Football looks ahead to Stout

Offense finally headed in the right direction

Story by Nick Erickson, Editor In Chief

On Sept. 29, 2012, then-sophomore Jake Safstrom and the rest of the UW-Eau Claire football team were trying to hold off UW-Stout to reclaim the I-94 trophy from their conference rival.

Late in the fourth quarter, however, Safstrom tore his ACL, was carried off on a stretcher and missed the rest of the game, one in which the Blugolds won 21-13.

Despite the victory, Safstrom wasn’t able to get the full experience of defeating the Blue Devils.

“I had to come off, and I was already at the stadium and heard this big roar, so I had my Mom go check,” he said. “We won, but the big thing is running out and getting the trophy, and I wasn’t able to do that. So I really, really want it this year.”

He will get that opportunity Saturday as the Blugolds search for their first win of the year against Stout with a 1 p.m. kickoff at Carson Park.

Stout is no ordinary opponent for Eau Claire. The two schools are separated by just 30 miles, and as Blugold head coach Todd Glaser, who donned the gold pants and navy blue jersey here from 1987 to 1990, said, there is a little more spark in the air when the Blue Devils and Eau Claire share the same field.

“It’s a rivalry I’ve been involved with since my freshman year in 1987,” Glaser said. “I was clued in pretty quick as a young player what this meant to everybody, and it is because of the proximity. It’s a fun game, it’s always a close game and it always comes down to execution.”

Despite losing 20-10 last weekend to UW-River Falls, the Blugolds got some execution, at least on the offensive side of the football. They’ll look to continue it Saturday.

For the first time all season, Eau Claire scored in the first quarter, and it came courtesy of an almost flawlessly executed first drive from junior quarterback Joel Newman.

Newman was 4-for-4 on that drive passing, including a 34-yard post to Brody Diggins and a five-yard touchdown strike to Riley Gebelein.

However, they failed to score on the goal line late in the second quarter, and the defense gave up a few big second half plays, which Glaser said made the difference in the game.

Safstrom, a defensive lineman, said it gave the defense a little spark to see the offense be able to break the struggle and score right away.

“It definitely takes a little bit of pressure off the defense,” he said. “Once you see your offense going out there, you can play within the scheme, and it just takes that weight off the defense, and it’s a lot more fun.”

Saturday the Blugolds will look to put together a complete team game to garner victory number one of the season.

Both teams are evenly matched in almost every statistical category, but Stout will bring more of a physical presence. Safstrom said defensively ,they have been working on tightening up the line and playing within the tackles to stuff the run game. After a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Hank Kujak, the Blue Devils have fluctuated players at signal caller, making their ground game their focal point.

Offensively, Glaser said the Blugolds can look for a variety of zone reads as well as man-to-man coverages to try and get to Newman.

“They’ll give you a lot of different looks, which can be hard to figure out, but we’ll need to be able to run the ball and take our big shots when we need to,” Glaser said.

If Eau Claire stops the run and can figure out the reads from the Stout defense, Safstrom could very well be running over to the Blue Devils sideline to finally grasp the trophy that has eluded him for so long.