INDIANA, Pa. — Ashland came up short in its quest to reach Division II football’s Elite Eight.
Top-seeded Indiana University Pennsylvania came up with a big fourth-down stop in the third quarter and later returned a blocked punt 25 yards for a touchdown in a 19-13 win over the fourth-seeded Eagles in the Super Region 1 semifinals Saturday at IUP’s George P. Miller Stadium.
The Crimson Hawks (10-1) will play second-seeded Shepherd for the super region championships Dec. 3 at a site to be determined. Shepherd beat Slippery Rock 37-27 in Saturday’s other super region semifinal.
Trailing 12-7 at the half, the Eagles (10-2) forced a three-and-out on IUP’s opening possession of the third quarter. Ashland took over at its own 30 yard line and marched to the IUP 2, but on fourth-and-one tailback Larry Martin was stopped for no gain.
Ashland’s defense forced another IUP punt and the Eagles took over at their own 25 yard line. Three plays netted 5 yards and the Eagles lined up to punt, but Trevor Bycznski’s attempt was blocked by Raunya Mitchell and scooped up by Connor Kelly, who returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 19-7 IUP lead.
The Eagles cut IUP’s lead to 19-13 on Gei’vonni Washington’s 9 yard touchdown run with 8:05 remaining in the fourth quarter.
IUP then put together a 16-play drive and turned the ball over on down at the Ashland 26 yard line with just 37 seconds remaining. The Eagles got no further than their own 37 yard line before time expired.
Ashland managed just 106 rushing hards against IUP’s stout defense. Washington led the way with 45 yards and a touchdown.
AU quarterback Austin Brenner completed 18-of-30 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. Garrett Turnbaugh caught seven passes for 88 yards, including a 38 yard TD pass in the first quarter. Defensively, linebacker Michael Ayers had 11 tackles and an interception.
IUP quarterback Mak Sexton completed 14-of-26 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns, a 6-yarder to Hilton Ridley in the first quarter and a 1-yarder to Duane Brown on the first play of the second quarter. Adam Houser rushed for 125 yards on 33 carries.
“I told the guys afterwards, it’s a special group for me for sure,” Ashland coach Lee Owens said. “We all did what we could do, and fought until the end and expected to win.”