Blugolds blow big lead


Time was on the Blugolds’ side last Saturday afternoon.

With just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter, senior quarterback and punter Austin Neu punted the ball to No. 8-ranked University of St. Thomas (Minn.) with a 24-13 lead.

The Tommies, plagued throughout the game by both heavy Blugold defensive pressure and missed field goal kicks from junior kicker Griffin Snyder, struck back with big plays on both sides of the ball.

Shortly thereafter, it was all over. The Blugolds fell 27-24 in their season opener, with several players including senior defensive lineman Jimmy Hall, saying that the team needs to figure out a way to finish out games.

“Unfortunately, (it’s) the same story as last year,” Hall said. “We just got to remember how this tastes. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, bad feeling in your stomach … just not let it
happen again.”

St. Thomas scored a touchdown on a 49-yard pass with 3:44 left in the game, then made a two-point conversion to cut the Blugolds’ lead to 24-21. They attempted an onside kick to get the ball back, which was recovered by Blugold wide receiver Ryan Staege.

On the next play, Neu threw an interception while being pressured by St. Thomas linebacker Tremayn Williams. The Tommies had no timeouts remaining, which would have allowed the Blugolds to run at least two minutes off the clock.

Coach Todd Glaser’s reaction to the play call after the game was blunt and to the point.

“It was probably a dumb call on our part,” Glaser said.

Junior tailback Joel Sweeney, who led the Blugolds with 104 rushing yards on 27 carries and a touchdown, supported Glaser’s play call, saying that the rushing attack wasn’t working towards the end of the game.

Tight end Austin Goetsch, who recorded 86 yards and one touchdown on seven catches, said the play they used worked frequently in training camp.

“We were just taking a shot and trying to hit them where they were weak at,” Goetsch said. “It just didn’t really turn out for us.”

Tommies quarterback Matt O’Connell then ran the ball on a designed keeper that went for a 32-yard touchdown to take a 27-24 lead.

On the Blugolds’ last drive, a fourth-and-four pass was intercepted after being bobbled by wide receiver Cody Gerver with 55 seconds left, effectively ending the game.

The Blugolds scored 17 unanswered points to take a 17-7 lead shortly before halftime. After giving up two field goals, Sweeney countered with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

It was at that point, Glaser said, where things started to go wrong.

“We played a pretty good game for about 96 percent of the time,” Glaser said. “That four percent killed us.”

Glaser went on to give Neu a ringing endorsement on his abilities to finish out close games.

“I wouldn’t give up Austin for anybody,” Glaser said. “He’s made a lot more plays all through his career, and he’s going to continue to make plays, and we’re going to put it into his hands at the end of the game.”

The Blugolds play another home game this coming Saturday against St. John’s (Minn.). In last year’s meeting, the Blugolds traveled to the then-No. 25-ranked Johnnies and walked away with an impressive 47-19 victory.

St. John’s finished last season with a record of 6-4 while the Blugolds finished 5-5. This is a record that Sweeney still believes the Blugolds can build on this season.

“We gave these guys a hard push and we almost had them,” Sweeney said. “But that’s what a (Division III) semifinals team does; they know how to finish and we have to get to that point.”