It should come as no surprise if the maintenance crew and physical plant at Northern Michigan were a little bit upset with the AU football team on Saturday (Sept. 22). For much of the afternoon, the Eagles sucked the air out of NMU's Superior Dome and that can be a cause for concern when playing indoors.
After the Northern Michigan Wildcats scored on their first offensive play to take a 7-0 lead, the Eagles scored the game's next 42 points. The Superior Dome roof stayed intact, but as for the Wildcats (1-3/0-3 GLIAC), this was certainly a case of the roof caving in on them. Ashland, ranked 17th in the nation, ended up with a 42-13 victory. The Eagles are 4-0 for the first time since the 1991 season. In conference play AU is 3-0.
Give the Wildcats some credit, however. They came out and stunned the highly-regarded Eagles. On their first play, the Wildcats used a flea-flicker to produce a 77-yard touchdown pass, wide receiver Julian Gaines hauling in the throw from quarterback Ryan Morley. At that point, the Eagles were reeling a bit. The Superior Dome has not been a friendly port for Ashland – entering the game Ashland was 5-5 at this venue. This series has seen some rapid reversals in Marquette, Mich., and many of those have not gone Ashland's way.
What AU did next was what good teams do on the road in a hostile environment when it looks like the deck is stacked against it. Ashland took the crowd out of the game.
AU methodically pounded away at the 'Cats. By halftime the Eagles had a 28-7 lead and every drive was a long one.
With 10:30 left in the first quarter, the Eagles completed a nine-play, 69-yard march that lasted 4:07 and ended with quarterback Taylor Housewright (Ashland, Ohio) finding freshman fullback Steve Nagy (Hudson, Ohio) with a 3-yard scoring pass. Cameron Casey's (Rochester, Mich./Adams) extra point made it a 7-7 game. Nagy has a team-high six touchdowns (four receiving, two rushing) this season.
Moments later, Housewright connected with sophomore wide receiver Alex Weber (Ada, Ohio) on a 22-yard scoring pass. That finished off an 11-play, 61-yard journey that took 4:37. The score came with 3:47 to play in the first quarter.
With 6:29 left in the first half, the Eagles went 82 yards on 16 plays and drained 7:37 off the clock. Sophomore tailback Jordan McCune (Bellville, Ohio/Clear Fork) capped that possession with a 2-yard scoring run for a 21-7 advantage.
Finally, with 43 seconds left before halftime, a 10-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 3:31 culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore tailback Anthony Taylor (Arlington, Va./Washington-Lee). While Taylor put the ball into the end zone, much of this drive was fueled by junior Brian Gamble (Massillon, Ohio/Illinois). Gamble's primary position is defensive back, but he's liable to show up anywhere at this point. In this drive, he lined up at wide receiver and had four catches for 63 yards. Gamble is also AU's backup long snapper.
At halftime, Ashland had run up a 49-14 edge in plays, had outgained the home team, 299-96 and led in time of possession 21:06-8:54.
The Eagles added two more scores in the third quarter. Housewright found sophomore wide receiver Eric Thompkins (Canton, Ohio/South) with a 15-yard touchdown pass and senior wide receiver Anthony Capasso (Columbia Station, Ohio/St. Edward) with an 18-yard touchdown pass. Housewright finished 23-of-29 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns. He didn't play after the six-minute mark of the third quarter.
This is the second consecutive week Housewright has thrown four touchdown passes. On the year, he's completed 83-of-121 passes (68.6 percent) for 1,091 yards with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Taylor narrowly missed the second 100-yard rushing day of his career, he had 98 yards on 18 carries. Ten different AU players caught at least one pass.
For the game, AU led in total yardage, 453-238. The Eagles were 15-of-18 (83.3 percent) on third down and scored on all five of their trips into the red zone.
Northern Michigan was led by tailback Prince Young, who rushed for 81 yards on 21 carries and Gaines, who caught five passes for 97 yards. Morley completed 15-of-24 passes for 164 yards with two touchdowns. The Eagles sacked him three times. NMU didn't have a turnover or a penalty.
Ashland returns home next Saturday (Sept. 29, 7 p.m.) for a GLIAC game against Lake Erie.