AU football midseason review

Noah Cloonan

After losing the season opener, 26-23, to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the Ashland University football team has rattled off four straight wins and finds themselves with a 4-1 record at the halfway point of the 2017 season.

Ashland started the season as an unranked team in the AFCA poll, but their four game winning streak has helped them jump into the top 25 as they hold the No. 18 spot after five weeks of football.

Ashland took now No. 4 IUP down to the wire as Ashland had the go ahead field goal blocked with 1:45 left to play and IUP was able to march down the field and knock the winning field goal through as time expired.

The week one loss put the Eagles in the hole, but they picked up some valuable strength of schedule points that would help them come playoff time.

“This was a little different than last year’s losses because it was to such a good football team,” head coach Lee Owens said. “They are awfully talented, athletic, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them run the table in their league and make a deep run in the playoffs.”

After the loss, Owens said that the team discovered many of the weaknesses that they would need to work on and they certainly corrected those things prior to their week two matchup against Ohio Dominican which was called the “division II battle of Ohio.”

Ashland defended their home turf in a big way against ODU as they dominated the Panthers, 47-21.

The win solidified Ashland’s title of the premier division II football team in the state of Ohio and put the Eagles back on track.

After the big win over ODU, Ashland took their second road trip of the season as they traveled to Northwood.

The Eagles had no problem dismantling the Timberwolves defense as they scored 42 points in the first half as they went on to win 42-14.

The win marked No. 100 in Owen’s career and senior quarterback Travis Tarnowski also became the program’s all-time leading passer (9,482) after throwing for 339 yards and passing Billy Cundiff.

Following the dominant road victory, the Eagles returned home to the friendly confines of Jack Miller Stadium to take on, then No. 2, Ferris State.

The Bulldogs came into the week four matchup with the best offense in the country averaging over 640 yards per game and they left Ashland with just three points on the scoreboard.

Ashland dominated Ferris State in every facet of the game and it showed on the scoreboard as Ashland pushed their regular season home winning streak to 19 games with the 20-3 victory.

Despite Ashland’s home dominance the Eagles would play four of the five games in the middle of the season on the road but they got a bit of a break after the hard fought win over the Bulldogs as they headed to take on winless Davenport.

AU did not take their foot off the gas as their lead quickly swelled to 38-0 and stayed that way until the end.

The win marked the first road shutout for the Eagles in 23 years.

“The grind of the road doesn’t seem to be having the impact on us up to this point,” Owens said. “What I am seeing with this team that I’m most pleased with whether you look at IUP, or you look at Northwood or you look at Davenport is the way we travel, the way its business like demeanor, the focus the day of the game, it’s almost like our guys like getting together traveling together, staying in a hotel together and getting ready to go the next day with very little distraction.”

It was a very successful first half of the season, but Owens said that now is not the time to look back.

“It’s so hard to look back, we are focusing on Northern, I know right now this is back-to-back road trips and it can wear a team out, and it’ll be great to be back home next week,” Owens said. “We are trying to play this thing where it’s a one game season, we are in the championship race, we are in first place with two other teams so every week we play we are playing for the GLIAC championship.”

The second half of the year will not be a cakewalk for the Eagles.

“We are trying to play this thing where it’s a one game season, we are in the championship race, we are in first place with two other teams so every week we play we are playing for the GLIAC championship,” Owens said. “When you present it that way it takes the sting away from an early loss at IUP where we didn’t finish or it takes away a little of the hype from beating Ferris, which we really don’t need right now, you just have to try to stay in the moment.”

Ashland opens up the second half with a trip to Marquette, Michigan to take on the Northern Michigan Wildcats in the Superior Dome.

“The dome’s a really hard place to play,” Owens said. “There’s a humidity factor, there’s a heat factor that you’re not aware of you just don’t even realize how hot it is, how much water or fluid you’re losing how much energy you’re losing during the game and teams get “domed,” in terms of not being able to handle that inside atmosphere that teams aren’t used to playing in.”

From there the season does not let up for the Eagles as they return home on Oct. 14 for the homecoming matchup against Michigan Tech.

Then the Eagles hit the road for back-to-back weeks as they will take on Tiffin and Wayne State.

After the road trip, the Eagles will be back home at Jack Miller Stadium for their second marquee matchup of the year as they will take on Grand Valley State on Nov. 4 before finishing up the season with Saginaw Valley State on Nov. 11.