MENOMONIE, Wis. (October 27, 2012) - UW-Stout's offense struggled to find a rhythm all afternoon and UW-River Falls delivered the big plays when they needed them, resulting in a 24-14 road win for the Falcons, Saturday afternoon at Don and Nona Williams Stadium.
River Falls (2-6, 2-3 WIAC) scored their first points on the game's opening drive. On the 12-play, 72-yard drive, the Falcons saw just two third downs, the first of which they converted to avoid a three-and-out. Stout (3-5, 1-4 WIAC) was able to hold them to a field goal, but fell into an early deficit nonetheless.
The offense did not start out hot, either, as Michael Blizel (Sr, Sturgeon Bay) threw an interception on their first offensive play of the game. River Falls could not capitalize on the turnover, and the teams traded punts - seven total drives in a row - for the next 15 minutes of gametime. Ricky Marteney (Jr, Greenfield) knotted up the score with a field goal that culminated a drive started in River Falls territory after Stout forced and recovered a Falcon fumble.
With 49 seconds remaining in the half, Stout got the ball on their own 36 yard line, looking to grab their first lead of the game heading into the locker rooms. They did just that when Marteney hit a 39 yard field goal to cap off a 42-yard, eight play drive. Blizel was 4-for-5 with completions of 14, 12, 9, and 6 yards to quickly drive the offense into Marteney's range.
The third quarter was owned by the Falcons. On the second play from scrimmage, Stout coughed up the ball after a 10-yard pass play, and River Falls took over at midfield. After that, in the three drives that ended in the third quarter, Stout punted twice and took a big loss on fourth down on another play that looked to be a punt.
Meanwhile, River Falls enjoyed two touchdown drives, both of which started in Stout territory. The first drive went 30 yards in seven plays, ending with a Ryan Kusilek pass to Jon Manke for a 13-yard score. After forcing a punt, the Falcons took over at the Stout 41. This time, Kusilek hit Jake Ryan for a 14-yard touchdown on third down to put his team up 17-6 heading into the final quarter.
Stout got things going late in the third when Blizel hit Mike Gervenak (Sr, Baxter, Minn.) for a 40-yard completion to begin their only scoring drive of the game. Josh Peterson (Sr, Cedar Grove) refused to go down on a big 11-yard gain on third-and-10, that extended the drive early on. Facing a fourth-and-one on River Falls' 15, Stout elected to go for the touchdown rather than a field goal attempt. Blizel hit an unfamiliar Jamie Rohrig (So, Owatonna, Minn.), who usually lines up on the defensive line, for a nine yard catch and run, setting up an Eric Brown (Sr, St. Paul, Minn.) touchdown on the next play.
After forcing a fumble on River Falls' next drive, Stout was in great position to tie or take the lead, starting their drive in Falcon territory. Brown picked up a crucial first down on third-and-eight to avoid a three-and-out. Then Blizel connected with Peterson for another 11-yard play, which brough the offense into the red zone for the third time of the evening. River Falls came up with a sack, however, one of seven on the evening, to push Stout to the 28 yard line, where they would attempt a 45 yard field goal. Marteney could not go a perfect 3-for-3, as he missed the game-tying field goal wide left.
The dagger came with under four minutes to go when Charles Dixon made a 49-yard reception on third down that set up River Falls' final score.
Third down told the story of the game, as both Falcon touchdowns and their 49-yard dagger at the end were all on third down. Stout was just 4-of-18 on third down attempts.
Blizel finished the game 19-of-35 for 219 yards and was sacked five times before the fifth one cued backup Hank Kujak (So, Blair) to come in and finish the game. In six dropbacks, Kujak was sacked twice, but did complete a 41 yard pass to Trevor Morning (Jr, Bloomer). Peterson was Stout's leading receiver with six catches for 53 yards. Brown rushed for 24 yards on 10 carries, while Tanner Kuehn (So, Fairchild) picked up 14 yards on eight carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tyler Naatz (So, Menomonie) and Spencer Adler (Jr, Little Chute) continued to rack up the tackles, as they have both done all season. Naatz led the way with 15, five of which were unassisted, while Adler led with six solos, 14 total. Cornerback Billy Rosenthal (Sr, Wyoming, Minn.) recorded three pass break ups and nine tackles.
For the Falcons, Kusilek ended 18-of-30 for 223 yards and was sacked just once. John Schimenz carried the ball 27 times for a total of 69 yards including his touchdown that sealed the win.
Stout will travel to UW-Platteville next Saturday, Nov. 3, before returning home, Nov. 10, to host UW-Oshkosh in their final game of the season.