UW-Eau Claire football falls to St. Thomas in season opener

Blugolds 2015 struggles carry over to the start of the 2016 season

More stories from Parker Reed


Photo by Kelsey Smith

Blugolds open up their season facing St. Thomas Saturday night at Carson Park in Eau Claire Photo: Kelsey Smith

Blugold football has undergone major changes in coaching staff this offseason, most notably the addition of Head Coach Dan Larson who was hired into his new position in January of this year.

Despite the winless 2015 regular season and offseason coaching changes, Blugolds in and around the football program are staying positive. Even Chancellor James C. Schmidt expressed a more hopeful outlook for the season.

“I’m really impressed with the new coaching staff, and the enthusiasm from a lot of the players,” Schmidt said. “I had the chance to watch them in scrimmage a couple of weeks ago, and saw an exciting offense and some good defense. I think we’ll be a lot more competitive this year, and we are starting a new era of UW-Eau Claire football.”

Eau Claire hosted the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) Saturday night at Carson Park in Eau Claire, where the two teams managed to draw a near-capacity crowd.

The Blugolds started out strong against the Tommies, as starting quarterback sophomore JT Denhartog threw a strong 63-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Brody Diggins with 3:09 left in the first quarter. After a blocked field goal attempt, the Blugolds sustained their 6-0 lead over St. Thomas for the remainder of the first quarter. But, like the summer weather, things would change shortly thereafter.

With 11:30 remaining in the second quarter, St. Thomas senior running back Jordan Roberts completed a one-yard touchdown run. And after a Carter Schmitz extra point, St. Thomas gained a 7-6 lead over the Blugolds.

Over the remaining two and a half quarters, Eau Claire failed to score on any of their last 10 possessions (eight punts, one interception and their last possession was cut short by the game clock). The Tommies, however, found the end zone their next four out of five possessions and after the dust had settled, The Tommies defeated the Blugolds by a final score of 42-6.

The Tommies performance is largely due to the performance of their senior quarterback Alex Fenske, who successfully completed 17 of his 28 pass attempts, along with 345 passing yards and three touchdowns. Along with Fenske, senior wide receiver Nick Waldvogel caught seven passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

Even though the final score was reminiscent of many of the outcomes of the 2015 season, Eau Claire fans and players alike are remaining positive. Freshman cornerback De’Angelo Roberson said they just have to continue to bounce back and to keep looking to the future.

“We learned a lot about ourselves in this game,” Roberson said. “We believe in ourselves. We are a new team, new era, and we have to continue to preach that. The outcome of course didn’t come out like we wanted it to, but that’s why you continue to work in practice, bounce back and continue to prepare for the next game.”

Eau Claire’s next game is on Sept. 10 at the University of Concordia-Moorhead. The Blugolds will return to action at Carson Park on Oct. 1 for their homecoming game against UW-Stevens Point.