Football to make first road trip of 2016

Noah Cloonan

If the Eagles had a game circled on their calendar from the beginning of the season it would be this weekends game against the Ferris State Bulldogs (3-0, 3-0).

This is the game that could determine the rest of the season for the Eagles, as they will travel up to Big Rapids, Mich. for their first road game of the season against the seventh ranked Bulldogs. 

The Bulldogs are the defending Co-GLIAC champs along with the Ashland Eagles (3-0, 2-0) and are unbeaten to start of the 2016 season. Ferris State exploded in their first game of the season against Ohio Dominican and defeated the Panthers 41-0. They then took to the road and played two tough games against Michigan Tech and Northwood in which they won both of those within the final 30 seconds of play.

“The team that we are going to see is the team that beat the stuffing out of ODU in the first game,” Head Coach Lee Owens said. “That’s the one we have studied because they were on a mission and they played fast and executed to perfection and we expect to see that same team.”

The Bulldogs have won 28 consecutive regular season games and boast an offense that averages over 465 yards per game. They will be up against an Eagle defense that is on fire and playing their best football yet.  

“I think we run to the ball better than any defensive team we have coached here in recent memory,” Owens said. “I mean we got 11 guys around the ball every snap.”

It’s been 25 years since AU has given up this little number of points through three games. They have not forced many turnovers, but have only allowed 284 yards per game against some high-powered offenses. 

Through three games the Eagle defense has seven players with more than ten tackles, Zach Olszewski leads the way with 26, and as a team the defense has eight sacks. 

On the flip side the Eagles offense has torn opponents apart, scoring at least 35 points in their first three games. They are averaging over 552 yards per game on offense. 

Travis Tarnowski has continued to impress with 826 yards passing and eight touchdowns so far. His favorite target, Adam Shaheen, has proved why he is getting many looks from NFL scouts as he has 18 catches for 275 yards and three touchdowns.

Owens realizes that no corner in the league is going to be able to cover Shaheen one-on-one and has continued to put him in favorable matchups against much smaller cornerbacks. Against Findlay, Shaheen, reached the endzone twice as he helped the Eagles recover from a slow start and cruise to a 35-3 win over the Oilers. 

Vance Settlemire did not play against the Oilers as he is still dealing with a shoulder injury from week two. The Eagles offense did not skip a beat as they ran for over 200 yards once again. 

The running attack was led by freshman Keishaun Sims, who in his first game as the featured back, rushed for 109 yards as he eclipsed the century mark for the second week in a row.  

“His ability to see the hole, and it doesn’t have to a very big hole, and then to burst through that hole and stay on his feet and always finish going forward is pretty unique,” Owens said. “When he gets rolling, he is fast. There are times that it looks like he’s shot out of a cannon.”

Andrew Vaughn and Cameron Barker, the backup fullback, added touchdowns from the ground for the Eagles. Owens hopes that Settlemire will be ready to play this weekend, as it will be important to have a veteran back to block against the aggressive Ferris defense. 

The Eagles are going to need to hang onto the ball this weekend as they have coughed it up five times in the first three weeks. 

Owens said that the coaching staff was going to spend at least 30 minutes a day, this week, working on ball security.

“You can’t be more motivated than we are,” Owens said. “You know they’re going to be fired up and ready to play, but so are our guys I mean this is everything for us. This is a game you had to look forward to as you looked at our schedule you just had to believe this would be the first big test.”

The top-ten matchup will be the nationally televised as the Division II game of the week by the American Sports Network.

“I really expect a fired up, emotional game on both sidelines,” Owens said. “The good thing is, we’ve got a veteran group, and they’ve got a veteran group so I’d be shocked if its not a well played game. I’d be shocked if it doesn’t come down to who makes a play at the end.”