Blugolds score upset over the Eagles

UW-Eau Claire defeated UW-La Crosse 20-14 in a turning point game for Eau Claire

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Photo by Kelsey Smith

The Blugolds soared over the Eagles to earn their second win of the season.

UW-Eau Claire pulled off an upset win against UW-La Crosse Saturday, defeating them 20-14 at Carson Park. This puts Eau Claire’s season record at 2-5, and 1-3 in Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) play.

With the triumph over UW-La Crosse, the Blugolds earned their second win of the season for the first time since 2013.

Eau Claire head coach, Dan Larson, said the team did not do anything drastically different to earn their second victory. It was just a matter of execution.

“We just did the same thing we have been doing for weeks, which is paying attention to the details like the fundamentals and techniques.” Larson said. “Our guys did a good job of going out and executing those things that we’ve emphasized each and every week.”

After not being able to score in the first quarter of play, the Blugolds first score came courtesy of a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback JT Denhartog to wide receiver Matthew Knapp with 11 minutes and 54 seconds left in the second quarter. The two have hooked up for many scores through the air this season, as Denhartog said, Knapp made another impressive catch on Saturday.

“I just saw that he had one on one coverage, so I just figured we’d take a shot and see if we could get a score,” he said. “It worked out pretty well, and he made a great catch.”

Over the course of the second quarter, Eau Claire would go on a 10-0 scoring run, and go into halftime with a 10-7 lead (a feat that has eluded the Blugolds for most of the season). After both teams scored a touchdown in the third quarter, Eau Claire kicker Austin Kolden would knock down a 33-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to seal the deal for the Blugolds.

Denhartog said the team’s success should be attributed to a lack of mistakes made on the offensive side of the ball.

“We were a lot sharper, and we didn’t turn the ball over at all, which was huge,” he said. “It is something we haven’t been great at the last couple of games. I think that is the main thing.”

Another area on offense that the Blugolds improved upon this week was their running game.

After a dismal running game against UW-Stout in the previous week, Eau Claire runners would combine for a total of 155 yards. Head coach Dan Larson attributes the success on the ground to the team as a whole.

“Our backs ran harder, and our offensive line did a good job of identifying combos and taking care of a really good physical front seven,” Larson said. “We did a good job mixing up between our quarterback runs, running back runs, and running the ball with our wide receivers.”

Blugold running back, Brian Kulaga, said energy carried them the entire game, and the team played “four good quarters of football”.

Another area Eau Claire drastically improved upon against UW-La Crosse was on the defensive side of the ball.

After giving up 30 or more points against UW-Stout and UW-River falls their two previous matchups, the Blugolds only allowed 14 points against a normally proficient Lacrosse offense. Eau Claire starting cornerback, Ryan Ames, said the team did not have to drastically change up their game plan in the week of practices leading up to the game to be successful.

“We just made sure that we were really prepared as far as knowing what the offense was going to run,” Ames said. “Our coaches made sure that we had everything down. I think that was really reflected in the game.”

Eau Claire’s next opponent will be a challenge as they go up against UW-Whitewater, an undefeated team. Whitewater has won six Division-III national championships in the past decade, and is eyeing another this season.

Despite playing such a powerhouse program, Dan Larson said his team does not plan on doing anything differently in the week leading up to the game against the Warhawks.

“We go out and we work, we pay attention to the little things, and try to get better at our fundamentals and our schemes,” he said. “We are going to have to do that this week at a higher level, because we are going to have to compete with an obviously good Whitewater team.”

Eau Claire will square off against Whitewater at 1 p.m. this coming Saturday at Carson Park. The game can be heard live on Blugold Radio 99.9FM-WDRK, can be streamed online at and can be seen on Eau Claire’s last home game will take place on Nov. 12 when they play UW-Oshkosh.