First Look – #14 Lakers at #3 Eagles To Start Playoffs

First Look – #14 Lakers at #3 Eagles To Start Playoffs

The public has been reminded of late that the 1980s rock band Europe enjoys "The Final Countdown."

The final countdown to Saturday's (Nov. 21) noon kickoff between No. 3 Ashland University (10-0) and No. 14 Grand Valley State (9-2) at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field in an NCAA Division II Super Region 4 quarterfinal won't be for a few days, but the anticipation already has begun.

Saturday's game will mark the second time in three weeks the Eagles and Lakers will face off. On Oct. 31 on Broad Street, Ashland defeated Grand Valley State, 45-31, in a game which featured 76 points and 985 yards of offense.

Here is a breakdown of matchups in Saturday's rematch:

ASHLAND'S OFFENSE VS. GRAND VALLEY STATE'S DEFENSE – The Eagles rank second in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in total offense (495.7 ypg.) and scoring offense (40.7 ppg.), and are third in passing yards per game (292.0) and rushing yards per game (203.7).

The Lakers are seventh in the GLIAC in scoring defense (27.2 ppg.) and 11th in total defense (407.5 ypg.). GVSU is third in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (127.4) and first in sacks (38), but 15th in passing yards allowed per game (280.2).

AU sophomore quarterback Travis Tarnowski finished the regular season fifth in the GLIAC in passing yards (2,845) and passing touchdowns (27) and sixth in completion percentage (63.3). Junior tailback Vance Settlemire led the conference in regular-season yards per carry (6.3), and was fifth in rushing TDs (12) and rushing yards (1,058).

Sophomore tight end Adam Shaheen was tied for fifth in the league in receptions (62) and fourth in touchdown receptions (10). His reception total leads all NCAA tight ends at all levels.

GVSU senior defensive lineman Matt Judon paced the GLIAC in regular-season sacks with 18, almost twice as many as the second-place showing. Judon also is second in the conference with 19 tackles for loss and is tied for first with three forced fumbles.

Laker sophomore defensive back Tre Walton is tied for second in the GLIAC with four interceptions.

GRAND VALLEY STATE'S OFFENSE VS. ASHLAND'S DEFENSE – The Eagle defense is third in the conference in scoring defense (22.8 ppg.) and fourth in total defense (358.8 ypg.). AU is fourth in rushing yards allowed per game (127.5), eighth in passing yards allowed per game (231.3) and first in interceptions (15).

The Laker offense is third in the conference at 39.1 points per game and fourth at 457.0 total yards of offense per contest. GVSU is fourth in the league in passing yards per game (286.9) and ninth in rushing yards per game (170.1).

Ashland's defensive success has been a group effort. The Eagles' 60 tackles for loss have come from 20 players (junior inside linebacker Zach Olszewski leads with nine), their 20 sacks are from 14 players (senior defensive tackle Tim Lehr leads with 4½) and their 15 picks have come from nine players (team-leading three each from senior rover Donzale Ashley and sophomore cornerback Dale Irby).

Laker sophomore quarterback Bart Williams is third in the GLIAC with 3,124 passing yards and first with 35 touchdown passes. Junior wide receiver Matt Williams' 847 receiving yards are fifth in the conference, and his 13 touchdown grabs are second. Senior tight end/wide receiver Jamie Potts is third in the league with 12 touchdown catches.

SPECIAL TEAMS – Ashland has the conference's top punter in junior Austin Bruns (45.5-yard average), who also is a passing/running threat as a quarterback and serves as the Eagles' backup tight end. Sophomore kicker Aidan Simenc has hit 11-of-13 field goals and 48-of-51 extra points, and has eight touchbacks on kickoffs.

Irby is second in the GLIAC in kickoff-return average (26.7), and also averages 7.4 yards per punt return. The Eagles lead the conference in team kickoff-return average at 23.8 and gross punting average.

Grand Valley State is second in the GLIAC in team punt-return average (15.6), and Matt Williams is second individually with that average. Junior kicker Joel Schipper is 12-for-13 on field goals and 52-for-54 on PATs.