Starting strong: Blugold football’s first season opener victory since 2010

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More stories from Katrina Erskine

The team took home the 45-13 win from Loras College on Saturday in Iowa

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Starting strong: Blugold football’s first season opener victory since 2010

The UW-Eau Claire football team celebrates a victory against Loras College. They play again on Sept. 8 against St. Norbert College.

The UW-Eau Claire football team celebrates a victory against Loras College. They play again on Sept. 8 against St. Norbert College.

Photo by Chico La Barbera

The UW-Eau Claire football team celebrates a victory against Loras College. They play again on Sept. 8 against St. Norbert College.

Photo by Chico La Barbera

Photo by Chico La Barbera

The UW-Eau Claire football team celebrates a victory against Loras College. They play again on Sept. 8 against St. Norbert College.

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To be a champion, one has to act like a champion, goes the well-known sports proverb. The Blugold football team adopted this mantra, and it produced a 45-13 victory over Loras College in Iowa on Saturday.

“I think our guys are motivated by the fact that they want to be associated with something different than what Blugold football has been talked about or discussed the past couple of years, which has been a non-winning football program,” Head Coach Dan Larson said of the team’s culture. “And if you want to be something different then you have to act completely different, and that’s been a huge part of the growth of this program.”

The Blugolds started Saturday’s game off strong by keeping a steady defense. Loras couldn’t stop second-year Alex Mashak from scoring the first touchdown of the year in the first quarter.

Mashak rushed 20 yards after intercepting a pass from Noah Sigwarth of Loras. With a 6-0 lead, second-year kicker Brad Goetsch made a field goal, giving the Blugolds at a 7-0 lead at the 8:52 mark.

Nearing the end of the first quarter, fourth-year quarterback Scott Procter completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to fourth-year Leeshaun Evans. Once again, Goetsch made a field goal, lifting the Blugolds up 14-0.

Larson said Procter earned the starting quarterback position this season, and his efforts in the first quarter explain why.

“Every year, (Procter’s) gotten better at throwing the football, reading defenses and just becoming a better quarterback.” Larson said. “The one thing that I think has been a consistent and constant thing with him is his leadership qualities. Our players really rally around him. I think they believe in him.”

Going into the second quarter, Procter scored a 30-yard touchdown with five minutes and 44 seconds left before halftime. Goetsch added two field goals before the end of the quarter. By then, the team was up 24-0.

Blugolds kicked the ball off to Loras at the start of the third quarter, but the Eau Claire defense held Loras to a three-and-out. Quickly, the Blugolds formed their offense. Fourth-year running back Brian Kulaga scored a rushing touchdown at 11 minutes and 22 seconds. Goetsch scored another point by field goal.

With the team up 31-0, the Blugolds weren’t stopping. After a long 12 play possession starting at Eau Claire’s own 19-yard line, second-year running back Conrad Bolz rushed for a 12-yard touchdown. A Goetsch field goal closed out the third quarter.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Blugolds were up 38-0.

The first offensive possession by Eau Claire didn’t happen as planned. Third-year Zachary Zilm fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Danny Kamm of Loras, who returned it 74 yards for a touchdown.

However, Eau Claire blocked the field goal to keep the score at 38-6.

Fourth-year running back Gerald Childs scored a 19-yard touchdown with five minutes and 52 seconds left on the clock, allowing the Blugolds to regain control of the game. Goetsch added an extra four points with two field goals.

Loras answered again with a touchdown. Mike McDevit of Loras scored on a 15-yard pass and a point was added by Timmy Tischer.

And then, victory. The Blugolds took home a 45-13 win over Loras.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to enjoy a bus ride home like that,” said fourth-year Drew Hurley. “Our goal was to be 1-0 after the week, and we went down there and took care of business as a team.”  

Eau Claire will host St. Norbert College at 6:00 p.m. Sept. 8 at Carson Park. The last time the Blugolds played St. Norbert was the fall of 1980.

“We are excited and can’t wait for Saturday night to get here,” Larson said. “We believe we will put on a good show for the university and city.”

Erskine can be reached at [email protected]  

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