WHEATON, Ill. (Blugolds.com) – Taking on Wheaton College (Ill.) for the first time in history today, the UW-Eau Claire football team trailed by just three points after three quarters but ended up falling 17-0 against the 20th-ranked Thunder at McCully Stadium.
The teams kept it close through three quarters as Wheaton led by only three points following a 26-yard Thunder field goal with 1:39 remaining in the second quarter.
The Blugolds totaled 107 yards of offense in the first half, with only 30 after the first quarter, while Wheaton recorded 206 yards, 119 of which came in the opening quarter.
On the opening play from scrimmage in the third quarter, running back Riley Gebelein (So.-Marshfield, Wis.) broke free for a 54-yard run to the end zone, but a holding penalty brought the ball back and three plays later the Blugolds were forced to punt.
Late in the third quarter the Blugolds were able to stop a six-play, 51-yard Wheaton drive after recovering a fumble, which was forced by John Endres (So.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial), on the four-yard line. But the Blugolds were again forced to punt after a penalty and a sack, one of five on the day, brought up 4th-and-21.
On the following drive, Wheaton scored the game's first touchdown with 11:45 left in the fourth quarter and two minutes later, intercepted a Mark Munger (Sr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial) pass, returning it 52 yards for a touchdown to go up 17-0.
The Blugolds then put together a drive that went 72 yards in 11 plays but a 23-yard field goal attempt went wide right and Wheaton took over on their own 20. Eau Claire would have gotten the ball back one more time after a Thunder punt but a Blugold fumble and Wheaton recovery allowed the Thunder to run the clock out after three plays.
The Blugolds finished with 237 yards of offense (83 rushing, 154 passing) while Wheaton had 362 (151 rushing, 211 passing). Gebelein led the Blugolds with 46 yards on the ground while Munger led the team going 22-for-35 passing with 154 yards and Lucas Emmerich (Jr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial) had 71 yards with nine receptions to lead the team.
On defense, Cody Taubman (Jr.-New Richmond, Wis.) led the Blugolds with nine solo tackles. Roger Steen (Sr.-Luck, Wis.) and Jake Safstrom (Sr.-Grafton, Wis.) each had a sack and the Blugolds also forced four fumbles, recovering just one of them.
Eau Claire drops to 0-3 on the season while Wheaton improves to 3-0.
The shutout was the Blugolds' first since a 42-0 loss at UW-Whitewater on Oct. 18, 2013 but for the Thunder, it was also the fewest points they scored in a game this season.
The Blugolds will be off next weekend and will then be home on Oct. 4 for Homecoming and the Hall of Fame Game against seventh-ranked UW-Platteville. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at Carson Park.