Eagles survive at Ferris State and look ahead to Tiffin

Noah Cloonan

It was not easy, but the Ashland University Eagles (4-0, 3-0) used 25 unanswered points to take down the Ferris State Bulldogs 39-31 on their own turf.

Ferris State came into the game having won 28 straight regular season games, but that came to an end on Saturday. The Eagles shot out of the gate and raced out to a 14-3 lead early in the first quarter.

Ferris State responded with a run of their own, moving the ball all over the field and pulled out to a 31-14 lead late in the second quarter.

The Eagles tacked on a field goal to end the half to make it a two score game, but they still had a lot of work to do in the second half. Quarterback Travis Tarnowski and the offense got the ball to start the second half and marched right down the field to score and the Eagles never looked back.

Ashland held Ferris State scoreless in the second half as the Eagles overcame the largest road deficit in the Lee Owens era to improve to 4-0 on the season.

This team, whether its been at home a couple times or on the road last week we just don’t flinch,” Owens said, “this team can take a shot and it doesn’t impact us we just keep going and keep fighting through it.”

The Eagle offense continued to shine as they racked up 474 yards of total offense including 350 yards passing from Tarnowski. Adam Shaheen had a big game as he caught seven passes for 152 yards and a touchdown, including a 70-yard touchdown reception, which Lee Owens noted to be the turning point of the game.

Senior tailback Vance Settlemire returned to the field after missing a week due to a shoulder injury. Owens said that he was not at 100 percent but it was crucial to have the veteran back on the field.  

“We needed him, that was by far the most stout run defense we could have seen all year,” Owens said.

The offense exploded in the second half, but it was the defense who locked up the game by shutting out the bulldogs in the second half.

Senior linebacker Brandon Gency led the way for the Eagles as he recorded 15 tackles and stripped the quarterback and ran the fumble back for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make the score 39-31.

The Eagles do not have time to stop and celebrate their victory as they have a very tough task ahead of them, as they will hit the road once again to take on the Tiffin Dragons (2-2, 1-2).

The Dragons are coming off of a 35-21 loss against Wayne State, a team that AU beat earlier in the season. That does not mean the Eagles are taking them lightly, in fact Owens said that they are concerned about this weekend’s game that they may have a letdown after a very emotionally taxing win over Ferris State.

“We got a pretty mature group and we’ve challenged them to stay humble,” Owens said, “We’ve challenged them to not listen to people who tell them how good we are, and that’s dangerous when that starts to happen, particularly when you play a team as good as Tiffin is.”

Tiffin is led by senior quarterback, Antonio Pipkin. Pipkin is another duel threat quarterback, much like Reggie Bell was last weekend at Ferris State.

“[They are] both really athletic guys and they both can pull it down and outrun everybody on the defense,” Owens said. “He is an Explosive runner, a dynamic player with a lot of wide receivers he can throw it to.”

The Eagles secondary will be busy once again as Pipkin has thrown for 843 yards in four games, including 277 a week ago. Daivon Barrow, Michael Griffin and Dale Irby all missed significant minutes in the game against Ferris State, but Owens praised his reserves for stepping into their roles and performing well.

The secondary will not be the only part of the defense that is going to be tested on Saturday, as Pipkin is also the leading rusher on the team averaging 58 yards a game on the ground.

The front seven for the Eagles got picked apart in the first half against Ferris State, but they really clamped down in the second half and shut down the high-powered offense.

AU’s defense has shut out opponents three times this year in the second have as they will look to string that defensive effort out across both halves as they look to improve to 5-0 on the season and increase their two game lead in the GLIAC South.

The No. 5 ranked Eagles will take the field on Oct. 1 as they will play at Tiffin before heading home the following weekend for a homecoming matchup against Northwood.