ASHLAND -- The Ashland University football team got off to a strong start against an even stronger opponent on Thursday night at Jack Miller Stadium.
But 16th-ranked Indianapolis dug out of a 9-0 first-half hole to reel off 24 unanswered points to earn a 24-9 victory over the 23rd-ranked Eagles.
"We always try to play the very best opponent we possibly can in Week 1," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens. "This is a really good defensive football team, and they exposed us up front."
This marked one of only two games featuring two nationally-ranked teams in the opening week of the 2019 NCAA Division II college football season.
"I take part of the blame," Owens said. "We prepared for an Indianapolis team, we saw three blitzes on tape all of last year, and they blitzed every down. They played a different front…and they played a different coverage, and they had a different demeanor than what we prepared for."
The Greyhounds dominated the second half, gaining 255 yards after less than 100 (91) in the first 30 minutes.
Ashland junior kicker Satchel Denton made boots of 41, 36 and 26 yards to give the Eagles a 9-0 lead halfway through the second quarter, and Indianapolis kicker Paul Buisman's 23-yard triple at the 1:28 mark of the second period provided the halftime score of 9-3.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, the Greyhounds marched 77 yards in nine plays, and scored the game's first touchdown when quarterback T.J. Edwards found wide receiver Daveon Bell for three yards and a 10-9 lead.
After an Eagle fumble in AU territory, Indianapolis struck again on a 1-yard Al McKeller touchdown run for a 17-9 advantage.
Indianapolis increased its margin when Edwards found wide receiver Aaron Matio for a 59-yard strike with 7:17 left in the game.
"They came out with a great scheme after halftime," Ashland junior linebacker junior Ryan Corkrean said. "They kind of fired off the ball real quick. It was a good scheme."
For Ashland, Eagle sophomore quarterback Austin Brenner had his first collegiate 300-yard passing game on Thursday, gaining 303 yards on 22-of-45 passing with two interceptions.
Ashland sophomore wide receiver Garrett Turnbaugh caught six passes for 145 yards – both career highs. Junior wideout Logan Bolin tied a career high with nine grabs for 78 yards.
The two AU inside linebackers – senior Clay Shreve (12 total, two for loss) and Corkrean (10 total, half for loss, half sack) – were the team's leading tacklers in the loss.
"We've been running the ball pretty good against our defense at times, but we got exposed tonight," Owens said. "Up front, we really struggled.
"We've got work to do on both sides of the ball. We know what we need to fix right now, and that's the positive."