Football team comes up short on Homecoming

Story by Spenser Bickett

The UW-Eau Claire football team had a halftime lead over  the UW-Oshkosh Titans last Saturday on Homecoming but couldn’t hold on, losing by a final score of 26-7.

Sophomore tailback Joel Sweeney gave the Blugolds an early 13-0 lead by scoring two rushing touchdowns within the first eight minutes of
the game.

The Titans responded in the second quarter with a touchdown of their own.  Freshman kicker Josh Albrecht made a 31-yard field goal halfway through the second quarter to give Eau Claire a 16-7 lead at halftime.  That ended up being all the points the Blugolds would score for the day.

Junior defensive lineman Jimmy Hall said Oshkosh’s quick offensive pace caused the defense to tire in the second half.

“When they have a good play they’ll hurry up to the line and do another one,” Hall said.  “We were just kind of playing on our heels for a while, especially in the beginning of the second half.”

Junior quarterback Austin Neu attributed the team’s lackluster second half to complacency.

“We thought we had it in the bag,” Neu said. “We weren’t as focused in the second half and we didn’t have the breaks we had in the first half.”

The Titans tallied a safety on the first play of the third quarter by tackling Sweeney for a loss in the end zone.    Oshkosh would add two rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the final score at 23-16.

Neu said the team wanted to give the large Homecoming crowd a win.

“We went in with the mentality of being 2-0 in conference and just staying on top of the conference,” Neu said.

Neu completed 19 of 35 passes for 212 yards but was sacked four times.  Neu currently leads the WIAC in total passing yards and passing yards
per game.

Sophomore linebacker Sean Graham, who recorded 13 tackles with one sack, led the Blugold defense.  Hall led the team with two sacks, while the Eau Claire defense recorded six sacks on the day.

Hall said Oshkosh’s ability to respond was an issue for the team all game.

“It seemed like any time, especially in the second half, that we would have a good play, they would have an answer for it,” Hall said.

The loss drops Eau Claire to 3-2 overall with a 1-1 record in conference play.  Oshkosh is now 4-1 for the year with a 2-0 record in conference.

Hall said the team has a tough task ahead of them the rest of the year.

“It’s pretty simple,” Hall said,  “we have to win out, we have to go 5-0 from here on out to have a chance, and we all believe that we can do that.”

The Blugolds head to La Crosse this Saturday to take on the Eagles.