, and the third will be Monday, Nov. 9. Selection for the NCAA Division II postseason will be Sunday, Nov. 15, and first-round games will be played on Saturday, Nov. 21.


AU Continues Ascent In Two National Polls

The Eagles moved up to No. 5 in this week's AFCA Division II Coaches' Top 25 poll, released on Monday (Oct. 26).

It is the Eagles' highest ranking in the AFCA poll since November 12, 2012, when they were No. 4 in the country.

Ashland is one of three GLIAC teams in the poll's top 10, along with Ferris State (No. 3) and Grand Valley State (No. 9). The AU-GVSU game is one of two Top 25 matchups in Division II this week, along with No. 12 Colorado School of Mines at No. 19 Colorado Mesa.

Michigan Tech (No. 22) gives the GLIAC four teams in the Top 25 poll.

Five Super Region 4 teams are ranked in the top 10 in the AFCA poll – Ferris State, Colorado State-Pueblo (No. 4), Ashland, Texas A&M-Commerce (No. 8) and Grand Valley State.

In this week's poll, the Eagles are ranked No. 6 in the country.


McCune Getting Closer To AU TD Record

McCune is second in program history with 39 total touchdowns. He has scored four during an injury-plagued 2015 season, and is six shy of former teammate Anthony Taylor's school mark:






Anthony Taylor


Antoine Gaiter


Jordan McCune


Jon Schroder


Donald Church


Ray Bolin


Ray Novotny


Joe Horn


Keith Weaver


J.R. McCoy



Eagles Clutch At The End

The last-second win at Northern Michigan was the sixth time in the Owens era the Eagles have scored in the last minute of regulation or overtime to win a game:






at Northern Michigan

Tarnowski-to-Shaheen TD pass, 7 seconds left


at Walsh

Tarnowski-to-Hoobler TD pass, overtime



Berkshire field goal, no time left



McCune TD run, fourth overtime


at Wayne State

Hart TD run, 38 seconds left


at Gannon

Wellock field goal, overtime


Still Taking The Long Way Home

As their undefeated season continues, the Eagles' offense continues to pile up long scoring drives. Ashland is up to 32 scoring drives of at least 60 yards in eight games:






at Northern Michigan

4 (90, 75, 73, 67)



7 (79, 75, 69, 65, 64, 64, 62)


at Saginaw Valley State

4 (75, 67, 66, 65)


at Malone

3 (85, 74, 65)



5 (92, 75, 72, 61, 61)



3 (94, 80, 71)


at Walsh

2 (82, 75)


at Lake Erie

4 (87, 74, 65, 65)


Gency The Playmaker

Gency leads Ashland in total tackles (66) and solo tackles (40) in 2015. In the last five games, he has recorded 47 total stops (28 solo), 1½ sacks and five tackles for loss.

In his last 16 games, Gency has racked up 121 total tackles (75 solo), four sacks and 12½ tackles for loss.

"He's a dynamic player. Explosive player. Physical player," Owens said. "He's a concern for every coach on the other side. He's a one-man wrecking crew on defense. To have a player at linebacker that physical and that explosive and that dynamic, it's awesome.

"Gency's a guy that, he's a difference-maker."


Eagle Nuggets

- Ashland is one of five Division II football teams undefeated going into Week 9, along with West Georgia (8-0), Northwest Missouri State (8-0), Ferris State (7-0) and Shepherd (7-0).

- Prior to the win at Northern Michigan, the last time the Eagles had a 100-yard rusher, a 300-yard passer and a 100-yard receiver in the same game was Nov. 1, 2014 at Grand Valley State.

- Six Eagles (Shaheen, junior wide receiver Jamie Hence, Settlemire, sophomore wide receivers Stewart Turner and Terrance Burt and Wilcox) have caught 15 or more passes this season, and all six have more than 246 receiving yards in 2015.