PLATTEVILLE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire football team took on UW-Platteville on the road on Saturday, coming away with a dominating 40-16 win.
The Blugold defense stepped up early and often to lead Eau Claire to their first win over the Pioneers since 2009. After a Brad Goetsch (So. – Schofield, WI/DC Everest) punt on Eau Claire's opening drive, Jared Churak's (So. – Huntley, IL/Marian Central) interception at the UWEC 10 and return of 19 yards gave the Blugolds the ball right back. But the offense would stall again, and the Pioneers would take advantage and score the first points of the game on the next possession.
After another Blugold punt, Eau Claire would record their second turnover of the game, this time a fumble, forced and recovered by Trevor Nelson (So. – Hammond, WI/St. Croix Central) to shift the momentum to the Blugolds.
The offense would take charge and sparked by a 41-yard gain on a flea flicker from Scott Procter (Sr. – Chicago, IL/Saint Rita of Cascia) to Leeshaun Evans (Sr. – Chicago, IL/Thornridge), Austin Belot (So. – Neenah, WI/Neenah) would put Eau Claire on the board with a 10-yard rush. A Goetsch extra point would even the score at 7 apiece.
The defense picked up where they left off as Churak forced a Pioneer fumble that was recovered by Carmelo Rosado (So. – Beaver Dam, WI). After a Blugold and Pioneer punt, Eau Claire took the lead with a 3-yard rush up the middle by Procter. However, the extra point was blocked and returned by the Pioneers for two points.
The defense responded with another turnover on the next Pioneer drive as Sam Burzynski (So. – Stanley, WI/Stanley-Boyd) intercepted Colin Schuetz in the red zone to end the first half with the Blugolds leading, 13-9.
Eau Claire's defense did not slow down in the second half as Sam Romanski (Jr. – Wausau, WI/East) tallied another fumble recovery and Rosado recorded another interception on the first two Platteville drives of the second half.
The Blugolds extended their lead when Procter hit Tye McLaughlin (Sr. – Eau Claire, WI/Memorial) on a 14-yard touchdown strike early in the third quarter. A missed extra point left the score at 19-9 with 9:46 left in the third.
Eau Claire added to their lead early in the fourth quarter thanks to a pick-six by Rosado, tallying his second interception of the game and giving the Blugolds a 26-9 advantage with just under 14 minutes left to play.
After back-to-back sacks by Darius Sims (Jr. – Chicago, IL/Hubbard) and Romanski forced the Pioneers to punt in their own red zone, the Blugolds blocked the punt and Romanski ran it in for the score to give Eau Claire their fifth touchdown of the game.
The Pioneers cut the lead with a 47-yard touchdown run with 10:31 left in the fourth but the Blugolds were not done yet. A 35-yard scamper by Procter and a Goetsch extra point would give Eau Claire a 40-16 lead with 6:23 and sealing UWEC's first conference win of the season.
Procter finished with 10 completions in 15 attempts for 115 yards while Brian Kulaga (Sr. – Riverside, IL/Riverside-Brookfield) led the backfield with 68 yards on 17 carries.
In a stellar performance by the UWEC defense, the Blugolds finished the day with four interceptions for 71 yards and had three fumble recoveries. Eau Claire also tallied six sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.
Nelson anchored the defense, recording a game-high nine tackles (seven solo, four for a loss), two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
"Our defensive staff did a great job of putting together a good scheme - I was really happy with the way our defense played and they stuck to their assignments," said Head Coach Dan Larson. "We are capable of being a lot better than we showed in the last few weeks … Today we played much more to our capability - our season isn't over yet."
The Blugolds (3-4, 1-3 WIAC) will be back on the road next Saturday as they take on UW-River Falls at 1:05 p.m.