Football team rebounds to beat UW-LaCrosse
The UW-Eau Claire football team bounced back from a Homecoming loss with a 31-21 win last Saturday over the UW-La Crosse Eagles in La Crosse.
The Blugolds used the running game to control possession and tempo of the game. They ran the ball 49 times for 168 yards. Eau Claire won the time of possession battle, holding onto the ball 39:50 to La Crosse’s 20:10. Junior quarterback Austin Neu said the team ran the ball so many times because the wind made passing the ball difficult.
Neu said winning the time of possession battle was crucial to the team’s success.
“It was mainly because of our running game,” Neu said. “We pretty much controlled the tempo of the game by controlling the ball for so long.”
The game was tied at 14 a piece at halftime. Neu found junior wide receiver Mike O’Connell twice in the first quarter for two touchdown receptions.
O’Connell, an Eau Claire native, credits Neu’s development as a quarterback for his own success in the game.
“He put the ball right where it needed to be,” O’Connell said.
Junior tailback Joel Sweeney, senior tailback Matt Olson and Neu each contributed in the running game, with each player rushing for over 50 yards on the day. Olson and Neu each had rushing touchdowns.
Neu said the La Crosse defense was lining up differently on Saturday than they did on film, which led to him having to check out of a few plays.
“I got feedback from the line and the receivers about what was open, and that usually helps me out,” Neu said.
O’Connell said playing opposite senior wide receiver David Goodman gives him more opportunities to exploit the defense. “David takes a lot of the coverage with him, so it leaves some openings for me,” O’Connell said.
Neu completed 18 of 28 passes for 152 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 52 rushing yards with 11 carries and a rushing touchdown.
The Eau Claire defense recorded five sacks on the day and also forced a fumble. Junior cornerback Tyler Janus made a key play in the third quarter by intercepting a pass in the end zone to end an Eagles drive.
O’Connell said playing for the Blugolds after watching them as he grew up has been a fun experience. “Everyone from your hometown can watch you play,” O’Connell said.
Neu said it was important for the team to get back on track following the Homecoming loss.
“We just kind of put that [the loss] behind us and looked forward to La Crosse,” Neu said. “We had a good week of practice and we carried it out on Saturday.”
This win puts the Blugolds’ record for the year at 4-2, with a 2-1 record in conference play. There are four games remaining on the schedule for the Blugolds. The team takes on the UW-Stevens Point Pointers this Saturday at Carson Park.