Football turns to Newman Saturday against Whitewater

Football turns to Newman Saturday against Whitewater

After putting up 17 points against St. Thomas (Minn.) to start the season, the UW-Eau Claire football team and its offense has sputtered to just 10 points in its last four contests, all of which were against nationally ranked opponents.

With defending national champion and No. 1 UW-Whitewater coming into town Saturday, the Blugolds will give junior quarterback Joel Newman the start to hopefully provide the spark that has been missing for almost a month.

“I think it’s just about getting a change of pace,” Newman said. “We’ve gotten a little predictable at times offensively, and I think just mixing things up gives us a chance to do some things differently and spread the ball out a little more.”

Because of numerous injuries on the offensive side of the football, particularly to junior Clint Larsen, as well as a young receiving corps, Eau Claire has lacked a downfield threat for the past couple of weeks and has only averaged 3.15 yards per play during the four-game stretch.

While senior Mark Munger, who has been the starting signal caller for all five Blugold games in 2014,  has had his moments, head coach Todd Glaser said the quarterback position is the easiest one to substitute for when looking for a change.

He said Newman’s ability to extend plays by scrambling away from a blitzing defense gives them more of a home run threat that they have been lacking; it isn’t because of Munger’s performances.

“Joel runs a little bit more than what Mark did,” Glaser said. “But they’re both good leaders, and that’s what you want in your quarterback position.”

Newman and Munger have shared first-team repetitions in practice all season long, and Newman said the two of them are each other’s biggest supporters on and off the field.

“We help each other throughout the week and even during the game,” he said. “We’re usually the first people we talk to. It’s trying to help the team more so than ourselves.”

Saturday, Newman completed 17 of 27 passes for 126 yards while also rushing 10 times for 26 yards at UW-Stevens Point.

Newman also dished out his 17 completions to seven different receivers, something Glaser said he will have to continue to do in order to pick the offense back up.

“He’s got to be able to see the field, which he did a good job of Saturday, and he was doing it under a lot of pressure,” Glaser said. “He needs to spread the ball around. He can’t lock in one receiver, and he did that.”

The Blugold offense showed signs of life at Stevens Point as they gained over 100 more yards and picked up eight more first downs than the previous week against to Platteville.

They’ll need a huge of effort Saturday against Whitewater. While Eau Claire has only scored 27 points on the year, the Warhawks have only given up 27 on defense, and they are led by reigning NCAA Division III Player of the Year in linebacker Brady Grayvold.

Glaser and Newman both said they can’t worry about the aura Whitewater brings into the game; it’s all about staying within themselves and playing to best of their abilities.

“I’m very excited for the opportunity and am feeling pretty confident in myself and in my teammates,” Newman said. “We’ll have our work cutout for us playing the top team in the country, but I believe that in this league, anybody can beat anybody. We just have to focus on ourselves and play up to our highest capability.”

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Carson Park.