Blugolds Fall to River Falls

Despite a scoring drive late in the game, turnovers cost the UW-Eau Claire football team as it lost 27-20 to UW-River Falls today.

The loss evens up 16th-ranked Eau Claire’s Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) record at 2-2 while River Falls’ rises to 1-2 with its first conference win. The Blugolds’ overall record is 5-2 and River Falls’ is 2-4.

The Blugolds had four turnovers on the game compared to two for the Falcons, and the first one occurred before Eau Claire could run a play. Tony Hull (Sr.-Blaine, MN/Spring Lake Park) received the opening kickoff and got to the Eau Claire 35 before losing the football. Falcon Cole Lowell jumped on it at the 36. River Falls went three plays and tried a 47-yard field goal that fell short.

With the ball at the Blugolds’ 30, Cory Sartorelli (So.-Appleton/North) gained 48 yards to get to the Falcons’ 22. Mitch Schaeuble (Sr.-Wrightstown) then threw his first pass of the game, a touchdown to Chris Hull (Sr.-Blaine, MN/Spring Lake Park) as Eau Claire took the early lead.

After a three-and-out following the kickoff, River Falls punted to Craig Polifka (Jr.-Kewaunee). Polifka made it to the 36 before fumbling to River Falls’ Bruce Baillargeon. The Falcons would get a 30-yard field goal on their drive, though the defense almost held them scoreless. River Falls had a fourth-and-1 on the 28, but a rush got 2 yards to keep the scoring drive alive.

The score would remain 7-3 going into the second quarter, but River Falls was threatening early in the second. Kyle Meulemans (Jr.-Wrightstown) then picked off a pass at the Eau Claire 9 to end the scoring chance. At 13:22 in the second, River Falls started its next drive at its own 36. Mostly aided by a 27-yard pass, the Falcons found their way to the Blugolds’ 24. Jesse Finer then attempted a 41-yard field goal and hit it to get within a point.

Two plays into Eau Claire’s next drive, the Blugolds committed another turnover when Schaeuble fumbled at the Blugolds’ 25. Nathan Anderson then rushed his way to the end zone and, with a two-point conversion, made the score 14-7 with 8:10 to play in the half.

On the following Blugold drive, the offense mixed the run and the pass during a 15-play, 71-yard march. Having just gotten a first down during a fourth-and-1 rush attempt, Schaeuble threw a pick on first and goal. Ben Arata returned it to the River Falls 44 as Eau Claire missed out on points. Neither team would score the rest of the half, though Bryant Dorsey (So.-De Pere) ended a possible scoring drive for River Falls when he intercepted a pass at the Eau Claire 25 with under a minute to play.

Coming back from the locker rooms, the teams punted back and forth until the 6:09 mark. At this point, River Falls went 64 yards in seven plays to score a touchdown. The big play of the drive was a 28-yard completion that brought the Falcons into Eau Claire territory and the scoring play was a 20-yard run from the quarterback, Storm Harmon.

Schaeuble and Chris Hull replied right back, however, on the next drive. Two plays in, the signal-caller found the playmaker for a 63-yard score. The two have hooked up for touchdowns of 55, 63, and 74 yards this season.

Going into the fourth with a 21-14 lead, River Falls had drives of four minutes and five minutes, but neither resulted in points. With 6:22 left, the Blugolds orchestrated a 66-yard march over 12 plays. Sartorelli ran for 34 of the yards, but Spencer Kehoe (So.-Clear Lake) scored the touchdown on the only completion of the drive. Schaeuble connected with him on a 24-yard strike to make it 21-20. However, the Falcons’ special teams knocked down the extra point as River Falls stayed on top.

With 1:33 to play, Eau Claire tried the onside kick. Not only did La Crosse recover the kick, but it returned it for a 41-yard touchdown. Eau Claire lost the ball on downs in the last possession as River Falls pulled off the 27-20 upset.

There was a balanced offensive attack today, with 163 yards on the ground and 156 in the air for 319 total. River Falls managed 311 for the game. First downs came out even at 18 apiece, but the three fumbles and a pick cost Eau Claire. River Falls had no fumbles and two interceptions.

Sartorelli gathered 165 yards on 37 attempts while Schaeuble went 8-for-25 with 156 yards and three touchdowns. His main target was Chris Hull, who had three catches for 90 yards. Two of those receptions were touchdowns.

On defense, Sam Cummings (Sr.-Rochester, MN/John Marshall) brought down 13 men to lead the team. Dorsey and Meulemans each had an interception.

The Blugolds come home for next week’s game. They take on UW-Platteville at 1 p.m. on Saturday.