No. 1 UW-Whitewater too much for football team

Turnovers prove costly for Blugolds

A winless UW-Eau Claire football team already had a monumental hill to climb Saturday against No. 1 and defending national champion UW-Whitewater.

The Blugolds made that incline even steeper by turning it over on their first three possessions of the game en route to a 52-3 loss to the Warhawks at Carson Park.

The Whitewater defense scored two defensive touchdowns in the contest.

“Turnovers killed us,” Eau Claire starting quarterback Joel Newman said. “It does with any opponent, but especially when you’re playing against the top team in the country.”

Even with the turnovers, however, the Blugolds held their own in the first half, especially on the defensive side of the football.

Newman fumbled a handoff exchange on the game’s first play from scrimmage, and Whitewater had the ball at the Eau Claire 23-yard line.

But after a first-down completion, the Blugold defense stuffed the Warhawks and forced them to a field goal.

“I thought defensively, we covered our butt a bit offensively,” head coach Todd Glaser said.

Early in the second quarter, the Eau Claire offense put perhaps its finest offensive drive in the past four weeks together as the blue and gold went 75 yards in 19 plays and used up 8:36 of clock. Bryce Widmark capped it off with a 36-yard field goal to cut the lead to 10-3.

Newman, who got his first start of the year, found some holes in Whitewater’s man to man coverage and found success through the bubble screen as well as a few routes in the middle of the field.

“I thought he did a good job,” Glaser said of Newman. “That drive, that 19-play drive, was good…and we need to continue to have that and build off of that.”

The junior from Red Wing, Minn., finished the day 21 of 36 for 155 yards. He was 16 of 25 for 93 yards in the first half.

“We showed glimpses, in the first half especially, of the offense moving the ball,” Newman said. “We’ve just got to be more consistent and take advantage of matchups when we can.”

But it was only a matter of time before a team that has been to the NCAA Division III title game eight of the last nine years, took control of the game. That time happened to the third quarter.

The Warhawks scored 28 points in that 15-minute to stretch to completely put the game out of reach.

Three of their four touchdowns in that quarter came from more than 30 yards out.

“They’re a great team,” Blugold defensive back Jake Weber said. “They’re going to make big plays. We were sticking to the scheme, but in the second half, we made a few mistakes.”

Warhawk coach Lance Leipold won his 100th-career game Saturday, making him the fastest to 100 in NCAA history. He has helped guide Whitewater to five national championships.

It is the fourth straight game in which the Eau Claire offense scored three points or less. While that unit showed some signs of life Saturday, Newman said they will continue to work relentlessly at practice to get back on the right track.

“It’s time for us to do our job and hold up our end of the bargain,” he said. “We’ve just got to have that killer instinct of putting the ball in the endzone.”

While this has been an undoubtedly difficult stretch to start the season, Newman said with assurance there is still positivity and togetherness on the squad.

“It would be easy for us to point the finger at a position group or offense or defense,” he said. But guys are really sticking together, and I think that says something about the leadership on this team. Good things are going to happen these next four weeks; we’ve just to keep working hard.”

Good things could certainly come as the last four games of the season are against the bottom four teams in the league, including next Saturday at UW-River Falls. The Blugolds haven’t lost to the Falcons since 2010.

The next home game is against UW-Stout Nov.1 at Carson Park.