EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The UW-Eau Claire football team never trailed until the final seconds in a 28-24 loss to UW-Stevens Point at Carson Park today.
The Blugolds came out strong, scoring touchdowns on two out of their first three possessions. Both touchdowns were set up following Blugold interceptions.
On the Pointers' first drive of the day, they drove 77 yards but Chad Samuelson (Sr.-St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) ended the drive by picking off a pass in the end zone. The Blugolds then drove 80 yards in 15 plays and Joel Sweeney (So.-Tomah, Wis.) capped off the drive with a 14-yard rushing touchdown.
Stevens Point got the ball back and after just two plays, Blugold Chris Olson (Sr.-Stratford, Wis.) intercepted a Mitch Beau pass and returned it 18 yards to the Pointers' 27 yard line. It took the Blugolds only three plays to find the end zone again with Matt Olson (Sr.-Stratford, Wis.) scoring a 16-yard rushing touchdown.
With the Blugolds up 14-0, Stevens Point got on the board in the second quarter with a touchdown of its own and the score remained 14-7 at halftime.
The Pointers struck quickly in the third quarter, scoring a touchdown just three plays into the half from a 38 yard Beau pass to Theo Maglio.
The Blugolds tried a field goal from 45 yards on the following drive but the Josh Albrecht (Fr.-Eau Claire, Wis./North) kick went wide right. However, after the ensuing Pointer drive ended in a punt, Blugold Clint Larsen (Fr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial) took the punt 83 yards to the end zone to give the Blugolds another advantage. The punt return was the second longest in school history, behind only a 95 yard return that occurred in 1953.
Eau Claire had another opportunity on the following kickoff as Nick Slade (Jr.-St. Cloud, Minn./Tech) recovered a fumble but the Blugolds' drive stalled after just three plays and they had to settle for a field goal. This time, Albrecht nailed the 32-yard field goal to give Eau Claire a 24-14 lead.
But that was all the scoring the Blugolds would manage the rest of the way. Stevens Point scored a touchdown late in the third and added the dagger with 15 seconds left in the fourth. The Pointers scored the final touchdown on a fourth-and-goal with a quarterback sneak from one yard out.
Stevens Point led the game with 352 yards of total offense while the Blugolds finished with 295.
Blugolds' Austin Neu (Jr.-Iron Ridge, Wis./Hustisford) had 196 passing yards going 20-for-35 but was sacked four times. The Blugolds sacked Pointer quarterback Beau twice and intercepted two passes but he finished with 252 yards going 11-for-19.
Sweeney had 58 rushing yards to lead the game but the Blugolds were held to just 99 yards on the ground for the game. Mike O'Connell (Jr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Regis) led the Blugolds with 70 receiving yards on six catches.
On defense, Sean Graham (So.-Hales Corners, Wis./Whitnall) led the Blugolds with seven tackles while Eric Nieman (So.-Evansville, Wis.), Kalan Stittleburg (Sr.-Neillsville, Wis.) and Pat Hendricks (Jr.-Clintonville, Wis.) were all part of sacks.
The Blugolds drop to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the WIAC. The Pointers improve to 4-3 on the season and 2-2 in conference play.
Next Saturday, the Blugolds will be at UW-Platteville. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.