ASHLAND — Lee Owens wouldn’t mind if history repeated itself when Ashland University opens the 2019 season at 7 p.m. Thursday at Jack Miller Stadium.
The Eagles, ranked 23rd in the American Football Coaches Association Division II poll, play host to No. 16 Indianapolis in one of the best Division II games in the nation on the opening-week schedule.
“You’re talking about two private-school Division II football programs that have been as good as there’s been in the country the last seven years,” Owens said. “It’s going to go 60 minutes. I’m glad they’re at our place.”
The last time the Greyhounds visited Ashland, the Eagles rolled to a 37-14 win in Week 1 of the 2012 season en route to an undefeated regular season and a playoff berth. The teams met in Indianapolis the following year with the Greyhounds holding on for a 10-9 win, but haven’t played since.
Both teams have made regular visits to the postseason. Indianapolis has qualified for the playoffs five times, all since 2012. AU has punched its ticket to the tournament seven times overall and five since 2007.
“We just look at it as, here’s two teams that have great tradition,” Owens said, “that are recognized as two of the top programs in the country, that know how to win championships, don’t beat themselves, are both physical football teams, are both well-coached.”
The Eagles were 6-4 last year with all four losses coming against nationally-ranked opponents by a combined 21 points. Owens welcomes back seven starters from a defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, total defense and passing defense.
“Without a doubt, this is as good of personnel as we’ve had on a defensive football team since I’ve been here,” said Owens, a Madison product who is entering his 16th season at AU, “and we’ve had some really good defensive football teams.”
Middle linebacker Clay Shreve is the centerpiece of AU’s stout defense. The senior from Mogadore had a team-high 76 tackles last year.
Shreve, along with senior safety Nick Powers, senior left tackle Ryan Maguire and sophomore quarterback Austin Brenner were chosen captains by their teammates. Brenner was selected the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year after completing a conference-best 61.3 percent of his passing attempts (117-191) for 1,225 yards and five touchdowns.
“They lead by example,” Owens said. “They’re the hardest workers on the team. … They’re all-conference players. They’re good students. That’s what I like about them. They’ll do a good job in leadership.”