Story and photo courtesy of Ashland Athletics
ADT Security brags about its 24/7 monitoring system and its fast alarm response. It specializes in intrusion detection.
AU "D" Security can boast about a 100-yard surveillance system, five alarm recognition and intrusion dejection.
Saturday night (Sept. 8) at AU's Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field the Eagle defense locked down its side of the field in a 7-0 win over fifth-ranked Wayne State. The victory was AU's second over a Warrior team that was ranked in the nation's Top 10 (a year ago Ashland knocked off the Warriors went they were ranked sixth, 20-17). This is the highest ranked team the Eagles have beaten since a 26-7 victory at fourth-ranked Ferris State in 1997. The win came in front of 4,620 fans, the second largest crowd in the facility's history.
The Eagles (2-0) did everything short of throw up an electric fence in posting their first shutout since a 49-0 win over Tiffin in 2010 (19 games ago).
AU limited the Warriors to 76 rushing yards in 37 attempts, an average of 2.1 ypc. AU had four sacks (22 yards) and eight tackles for loss (35 yards).
WSU quarterback Mickey Mohner completed 10-of-19 passes for 86 yards with two interceptions. One of those picks set up the game's only touchdown.
The Warriors were 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) on third down and went 0-for-2 on fourth down. WSU was 0-for-3 in the red zone and missed three field goals.
In the third quarter, WSU had a first-and-goal at the AU7 and got to the 3 before missing a field goal. On their next series, the Warriors advanced to the AU5 where on fourth-and-3, Mohner, under intense pressure from sophomore linebacker Domi-on Combs (East St. Louis, Ill.), threw incomplete.
"That is as good a defensive effort as I've seen since I've been here," marveled AU head coach Lee Owens. "You don't beat good teams unless you can play good defense. It was fun to watch. I just got caught up in it."
WSU head coach Paul Winters didn't share that perspective.
"We set football back a lot of years," said Winters. "We left a lot of plays on the field, things that carried over from practice. They have a very good defense and they forced a lot of those mistakes."
The game's only touchdown came off a WSU miscue. Mohner was intercepted on the first two WSU drives. The first pick, by junior defensive back Brian Gamble (Massillon, Ohio/Illinois), came at the WSU7. That set up a 4-yard scoring pass from quarterback Taylor Housewright (Ashland, Ohio) to sophomore tailback Jordan McCune (Bellville, Ohio/Clear Fork) on a third-and-goal play. The score came with 7:39 remaining in the first quarter. Freshman Greg Gallaway's (Ashland, Ohio) extra point made it 7-0.
In fairness to Wayne State, its defense doesn't have to apologize for anything. AU rushed for 97 yards and had 278 yards of total offense. The Eagles were 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) on third down. As Owens pointed out after the game, this was the way football used to be played before measures were taken to make the game more entertaining.
"It was fun to see, good, solid football," said Owens. "Wayne State is going to be fine, they'll win a lot of games. We were fortunate to have them here."
A year ago, the Warriors were 8-1 away from home with the only loss coming at Ashland. This was Wayne State's first game in 2012 while the Eagles had one game behind them. That may have played a role in some of WSU's offensive problems. Nevertheless, the Eagles shut down a team that's expected to be one of the best in the country and that should earn them a good deal of respect around the nation.
"All 11 of us are fighters," explained junior defensive lineman Jamie Meder (Parma, Ohio/Valley Forge), who had five tackles and a sack. "Once our backs were against the wall we wouldn't be pushed anymore."
What's impressive about this defense is that it's deep and versatile. Last week, the Eagles quieted an Indianapolis offense that lives by the pass, holding it to 14 points. This week, it derailed a physical, run-oriented offense.
"We want to play fast and play sound," said senior defensive back Tyler McFarlin (Ashland, Ohio). "Stick to the basics and play fast.
"We have a lot of defensive packages," continued McFarlin, who had eight tackles (six solo) and a tackle for loss. "We wanted to try and crowd the line and get ready for their running game. They're going to be physical and they're going to play hard. You have to be ready for that and give it back."
What this defense has is playmakers. Junior linebacker Cody Bloom (Napoleon, Ohio), who was second in the conference in tackles a year ago, had a career-high 16 tackles (13 solo) and a sack. He had an interception a week ago. Combs had seven tackles and a sack for a loss of 10 yards. Sophomore safety Eric Schwieterman (Norwalk, Ohio/St. Paul) had six tackles (four solo), one tackle for loss and an interception.
"The depth we have, about the only guy who has to play all the time is Gamble," remarked Owens.
With two suffocating efforts behind them, this group might be able to begin contemplating if it can become one of the best defensive units in school history. At this game, members of the 1972 team, which held nine teams to nine points or less and didn't allow more than 10 points in a game all season, were honored at halftime. AU players and coaches say it's too early for that talk, or to look too far down the road.
"We don't want to get overconfident and look past people," said Meder. "It's the next practice, the next week."
"It's not backward or forward, it's in the moment," said Owens, whose Eagles are 2-0 for the first time since 2005. "We're going to be so focused on that each week."
Next Saturday brings the first road game of the season, a date at 2-0 Ferris State.