Pioneers Defeat UW-River Falls, 34-31
A 24-yard field goal by sophomore Zach Litchfield with three seconds to go lifted the University of Wisconsin-Platteville football team to a 34-31 win over host University of Wisconsin-River Falls on Saturday afternoon.
UW-Platteville (4-3, 2-2 WIAC) outgained the Falcons by a 523 to 393 margin in the win, including 403 yards through the air. The last time that UW-Platteville went for over 500 yards of total offense was against UW-La Crosse on Oct. 13, 2007. The win for the Pioneers also snapped a 14-game losing streak for UW-Platteville, who had not win at Ramer Field in River Falls since 1981.
With 1:18 left in the game and the contest tied at 31, junior quarterback Nick Anderson took UW-Platteville down the field. On second down, he scrambled for 11 yards; next, he moved the ball into UW-River Falls territory with a 13-yard completion to Paul Reit. Facing third and one, Lee Vlasak broke off a 21-yard run up the middle for another first down. Next, Vlasak ran up the middle again for a six-yard gain. After a timeout, Litchfield came on and made his second field goal of the game to lead the Pioneers to the victory.
UW-Platteville starting quarterback John Kelly completed 23 of 36 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He found six different receivers on the afternoon including Aaron Loferski, who had his second 100-yard receiving game of the season, with six catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, Vlasak finished the day with 93 yards rushing to lead the Pioneers. Defensively, Ryan McWethy and Bronzun Kyles each had 10 tackles to lead UW-Platteville.
Both teams got on the scoreboard to start the game with special teams touchdowns. The Falcons ran back the opening kickoff 92 yards for an early 7-0 lead. When UW-River Falls went to punt on its first offensive possession, Nick Karleski blocked the kick and recovered it to tie the game at 7.
The game remained tied at 7 for the remainder of the first quarter until the Pioneers scored on their first drive of the second quarter when Litchfield made a 30-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead. To set the drive up, the Pioneers stopped the Falcons on fourth down. On the drive, the Pioneers were able to regain possession when UW-River Falls was called for roughing the kicker on a 4th down play. Also, on the drive Kelly found an open Ryley Bailey for a 33-yard completion.
The Falcons answered the Pioneer field goal with a nine play, 68-yard drive that ended with a touchdown to put the home team up 14-10. UW-Platteville answered that threat, scoring a touchdown on its final three possessions of the first half. All three came through the air as Kelly tossed touchdown passes to Jeff Bracken, Loferski and Darin Blaser.
Between the touchdown passes to Bracken and Loferski, the Falcons scored a touchdown; however, the Pioneer offense and defense was clicking as they went into halftime with a 31-21 advantage. At the halftime break, the Pioneer offense had outgained the Falcons by a 325 to 178 margin and given up just eight first downs to the Falcons. Plus, 14 of the 21 points for UW-River Falls had came on just two plays.
After neither team scored in the third quarter, the Falcons cut the Pioneers lead to three, 31-28, when they took advantage of a UW-Platteville turnover.
Then, Kelly took the Pioneers down the field where he found four-different receivers to set up first and goal at the one-yard line. On the drive, he completed two key passes to Bailey, including a 15-yard completion on third down. However, UW-Platteville was kept off the scoreboard.
Momentum may have believed to belong on the Falcons side, but it was the Pioneer defense, who let everyone know where it really was. The Pioneers kept UW-River Falls off the scoreboard despite moving into UW-Platteville territory.
A possession later, the Falcons tied the game at 31 on a 21-yard field goal. Overtime had been used to settle the last two meetings in River Falls; however, the Pioneers were resilient and Anderson came off the bench to set the stage for the game-winning drive and eventual field goal by Litchfield.
Next, the Pioneers return to Platteville for Parents Weekend, Oct. 29, when they host UW-Eau Claire at 3 p.m. at Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium/Butch Leitl Field.