Defensive struggles continue
All the Blugolds needed was a defensive stop. But like so many facets of football, it’s easier said than done.
Leading 28-21 with a little over 11 minutes left, St. John’s University (Minn.) marched down the field with a drive lasting more than nine minutes to score a field goal, putting the game out of reach. The Johnnies ultimately won 31-28.
The loss, the second three-point home loss in as many weeks, spoiled an otherwise prolific day for junior running back Joel Sweeney, who racked up 182 rushing yards on 28 carries to go along with his three touchdowns.
“This really sucks right now,” Sweeney said. “But we’ll overcome this. We’ll just take this to the heart and then get rid of it, and work on getting the win.”
Sweeney added the offensive linemen and wide receivers paved the way for him to pick up these kind of numbers, as well as saying he would trade the stats for a win “any day.”
Senior safety Coltan Ellis said it was a few big plays particularly on third down situations late in the game, which prevented the Blugolds from having a shot to win.
“Our defense played so well on first and second down,” Ellis said. “We just need to go back and look at film and fix those plays; those third downs, we really need to take a look at.”
Head coach Todd Glaser said the defense needs to focus on playing fundamental football as they prepare for their next game at UW-Platteville.
“They execute at times, but not all the time,” Glaser said. “That’s a problem when you’re playing good teams, and we have very good teams in our league. We need to learn from these non-conference games so when we do get into conference, we’re ready
In addition to the defensive struggles, the passing game produced very little for much of the game. Quarterback Austin Neu completed 7-of-17 passes for 84 yards before leading the Blugolds on a 73-yard scoring drive late in the fourth quarter.
One thing that did work in the aerial attack was a plan to utilize Neu’s scrambling abilities to make some plays on the ground. Neu gained 35 rushing yards on seven carries and also made several big throws out of the pocket early in the game.
“(St. John’s) linebackers drop fast (into coverage),” Neu said. “We thought we’d get a couple yards with the legs, and it worked out.”
Similar to last week’s game against St. Thomas (Minn.), the Blugolds started off strong, holding a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter. St. John’s scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter as the offense slowed.
With just more than two minutes remaining in the game, a lightning delay was called and the bleachers were evacuated, with the announcer advising fans to return to their cars for the duration of the delay. The delay lasted 36 minutes as lightning and brief bursts of heavy rain hit the area.
The Blugolds have a week off before their next game at UW-Platteville. Glaser said improving consistency on the field will be critical entering Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
“Usually, we’re playing well,” Glaser said. “But when we’re playing bad, we’re playing pretty bad. We just have a lot of work to do.”