Larsen’s speed still not enough for Blugolds

The UW-Stevens Point Pointers had a perfect game plan for the UW-Eau Claire football team: crowd the box and stop All-American running back Joel Sweeney.

While they successfully did this, holding big No. 24 to just 90 yards on 26 carries, they opened the door for a new offensive weapon to emerge in sophomore speedster Clint Larsen, a wide receiver.

Larsen took a few sweep plays to the outside and ran the ball for 77 yards on just eight carries, including Eau Claire’s two touchdowns — one of which sent the game into overtime.

But the now 4-1 Pointers got the best of the Blugolds in overtime, dishing out a 23-17 loss to Eau Claire in front of a raucous crowd of 4,117 people at Carson Park for Homecoming Saturday.

“A lot of people are crashing to stop Sweeney,” head coach Todd Glaser said. “It was a way to get them to stop doing that. Clint’s got great speed and he hit it a couple of times to the corner.”

Larsen, who was coming off a week where he was named the WIAC Special Teams Player of the Week after returning a kickoff a school-record 98 yards for a touchdown at UW-Platteville, said he feels comfortable right now with the football in his hands.

“You get confidence from your teammates; you get confidence from within yourself to keep having great games,” Larsen said.

Larsen and Glaser also both said it was encouraging to find new ways to create plays on the offense.

Larsen’s two touchdowns came on sweep plays to the outside that saw him break loose, one for a 26-yard run with 14:54 left to play in the second quarter and the other being the late-game heroics, a 16-yarder with 1:11 left in the game to tie it at 17.

“Offensively, we played a great game,” Larsen said. “We made big plays, the kind of big plays you need throughout the game. It’s the big plays that really decide the game, I guess.”

But the game’s biggest play came courtesy of Stevens Point in the overtime session that led straight to a Pointer victory.

In college football overtimes, both teams get a chance to play offense. So it is like baseball where you want to have the last opportunity to score. Stevens Point won the toss and sent Larsen, junior quarterback Mark Munger and the rest of the Blugold offense out onto the field first.

On a third-down and four play with the Blugolds 19 yards away from the endzone, Munger rolled out and fooled the Stevens Point defense as they rolled out with him. Sweeney slipped to other side for a half-back screen pass, and as Munger turned to throw it to him for what would have been a touchdown, Pointer defensive lineman Jake Bedor jumped to grab Munger’s screen pass to give Stevens Point the ball back. They would score several plays later to seal the victory.

Glaser said giveaways were costly throughout the ballgame.

“We can’t turnover the football, and that’s all throughout the game,” Glaser said.

On the defensive side of the ball, Glaser saw his secondary bounceback a week removed from giving up seven touchdown passes to Platteville’s John Kelly.

The defensive backs held Stevens Point quarterback Mitch Beau in check, making him throw for only 202 yards and one touchdown. Senior cornerback Colton Ellis said the defense did a good job bouncing back on Saturday.

“You’ve got to able to clear your mind and have a short memory,” Ellis said. “We had a good week of preparation. Everybody stuck to their jobs, and it was a battle the entire game. We just unfortunately came out on the wrong end of it.”

With the loss, the Blugolds fell to 0-5 on the year. However, three of those five losses have been by a combined 11 points. Larsen said strong camaraderie has helped Eau Claire deal with tough losses, and it will to continue to make them better as the year winds down.

“Everyday, we’re out there encouraging each other, we’re keeping the confidence up, we’re keeping the hype up, we’re picking each other up when we’re all down,” Larsen said. “Family does that.”

The “Family” will head to UW-Whitewater for a rare, under-the-lights matchup, 7 p.m., Friday, at Perkins Field in Whitewater.