Bulldogs offense too strong for Eagles


Eagle defensive lineman Jamie Meder goes for a tackle against Ferris State.

Dan Greenway

The game of football is filled with challenges, be it pre-season workouts in the hot summer sun or the daily grind of team meetings and practices. Saturday, the Eagles were faced with another challenge: Ferris State and its dual-threat quarterback Jason Vander Laan.

Vander Laan and the Bulldogs, led by second-year head coach Tony Annese, came into Jack Miller Stadium with one main purpose, revenge.

“We knew we could put points up on the board,” Vander Laan said. “We came in with a chip on our shoulder following last year’s game.”

Last year at Ferris the Eagles defeated the Bulldogs, 47-32.

Saturday, the Bulldogs gained their revenge by defeating Ashland, 34-7, dropping AU’s record to 0-3 for the first time since 2003.

“It was a tough matchup for us tonight,” Ashland head coach Lee Owens said. “Their offense is tough to stop and they are very athletic on the defensive side of the ball.”

The Eagles struggled on offense despite showing signs of improvement the previous week at Wayne State.

AU totaled 269 yards of offense on 64 plays and only had 95 yards of total passing between true freshmen quarterbacks Austin Bruns and Tray’Von Chapman.

Ashland did have some bright spots offensively, especially in the running game.

Junior running back Anthony Taylor rushed for 91 yards on 17 carries, including a 28-yard carry in the second quarter.

The Eagles’ biggest offensive play was a 56-yard pass completion from Dan Piko to David Soucie on a wide receiver reverse pass. Their lone touchdown was a 15-yard run by Chapman with 12:47 to go in the fourth quarter.

The struggles at the quarterback position continue to be an issue for the Eagles offensively.

“It’s the guy behind center that makes the plays,” Owens said. “Offense is like a puzzle. Not having a set quarterback is like putting that puzzle together without a picture.

“We have to continue to watch film and evaluate who gives us the best opportunity to win.”

Annese has a lot of respect for coach Owens and the program he has created at Ashland.

“Ashland is still growing,” he said. “We were happy with the way we contained Taylor. We didn’t know much about Chapman but he is a good dual-threat quarterback so we were pleased with how we contained him as well.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles had a few impressive performances.

Junior defensive back Chris Harvey tallied 18 total tackles. Senior defensive back Quenton Scott and senior defensive tackle Jaime Meder joined Harvey with 12 and 11 total tackles respectively.

Despite the efforts of Harvey, Scott and Meder, Vander Laan followed up his NCAA Division II Player of the Week performance the week before with a solid showing against the Eagles.

Vander Laan completed 13 of 18 passes for 174 yards and added another 53 on the ground with two touchdowns.

Most of Vander Laan’s completions went for big yardage averaging 14.3 yards per completion. The big offensive numbers came as no surprise to Vander Laan.

“If we played the way we know we are capable of playing we knew we wouldn’t be stopped,” he said.

Ashland did force three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble), but the Bulldogs had the final say as they amassed 500 yards of total offense on 73 plays, 227 of those yards being attributed to Vander Laan. 

“Sometimes you have to start from the bottom to get back to the top,” Owens said.

The Eagles will get back to work in preparation for the next game. AU will host Northern Michigan next Saturday looking to get the first win of the season.