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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Eagles open season with revenge outing against IUP

The Eagles fell to the Crimson Hawks in the second round of the 2022 NCAA Division II Postseason Tournament
The Collegian
The Eagles and Crimson Hawks take on one another in the second round of the playoffs.

The Ashland University football team is preparing for an exciting opening contest to begin the 2023 fall season.

The Eagles, who have been in training camp since the start of August, have a specific date circled on their calendar ahead of the coming season. That date would be Thursday, August 31, as they prepare to take on Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) on the road at George P. Miller Stadium.

“Are we using last year’s playoff loss as motivation? If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human,” said Eagle Head Coach Doug Geiser. “However, that is not our only motivation. We’re really competing against ourselves. Can we play a perfect game? That is the ultimate goal we set for ourselves.”

In preparation for the outing, the Eagles are looking to follow the mindset that Geiser has had in place since he took over the team just eight months ago after the 2022 season ended.

“We always want to do three things heading into every game: play hard, play smart, and play together,” he said. “We expect to compete every single play, maximize our potential, and play a ‘clean’ game.”

The Eagles will most certainly look to continue clean play as last season that was no issue for the team offensively.

As a whole, they finished with just five fumbles lost and 10 interceptions through 12 games played. The team’s offensive consistencies directly resulted in wins for the team as even in close games, they executed at a high degree.

Coming into this season, one big change will be at the quarterback position as the team is now without former star Austin Brenner due to graduation. Brenner was one of the Eagles top leaders on the field, manning the offense and the locker room.

Without him, the reigns will be turned over to a new quarterback, with the likes of Trevor Byzcinski, Trent Maddox and Cameron Blair battling for the starting role as they look to keep the program at a high level of competitiveness.

“Leadership from the quarterback position especially is important,” said Maddox. “Ultimately the team goes how the quarterback goes. I’m confident that no matter who plays on Saturdays we will play a guy who is a great leader and cares a ton about his team.”

In the 2022 season, five of the teams 12 games ended with the Eagles scoring 28 points or less, with the team winning four of those five. Both of the team’s NCAA Division II Postseason Tournament outings were close knit with the Eagles winning by seven against Notre Dame, and losing by six to IUP.

This year, they look to get rid of any sort of offensive mistakes, even if they rarely happen.

“The biggest thing we’re looking to change is the elimination of self-inflicted wounds,” said Geiser. “Mistakes we committed in last year’s game directly led to a 14-point swing in their favor. You cannot make those type of mistakes when you’re playing a perennial top 10 team, especially on their home turf.”

On the defensive side of things, the Eagles will be looking towards the defense to replicate its impressive 2022 season.

They ranked within the top 25 in multiple categories throughout the D-II scene, with notable ones being 20th in defensive passing efficiency, 16th in passing yards allowed, ninth in scoring defense and ninth in total defense.

Those numbers were heavily influenced by the likes of, now-former Eagles, linebacker Michael Ayers, linebacker Jordan Mosley, safety Justin Moore, safety Jourdan Swett, defensive tackle Nick Cone and parted ways with the program.

However, even though they lost a great deal of stars on the defensive side, they kept around a lot of locker room leaders who are looking to deploy this team to new heights, one of which being linebacker Jackson Myers.

“We have guys who have stepped into the roles of the ones who have left,” said Myers. “That just means we need to become better each and every day so we can become the best defense in 2023.”

In the 2022 season Myers finished with 75 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits and one sack. His 75 tackle statline was good enough for second on the team.

“I think defensively we are a unique group,” said Myers. “Yes, I call the defense and get us set up, but I do my 1/11th just as everyone else does too. I think this year is going to be a year where I have to voice out more than I ever have and that’s fine with me because I know that’s what Coach Rose would want.”

Fortunately for the Eagles, even with the loss of important pieces, Geiser believes the defense has risen to the occasion during the preseason and offseason.

“The group that stood out the most this spring was probably the defensive line,” he said. “We lost a tremendous player in Nick Cone, but we have everyone else back in the 2-deep at defensive tackle and at defensive end. They definitely played like an experienced and accomplished group this offseason. They routinely dominated the line of scrimmage during our practices and scrimmages.”

While he acknowledges the team lost a large variety of players, he named a few that he was looking to see standout performances from.

“We return a number of All-GMAC performers who have all stepped up their games heading into this season,” he said. “I’m especially excited to see Collin Strong & Kristian Gehrisch up front, Jackson Myers at LB, and Devin Prude at CB.”

Against a team like IUP, having relentless pressure on the opposing quarterback has been a focus. When the two sides went toe-to-toe last season, the Eagles’ defense forced two interceptions, a 50% completion percentage and got into the backfield once for a sack.

“While playing the perfect game might be tough to attain, if we fall short we hope to hit excellence along the way,” said Geiser. “If we can do that, we’ll be satisfied with our performance.”

The Eagles and Crimson Hawks will take on one another at George P. Miller Stadium in Indiana, Pennsylvania on Thursday, August 31, 7 p.m. to open up non-conference play.

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