ASHLAND — His team had just suffered its worst home loss in almost seven years, but Ashland University coach Lee Owens wasn’t ready to give up on the season.
“I’m still convinced we’ve got a good football team,” Owens said after a 45-19 loss to No. 2 Ferris State on Sept. 11. “We’ll win a bunch of games before the year is over.”
If the early returns are any indication, Owens’ assessment was spot-on.
The Eagles followed up one of their worst losses in the Owens era with one of their most remarkable victories in last week’s 63-23 win over Quincy. AU piled up 718 yards of total offense as quarterback Austin Brenner threw for 327 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 56 yards and two TDs. He was selected the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week.
The Eagles (1-2) will open Great Midwest play tonight at Walsh (1-3). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Canton GlenOak High School.
AU set the GMAC record for total offense in the win over Quincy. Brenner completed 21 of 25 passes, which ranks fourth in GMAC history in completion percentage (84%).
Brenner wasn’t the only Eagle to have a big game. Tailback Gei’vonni Washington rushed for 118 yards, while Larry Martin added 96 yards and two scores. Receiver Garrett Turnbaugh caught eight passes for 129 yards, including a pair of TDs. It was the first time since 2017 that AU had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver in the same game.
“I can’t remember a game where the offensive plan came together as well as it did,” Owens said. “Those are crazy numbers. It’s a real credit to our players, the energy they play with, the execution they play with.
“It was as good an offensive performance as I’ve been around here in a long time.”
Walsh (1-3) is coming off a 24-10 loss to McKendree. The Cavaliers have lost three straight after a season-opening win at West Liberty.
Walsh ranks second in the GMAC in scoring defense, allowing just 19.5 points a game. Linebacker Sal Sidebotham leads the way with 36 tackles.
AU is averaging 531 yards of total offense per game. Brenner is second in the nation, averaging 355 yards of total offense per game.
Washington has rushed for 262 yards in three games. Turnbaugh already has set career highs in receptions (19), receiving yards (289) and touchdowns (2).
“Garrett’s always been a good athlete. He’s always been a great competitor. He’s always played with unbelievable energy and passion. It’s contagious,” Owens said of Turnbaugh, a junior from Barberton. “His passion is what gives our offense a lot of spirit at times. I’m glad he’s playing well.
“Nobody’s been cheering harder for Garrett than myself and the rest of the coaches and our players, because he’s one of the most popular players on the team.”
Defensively, linebacker Michael Ayers leads the Eagles with 22 tackles. Defensive end Jeffrey Barnett has two of AU’s four sacks and a team-high four tackles for loss. The 6-foot-1, 213-pound sophomore is a converted tailback.
“We traded Jeff to defense,” Owens said. “He’s going to be a heck of a pass rusher. Jeff’s going to be big-time player on defense.”