NMU football: Wildcats coach Ostrowsky says Ashland’s 0-3 record is deceiving

MARQUETTE – The old sports cliche goes, “you are your record.”

But Northern Michigan University head football coach Chris Ostrowsky is warning his Wildcats the 0-3 record of their next opponent, Ashland University, is deceiving.

That’s because the 2012 GLIAC champion Eagles have lost to three potential playoff teams in Ferris State, Wayne State and Indianapolis.

“I think (Ashland) played three really, really good opponents and easily could have won at least two of those games,” said Ostrowsky heading into NMU’s first road contest of the season at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“We’re expecting to play a really, really good football program down there and we’ll have to play really, really good to get a win.”

The 2012 Ashland Eagles that routed NMU 42-13 at the Superior Dome on Homecoming a year ago have gotten off to a rough start in 2013, losing twice on the road to open the season, before getting blown out at home against the Bulldogs a week ago.

Indianapolis, which won the GLVC in 2012, held Ashland to only 256 yards of total offense in Week 1 to squeak out a 10-9 win.

In Week 2, Ashland rallied from a 21-6 deficit against defending NCAA Division II national runner-up Wayne State, only to give up two fourth quarter touchdowns in a 34-22 loss.

Last week, the Eagles only mustered 269 yards of total offense as Ferris scored four unanswered touchdowns en route to a 34-7 win.

“The thing that’s interesting is they look really good on defense,” Ostrowsky said. “(2012 GLIAC Defensive Lineman of the Year) Jamie Meder is as good a player as there is in this league on the defensive line.”

The Eagles’ offense ranks last in the GLIAC through three weeks in yardage – averaging 297 per game – and points – averaging 12.7 per game – with one of AU’s four total touchdowns coming from the defense.

Ashland was second in scoring in the GLIAC during last year’s title run, averaging 40.8 points per game with a league-leading average of 486.9 yards of total offense each week. That offense was led by 2012 GLIAC Player of the Year Taylor Housewright, who has since graduated.

His replacement, freshman Austin Burns, hasn’t fared as well, completing 28 of 46 passes for 211 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Freshman QB Tra’Von Chapman has seen some time as well, completing 10 of 28 passes for 81 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

Thus far, the limited offense produced by the Eagles has been through running backs Anthony Taylor and Jordan McCune. After combining for more than 2,100 rushing yards last season, the pair has 490 yards through three games this year, with 414 coming from Taylor.

“Both running backs are outstanding and they’re really good up front,” Ostrowsky said. “They just don’t have a quarterback with a lot of reps right now.”

Ashland’s defense has fared better than its offense, giving up an average of 26 points (fifth in GLIAC) and 428.3 yards per game (seventh), though the Bulldogs put up 500 yards of total offense against the Eagles a week ago.

Northern’s defense gave up 592 yards in a home win over Findlay and 425 total yards in a home loss to Ohio Dominican last week.

Of those 425 yards, 301 came on the ground for the Panthers.

“Ohio Dominican had some really good running backs,” Ostrowsky said. “They did a hell of a job. They deserve the credit.”

NMU senior quarterback Cody Scepaniak leads the GLIAC in passing after just two games, averaging 309 yards per outing with three TDs and three interceptions. He’s also 10th in the GLIAC in rushing and first among NMU rushers, averaging 97 yards per game.

Scepaniak is coming off a game in which he turned the ball over three times with a pair of picks and a lost fumble on the ODU 4-yard line.

The senior captain said after the loss he felt terrible turning the ball over three times. However, Ostrowsky didn’t seem as worried about his QB’s performance Wednesday, except for the fumble.

“If that’s a tough game, a lot of guys would take that,” Ostrowsky. “Cody has to rebound. The big play that sticks out for us is the fumble on the 4-yard line.”