Establishing a mentality

Football looks to carry strong performance into Saturday

Establishing a mentality

At the end of the day, the UW-Eau Claire football team will carry an 0-1 record to Saturday’s home opener at Carson Park.

But what head coach Todd Glaser and the Blugolds will bring with them is a new identity on both sides of the football, particularly on offense.

In a 22-17 loss to No. 11 St. Thomas (Minn.) on the road Saturday, the Blugolds utilized a short passing game as quarterback Mark Munger racked up 298 yards through the air on 33 completions to almost pull off the upset.

“It was a lot of timing things,” Glaser said. “Our receivers did a good job of catching the ball and getting some yards after the catch, and we need to continue to do that and get better.”

No wide receiver had a bigger day than sophomore Korey Jacobson. The Minnesota-Moorhead transfer had a school-record 17 catches for 107 yards.

He served as almost a running back out of the slot position, catching bubble screens from Munger all game long to methodically move the ball up and down the field.

“There would be a couple of people blitzing, I’d find him (Munger), he’d see me, and we just sort of connected like that,” Jacobson said. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of Blugold history, it’s something not a lot of people get to do.”

The Blugolds continued and will look to continue the running back-by-committee format to establish more of a run game to balance Munger and the short yardage passing game.

It was freshman Jake Neis who got the majority of the carries against the Tommies, and he even scored a touchdown. But coming into Saturday’s matchup with St. John’s (Minn.), Glaser expects the run game to provide an even bigger pop for the Blugolds.

“Jake Neis, for a freshman, had a nice game,” Glaser said. “We need to run the ball a little better to be successful, but I know those guys are working hard, the offensive line is working hard, and we’ll get better.”

The big challenge this weekend in terms of running the football will be stopping the Johnnies of St. John’s.

One of Division III’s most successful programs ever, St. John’s ran the ball for 309 yards in a week-one win against UW-River Falls.

But much like the offense, the Blugold defense found positives, particularly in the second half against St. Thomas. Defensive coordinator Sam Cummings’ squad held the Tommies to just seven second-half points, including zero in the fourth quarter.

Glaser said he expects the same defensive mentality Saturday.

“I think it comes down, like always, to run to the football, and I think we did that pretty well throughout the game,” Glaser said. “We need to play consistent stopping the run and giving their game fits, and in the secondary, we can’t give up big pass plays.”

The Blugolds will play at home under-the-lights Saturday for the first time since 2010, as a 6 p.m. kickoff awaits them and the Johnnies.

Eau Claire will look to take the positives from nearly knocking off a top-15 team to give the primetime crowd something to cheer about.

“We kind of figured out who we were,” Jacobson said. “There’s a lot of stuff we need to fix, but we found out what we can do, especially against a high-level team.”