River Falls, Wis. - The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse football team, ranked 25th on this week's D3football.com Top-25 Poll, earned a 56-7 victory at UW-River Falls Saturday afternoon at Ramer Field in the regular-season finale for both teams. UWL improves to 8-2 overall and 5-2 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) while UW-River Falls drops to 4-6 overall and 2-5 in the conference. UWL's eight overall and five conference wins are the most since the Eagles finished 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the WIAC in 2006.
The Eagles will await word if they have earned one of five at-large bids to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Championships. The 32-team field will be announced at 4:30 p.m. on ncaa.com. UWL last appeared in the national playoffs in 2006, earning a 28-21 win over Bethel University (Minn.) in the first round before falling 24-21 at UW-Whitewater in the second round.
UWL has made 11 appearances in the NCAA Division III Championships, compiling a 16-9 overall record. The Eagles won the 1992 and 1995 national title.
The Eagles took a 7-0 lead on the opening drive of the game Saturday, going 92 yards in six plays and 2:15 with Drew David throwing a 34-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Labellarte. UWL led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
David threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Nick Holcomb with 13:31 left in the second quarter to make it 14-0. David's four-yard touchdown run with 8:03 remaining in the first half gave UWL a 21-0 lead. On the ensuing possession, UWL's Luke Winnen intercepted a Ben Beckman pass and returned it 22-yards for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 28-0 lead wiht 7:07 left in the second quarter. It marked Winnen's third interception return for a touchdown this season.
UWL added to its lead with a pair of David to Holcomb touchdown passes later in the second quarter. David hit Holcomb from 19-yards out with 1:43 remaining and from eight-yards with :14 left to give the Eagles a 42-0 halftime lead. UWL scored 35 points in the second quarter, its most since finishing with 35 in a 42-0 win over Howard Payne University (Texas) September 6, 2003.
UW-River Falls got on the board with :26 left in the third quarter as Beckman threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Michael Diggins. UWL led 42-7 at the end of the quarter. Holcomb caught a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to finish the scoring. David hit Holcomb on a 35-yard pass on the first play of the quarter and Tarek Yaeggi later connected with Holcomb on a 24-yard touchdown pass with 2:15 remaining.
UWL finished with 559 yards of offense Saturday, including 448 passing and 111 rushing. The Eagles were seven-of-11 on third-down. David went 18-of-29 for 410 yards with five touchdowns and one interception while Yaeggi finished three-of-five for 38 yards with one touchdown and one interception. David's five touchdown passes are tied for third in single-game school history. Mike Durnin (vs. UW-Whitewater on November 3, 1979) and Joe Rihn (vs. UW-Superior on October 29, 1988) had a school record six touchdown passes.
Holcomb caught 11 passes for 253 yards and school record five touchdowns. His 253 yards ranks second in single-game school history while Holcomb's five touchdown catches set a school record. He had a school record 263 yards and tied a single-game school record with four touchdown catches versus Ripon College (Wis.) September 9. Holcomb's five touchdown catches breaks his own record of four as well as the record of four by Jerry Gilbertson (vs. UW-Milwaukee on October 29, 1962) and Scott Burnoski (vs. UW-Whitewater on November 13, 2004).
Holcomb's has set single-season school records for receptions (80), yards (1,401) and touchdowns (20) in 2017. His 20 touchdown catches also breaks the WIAC single-season school record of 19 set by UW-Whitewater's Jake Kumerow in 2013 and is tied for 16th in NCAA Division III history. Holcomb's five touchdowns ties the league record set by Jon May of UW-Oshkosh versus UW-River Falls on October 3, 1998. Holcomb's 1,401 yards yards in 2017 is second-most in WIAC history. Theo Blanco of UW-Stevens Point had 2,025 yards in 1987.
Labellarte had five catches for 150 yards and one touchdown. Troy Bailey led UWL with 52 yards rushing on eight attempts.
UW-River Falls totaled 369 yards, including 194 rushing and 175 passing. The Falcons were five-of-17 on third-down. Beckman finished 14-of-30 for 151 yards with one touchdown and one interception while Diggins totaled 113 yards rushing on 27 attempts with one touchdown catch. Nicholas Studer led the Falcons with seven catches for 50 yards while Trenton Monson had four receptions for 92 yards.
Noah Risch led UWL's defense with 10 tackles, including seven unassisted. Michael Garvey and Steve Law each had seven tackles. Law also had a forced and recovered fumble.
Max Praschak led UW-River Falls with nine tackles, including seven unassisted.