The UW-Eau Claire football team scored early and had some key takeaways to hold Black Hills State University in check as it won 14-3 and ran its record to 2-0.
The Yellow Jackets actually produced more in total offense by a 178-to-159 margin. Black Hills State outrushed Eau Claire 62-to-47 while barely edging the Blugolds in the passing game 116-to-112.
However, Eau Claire intercepted three passes off Drew Hodgs and recovered two fumbles. The Blugold offense took care of the ball, throwing no picks while losing one fumble.
The scoring started with one of many fine defensive plays, a blocked punt in the first quarter. Nils Dillon (So.-Iola/Iola-Scandinavia) got his hand on the punt while Sam Cummings (Sr.-Rochester, MN/John Marshall) recovered the ball. The short drive afterwards resulted in a seven-yard touchdown pass to Dillon from Kyle Paulson (Jr.-Amery) with 11:58 to go into the first quarter.
The defense allowed for more scoring in the first when Dan Mahaffey (Fr.-Madison/James Madison) recovered a fumble at midfield. The ensuing drive ended with a one-yard jump into the end zone by Cory Sartorelli (So.-Appleton/North) as Eau Claire went up 14-0 with 3:15 to play in the quarter.
The defense continued to play well, keeping Black Hills State out of Eau Claire territory for most of the first half. Dave Wicklund (Jr.-Kewaskum), Kyle Meulemans (Jr.-Wrightstown), and Brent Weber (Sr.-Rice Lake) all had interceptions while Mahaffey and Cummings picked up fumbles.
The Yellow Jackets fall to 0-2 after today’s loss and have yet to score a touchdown. Their field goal in the third was their first score of the season.
The Blugolds did have a scary play in the second quarter however, as Paulson and center Matt Day (Jr.-Austin, MN) both were injured on the same play. Paulson was attempting a cut and twisted his knee while Day also suffered a knee injury during the play.
Paulson went 8-of-14 with 84 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. Joe Nikolay (So.-Abbotsford/Colby) replaced him and went 4-for-6 with 28 yards and no touchdowns or picks as the running game dominated the second half. Sartoreilli carried the load, rushing 33 times for 59 yards and a touchdown.
The last time the Blugolds started off a season 2-0 was 2004 and that year’s team posted a 7-3 record.
The Blugolds have their first home game of the season on Saturday, though it will not be the Clearwater Bowl. The contest against Alma College (MI) begins at 1 p.m. at Carson Park.