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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

AU football caps off regular season finale with dominant 56-23 win

The Eagles improved to 8-3 on the season, with hopes of a bowl game in the postseason
Mike Hopkins
The Eagles took down the Panthers with stifling defensive efforts.

The Ashland University football team capped off the 2023-24 regular season with a big-time win over the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers, 56-23, with offensive firepower displayed from start to finish.

The Eagles were led by running back Larry Martin who pounded the ball on the ground for 94 yards and three touchdowns, propelling the offense to success. In what could be a variety of Eagles’ last collegiate football game, they showed up to play against the Panthers.

On the first drive of the game, the Eagles marched down the field and found a rushing touchdown from Martin from two yards out. After his score, the defense would lock down the Panthers’ offense, forcing them off the field and giving the ball right back to the Eagles.

The very next drive, after going up 7-0, Martin’s counterpart Gei’vonni Washington would get involved in the fun and take off for a 37-yard score.

As the fourth quarter dwindled down, the Eagles were still not done yet with safety Isaiah Clark capatalizing on a massive mistake from the Panthers center, snapping the ball over his head causing a loose ball. Clark, sprinted down the field and scooper the ball off the ground, weaving his way past Panther tacklers before taking the ball to the house for seven.

His score would put the Eagles up 21-0 in the first 11 minutes of action.

The very next play, the Panthers offense would find a response to the 21 points as a simple screen would turn into a 73-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. The score would light some fire underneath the team, giving slight confidence back to the home team.

However, after getting the ball back the Eagles would waste plenty of time off the clock with the game in the team’s hands. The drive would last for 5 minutes and 37 seconds, consisting of 10 plays for 51 yards.

It would come to a close with Martin finding his second touchdown of the game from one-yard out. With a 28-7 lead, the Eagles could coast through the remainder of the first half.

The next drive for the Panthers would be a three-and-out for the Eagle defense, showcasing pure dominance for the entirety of the first half.

When getting the ball back, the Eagles would try to find more points, this time from the team’s kicker A.J. Rhodes. Unfortunately, Rhodes’ kick would be blocked from 41 yards away, keeping the Eagles at bay with a 28-7 lead.

With the Panthers trying to shift momentum back in their favor, they took back over with the ball. However, the storyline would remain with the Panthers struggling, as Clark jumped the gun on a pass from Panther quarterback Joey Cambron, intercepting the ball back for the Eagles.

Eagle quarterback Trevor Bycznski decided to get involved in the action as he found wideout Jent Joseph from 15 yards out for the fifth Eagle touchdown in the first half.

The very next drive the defense for the Eagles would standout once again as they forced the Panthers off the field. With just under five minutes left in first half as Martin found his third and final touchdown of the game, giving the Eagles a 42-7 lead heading into halftime.

At the break, the Eagles were led by the running back duo of Martin and Washington who combined for four of the six touchdowns scored for the team. The defense also shined with Clark recovering a fumble and intercepting Cambron once.

In the second half, the Panthers found the first score, a field goal from 23 yards out from the foot of kicker Cole Cawthorne just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

Even with the three points, the scoreline still sat in favor of the Eagles, 42-10.

The remainder of the third quarter would result in the Eagle offense wasting time off the clock, but not finding any scores.

With just five minutes left in the quarter, the Eagles would take over possession and take seven minutes off the clock before finding a touchdown to start the fourth quarter. This time, the score would come from ole’ reliable, wideout Dezmin Lyburtus, from 15 yards away, pushing the Eagles further ahead with a 49-10 lead.

The Panthers would find two touchdowns of their own in the fourth quarter, giving them a total of 23 points to finish the game while the Eagles would find just one more from the legs of backup running back Patrick Blubaugh. He would waltz into the endzone for a 12-yard touchdown, marking the point total at 56 for the Eagles.

The team was led by the running back room who combined for 278 yards on 44 attempts, finding the endzone four times. In the passing game, Bycnzski tossed for 200 yards and two touchdowns, with the scores coming from Joseph and Lyburtus.

Defensively, senior linebacker Jackson Myers recorded six tackles, three sacks and three tackles for a loss. Clark, who shined in the first half gave the team two turnovers, while Isaac Brooks hauled in the team’s second interception of the game.

The win also gave Head Coach Doug Geiser the sole spot atop the reigns for the Eagles as the only first-year head coach to have eight or more wins in their first year.

The team finishes the regular season with a 8-3 overall record while going 8-1 in GMAC play. On the other hand, the Panthers finished their season going 4-7 on the season and 3-6 in conference play.

The Eagles next look to take on an opponent yet to be determined in America’s Crossroads Bowl which is set to take place on Friday, Dec. 1. In order to compete, the Eagles would have to opt-in to participate in the game, which has also yet to be determined.

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