After a 15-minute lightning delay to the opening kickoff, followed by a rain-drenched first half, seven turnovers, and two blocked punts, the No. 9-ranked Ashland University football team did just enough to hold off the 13th ranked and two-time defending D-II national champion Northwest Missouri State Bears with a 21-18 final in Ashland, Ohio.
The Bearcats (9-3) came into Saturday’s game with the top-ranked defense in the country, but it was Ashland who held Northwest in check for most of the second half, holding the Bearcats to 2.2 yards per play in the victory.
Ashland scored first on a 13-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Travis Tarnowski to redshirt freshman tight end Michael Schweitzer. Northwest Missouri State, however, took short fields following an interception and a fumble to take a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Jonathan Baker scored on a three-yard run, capping a short four-play, 23 yard drive. The Eagles regained the lead at 14-10 when Tarnowski found senior wide receiver Jamie Hence in the end zone for a 21-yard score at the 4:25 mark of the second.
To start the third quarter the Eagles, after nearly losing the ball on a punt return, went 94 yards on six plays scoring on a 29-yard touchdown pass.
Northwest Missouri State added a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion with 7:42 to play, on a Zach Martin to Jordan Grove 35-yard TD but Ashland’s defense sealed the deal when junior safety Isaiah Stiverson broke up a fourth-down pass with the Bearcats at the AU 38-yard line.