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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Eagle football falls to IUP, 24-17, in season opener on the road

The reigning Great Midwest Athletic Conference champions struggled to find the endzone
Cade Cracas
The Eagles and Crimson Hawks stand at midfield as they execute the coin-toss to see who receives possession first, and which side of the field they would like to defend.

The Ashland University football team took on Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) on the road, in hopes of starting the season off on a high note.

The two teams took on one another in the second round of the NCAA Division II Postseason Tournament in the 2022 campaign, with the Crimson Hawks coming out on top by a six-point margin, 19-13. However, even with extensive reworks in the offseason, the Eagles were unable to come out on top in the rematch.

A major headline coming into the outing was which player would garner the right to be the successor to former Eagle Austin Brenner, at the starting quarterback position.

After a tight battle, the Eagles named Buffalo transfer Trevor Bycznski as the team’s go-to field general.

In the first quarter of play, the Eagles’ defense would be tested early on as multiple heavy-hitting plays would put the Crimson Hawks in perfect positions to find the opening points of the contest.

On the first possession, the Crimson Hawks were able to connect on a clean pass across the middle, pushing themselves onto the Eagles side of the field. Fortunately for the Eagles, defensive stops on the next three plays led to a punt.

After getting the ball for the first time, the Eagles would go three-and-out with little yardage gained. Bycznski threw one pass on the opening drive attempting to get the ball to wideout Jake Mclaughlin, but his pass would be broken up.

The Crimson Hawks would then get the ball back and march 86 yards down the field in 10 plays to find the first score of the contest.

The points came from quarterback Karst Hunter who shoveled the ball three yards forward to wideout Derek Lockhart who summersaulted his way into the endzone, making the contest 7-0 in favor of the home side.

The very nice drive for the Eagles would be another three-and-out as they failed to gain much yardage.

However, when punting the ball away, Bycznski was able to pin the Crimson Hawks inside the two yard line, setting the defense up with pristine positioning.

While being in a good spot, the Eagles were able to keep the Crimson Hawks at bay and force a punt of their own. As punter Aiden Spilter received the snap, the Eagles broke through the line quickly and got in the backfield in time to block the punt, downing the ball at the one yard line.

This would set the Eagles up in a nice spot offensively. Just two plays later running back Larry Martin would dive into the endzone off a one yard carry, knotting the game back up at seven a piece.

Heading into the second quarter, the two parties continued to struggle to overtake momentum.

The next game-altering moment came as the Eagles took the ball from their own 24-yard line to the Crimson Hawks’ 10-yard line. With an opportunity to take a three point lead the Eagles opted to put the ball at the foot of kicker A.J. Rhodes.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, his 25 yard kick would be missed, setting the Crimson Hawks up with momentum down the stretch of the first half.

After the missed kick they would march all the way down the field from a 74 yard catch and run at the hands of tight end Cole Laney. A play later, Karst would throw a ball across the middle from two yards out to wideout Quinn Zinobile for the score.

That would finish the first half of play with the Crimson Hawks leading 14-7.

As halftime rolled around the Eagles recognized in the second half, consistency had to be a big factor in bringing the contest back around.

“[Bycznski] was kind of inconsistent. It took a little bit to get going in that first half,” said Coach Geiser. “We had a couple drops that would have helped him out early.”

Coming out of the break they started off slow once again as they went three and out.

However, on the next drive the Eagles would then step up on the defensive side of the ball as corner back Devin Prude intercepted a deep throw down the right sideline. Prude would then take it 31 yards down the field, giving the offense another shot at redemption.

The Eagles would then go five plays before turning the ball over on downs, marking another empty possession.

On the following drive for the Crimson Hawks, they marched down the field before attempting a 44 yard field goal, which would be ultimately no good.

With the final quarter of play rolling around the scoreline sat with IUP leading 14-7.

In the fourth, the Eagles were looking to tie back up the contest while having the opening possession. Once again, they struggled to keep the ball in their hands as Bycznski looked for Mclaughlin across the middle before the ball was tipped into the air, landing in the arms of Crimson Hawk defensive back Jaheim Howard.

However, the interception was wiped off the board after a face mask call went against the home team. The Eagles would then run a jet sweep as Bycznski tossed the ball to standout wideout Dezmin Lyburtus who scored, making the contest 14’s.

Both teams would then go on to score field goals, making the contest 17-17 with under four minutes left.

With the ball back, the Eagles would go on to go three-and-out again, giving the ball back to the Crimson Hawks with plenty of time left on the clock.

Through three plays the Crimson Hawk offense gained just 10 yards. Just one play later a wide open Zinobile torched the Eagle defense for a 46 yard score, giving them a 24-17 lead with 1:20 remaining.

The Eagles would then, for throw the game ceiling interception as Mclaughlin could not hold onto the ball across the middle of the field.

“There were too many mistakes,” said Geiser. “We turned the ball over twice on interceptions, missed assignments on the last touchdown. We cannot make those types of mistakes against good football teams.”

The final score of the contest went in favor of the home team as they start the season with a 1-0 record while the Eagles fall to 0-1 in Geiser’s first game at the helm.

The Eagles were led by the defense and special teams units as they made big plays all night long to keep the game within reach.

“Special Teams played really well. Our montra is change the game, and I think they did that in a positive way today,” said Geiser.

Defensively, Prude finished with four tackles, one pass breakup and one interception, while counterpart safety Bobby Young recorded nine tackles, one breakup and one interception.

Alongside those two, linebacker Jackson Myers was on his A-game as he recorded seven tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss.

The punting unit was able to pin the Crimson Hawks inside their 5-yard line twice, with one coming alongside a forced fumble.

For the Crimson Hawks it was the duo of Hunter and Zinobile who connected on two touchdowns and 89 yards. Hunter finished with 222 total yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

“One thing I have learned in my 34 years of coaching is you always make your biggest jump from Week One to Week Two,” said Geiser. “I think more than anything is we need to clean up our mistakes whether they be mental or execution, that will help us against the No. 1 team in the country.”

The Eagles will turn their focus to a top D-II nonconference competitor in the Ferris State Bulldogs. The two sides will battle one another at Jack Miller Stadium on the campus of Ashland University on Saturday, Sept. 9 with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

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