By Kyle Naber, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com)- The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire football is set to line up with the Cobbers of Concordia-Moorhead Saturday afternoon on the road, with both teams looking to bounce back from a loss and earn their first win of the season.
Last week, Head Coach Dan Larson saw his team fight hard against a very difficult St. Thomas team. The Blugolds really brought the energy and found themselves with a lead after JT Denhartog (So. - Hopkins, MN) hooked up with Brody Diggins (Jr. – Rochester, MN) for a 63-yard touchdown. The first quarter was nearly perfect for Eau Claire, as they finished it with a 6-0 lead, however, St. Thomas would go on to score 42 unanswered points to cruise to the win.
"The energy level was there," Larson said. "We need to continue to have guys believing we can win and not just hoping."
Larson also went on to say that he needs to see the same first quarter effort the team displayed for the entire game. Defensively, Larson noted that the team flew around the ball and played hard, physical football.
For this week, Larson wants to improve his offense's consistency on first and second down. Last week the team struggled to move the ball on the early downs, which shrinks the playbook and is difficult to overcome against a strong opponent.
Eau Claire will have to find ways to get Matt Knapp (Sr. – Eau Claire, WI/Memorial) into the game, who was held without a catch against the Tommies. Knapp had a coming out party last season when the teams met, hauling in 102 yards on nine receptions. Knapp will also look to be more dynamic in the return game, as he struggled to find room to make a big play.
Another focus for the offense will be the running game. Denhartog and Gerald Childs (Jr.-Brookfield, WI/East) started at the quarterback and running back slots on offense, the usually strong duo finished with a combined six total yards on the ground.
Scouting the opponent:
UW-Eau Claire will take on Concordia-Moorhead (0-1) Saturday at Jake Christiansen Stadium, with kick-off set for 1:00 PM.
Moorhead lost to Jamestown University in week one, 30-13. The loss snaps a five-game opening week win streak and is the first loss to Jamestown in 90 years. The Cobbers returned just three starters on offense and six on the defensive side of the football. While Moorhead had a tough opening week, expect them to be ready to play come Saturday.
When the teams line up, expect to see plenty of veers, options, and quick plays against the Blugold defense. One of the more notable losses for the Cobber offense is the loss of Brandon Zylstra, the dynamic wide out had a monster game against Eau Claire last season catching passes and running some jet sweep plays to rack up over 150 total yards. Zylstra has since graduated and now is playing professionally for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. Do not be fooled by the loss of Zylstra, the Cobbers can still be as dynamic as last season. The team still has dual-threat quarterback Michael Herzog and running backs Jason Montonye and Chad Johnson in their backfield.
Keys to the game:
The Blugolds know what they have to improve on in order to be successful this week; it comes down to effort and heart. Here are some other things to look for:
-Get the run game going, quarterback JT Denhartog was at his best when he was able to run and when the run opened up the passing game the Blugold offense thrived. This was a major weakness of the Eau Claire offense last week, look for Coach Larson to find some ways to get the running game going.
-Eau Claire has to shut down the run and stay home on defense. One of the hardest things to do as a defensive end is to defend against the option run. Justin Viss (Jr. 0 Chatfield, MN) and Charlie Brookshaw (So. – Prescott, WI) will play a big role in limiting the success of the Cobber attack.
-Get Matt Knapp into the ball game, one of the most dynamic players on the Blugold offense, Knapp has to be involved more in order for Eau Claire to open the playbook up. It will start with setting up the run, which can lead to big play-action passes from Denhartog to Knapp.
Follow the action on Saturday and for all sports this season on Blugold Game Day.