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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 team falls to No. 1 Bulldogs in tight-knit contest, 38-28

The Eagles move to 0-2 on the season through non-conference play
Mike Hopkins
The Eagles stand on the field after a tough loss to the Ferris State Bulldogs.

The Ashland University football team has started the 2023-24 fall season winless after taking back-to-back losses against non-conference opponents.

On Saturday, Sept. 9, the Eagles took on the No. 1 nationally ranked Ferris State Bulldogs in an exciting back-and-forth affair at Jack Miller Stadium. While the two sides went toe-to-toe, the Eagles would end up falling short of a victory after mistakes on both sides of the ball allowed a second-half comeback resulting in a 38-28 loss.

“Ferris is a two-time defending national championship team,” said Eagle Head Coach Doug Geiser. “They’ve got great players. We know what we are going to see and we are going to play to our strengths. We will have to correct our mistakes from Week One and that’s why I enjoy playing up in skill level as it prepares us for conference play.”

To begin the contest, the Eagles received the ball after the Bulldogs elected to defer for the second half. On the opening possession, the Eagles went 46 yards on seven plays with a big 48-yard pass hauled in by wide receiver Jent Joseph to give the team slight momentum.

However, from the 23-yard line, kicker A.J. Rhodes would miss the opening field goal, leaving the scoreboard with two goose eggs on it.

The next five possessions would end in punts, but the main headline came from a Bulldog punt that was blocked off the back of one of their own teammates, which resulted in the ball flying into the endzone. The Eagles were able to jump onto it with the help of linebacker Chaise Ford who secured the touchdown.

The score would put them up 7-0 early off of another special teams success in Week Two.

The next score would come from the Bulldogs as a field goal from kicker Eddie Jewett would bring the contest within four after a 12-play drive would set them up with good field position from 29 yards out.

The momentum would shift drastically after that as the following possession for the Eagles would result in an interception from Bulldog safety Shon Stephens, off quarterback Trevor Bycznski, who returned the ball 10 yards to the 48-yard line. The Bulldogs would go on to score once again to take the lead by three points.

The score would come at the hands of backup quarterback Carson Gulker as he dashed in from one yard out.

As the Eagles started to see the Bulldogs take momentum, they would cause multiple penalties for the other side and give the Eagles excellent field position. From 16 yards out Bycznski redeemed himself with a perfect back-shoulder pass to wideout Dezmin Lyburtus for his second score in two weeks. The Eagles would retake a 14-10 lead.

Before halftime hit, the Eagles would score one more time after a drive that saw three penalties going against the Bulldogs, setting them up for a one-yard pass and score from Bycznski to Lyburtus for a 21-10 lead.

At the halftime break, Geiser had high praise for his defense and its play in the first half against the No. 1 team in the country.

“Our defense is playing lights out. Obviously we need to avoid missing some of the tackles we’ve had infront of us,” he said. “We cannot be giving them extra yards.”

He also said he needs the team to, “finish the game”, in the second half.

To open the final 30 minutes, the Bulldogs marched down the field and at the hands of Gulker and wideout Tyrese Hunt-Thompson, the team scored from seven yards out to bring the contest within four, 21-17.

As the Eagle defense started to waiver, so did the offense.

The following possession the Eagles would go for it on fourth and eight, come up empty and turn the ball over. However, even though it looked like momentum would greatly change, the Eagles would force a three and out for the Bulldog offense.

The Bulldog punt would be phenomenal as it bounced down a

They would then get the ball back and march 99 yards down the field for a score. The Eagles were led by running back Gei’vonni Washington on a 31-yard run, a pass to Lyburtus for 62 yards and a four yard rushing touchdown from Larry Martin to cap it all off.

Even with the score in favor of the Eagles, 28-17, the contest still was yet to be sealed with 19 minutes left in the outing.

The Bulldogs would trot back down the field and score a 54-yard passing touchdown off a catch and run from Hunt-Thompson to cut the deficit back to four. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Eagles led 28-24.

In the fourth quarter, the Eagle offense would go for it on fourth down two times, failing on both. For the Bulldogs, they would pile on 14 more points.

The first score came at the beginning of the quarter with 14 seconds gone by as the defensive backs for the Eagles got burned by wide out Xavier Wade for a 50-yard score. After that, the next score came with just under five minutes left.

Gulker would continue his hot play as he rushed in a touchdown to cap off the game with a 38-28 win.

The Eagle offense would be unable to respond in the last five minutes as they continued to sputter on offense.

“I’m extremely proud of the effort we gave. You go toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the country, I feel like we let them off the hook,” said Geiser.” You have to finish against the No. 1 team in the country, bottom line.”

The Eagles were led by Bycznski who tossed for 251 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His two touchdowns would end up falling into the arms of Lyburtus who also hauled in seven receptions for 122 yards. Alongside Lyburtus, the receiving room was led by Joseph with 92 yards.

Defensively, the team was led by linebacker Jackson Myers who had eight tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss and safety Riley Weiss who recorded nine tackles and 0.5 tackles for a loss.

The 0-2 Eagles now look to take on the 0-2 Hillsdale College Chargers in the first Great Midwest Athletic Conference contest of the 2023-24 season. The two sides will go up against each other at Jack Miller Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16 with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

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