Strong All-Around Effort Gives No. 6 Eagles Opening Win

Strong All-Around Effort Gives No. 6 Eagles Opening Win


THE TURNING POINT: The Eagles marched 95 yards in 10 plays to open the scoring with 8:31 left in the first quarter, and never looked back.

STAT OF THE GAME: Ashland pitched a shutout for the first time since Nov. 10, 2012, and for the first time in a season-opener since 1990.

Ashland University's football team won its 13th consecutive regular-season game at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field on Thursday (Sept. 1) night – and it did so with contributions from nearly every player who dressed.

The Eagles, ranked No. 6 in NCAA Division II, opened the 2016 season in convincing fashion, defeating Mercyhurst at home, 48-0. It is the largest margin of victory in a lid-lifter in the near-century-long history of the Ashland football program.

"Everything we wanted to work on, we were able to," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens. "To be able to accomplish all those things and still get out of it without anybody getting hurt, it's a win across the board."

Ashland's "D" put up some impressive individual and team numbers. AU kept the Lakers to seven yards rushing and 188 yards of total offense, while racking up 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, six pass breakups and eight quarterback hurries.

Junior defensive end Austin Utter recorded the first two sacks of his career, to go along with two hurries and a pass deflection, while senior inside linebacker Zach Olszewski led Ashland in total tackles with six.

Of Utter, a former linebacker, Owens said, "Moving him down there has really helped him. He got a little bigger, a little stronger…he just gets off so quick. His takeoff is amazing."

The Eagle offense posted 590 yards in all, 320 of those on the ground. Of its seven touchdown drives, Ashland went at least 73 yards in five of them (95, 73, 76, 99 and 80).

Senior tailback Vance Settlemire ran 13 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and added another score in the air. Dating back to the end of the 2015 season, Settlemire has scored at least one touchdown in six straight games, has a total of 15 touchdowns in that span and has scored 37 career touchdowns – third-most in program history.

Junior quarterback Travis Tarnowski was 20-for-28 for 226 yards and three touchdowns in just one half of play. Junior tight end Adam Shaheen needed just 30 minutes to catch seven passes for 89 yards, while redshirt freshman tailback Luke Ogi took his first collegiate carry 75 yards for a score in the fourth quarter.

Ashland also was 11-of-14 on third-down conversions and 4-for-4 in red-zone scoring chances.

"We work hard on our third downs every day," Owens said, "and the quarterbacks have a lot to do with that, because they have to make the good reads and good checks and get us into the right play. We ran for a bunch of those first downs."

UP NEXT: Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. against Wayne State at home, as part of Bill Royce Recognition Weekend.