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Pioneers open season with 42 point second half rally to defeat ETBU 59-44

More news about: UW-Platteville

MARSHALL, Tex.- After trailing 30-10 in the second quarter and entering the locker room down 37-17 at the half, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneers dominated the third quarter to rally and win 59-44 at East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) Thursday night in the first game of the season.

The 42 point rally is the largest comeback in Pioneer history since the 52 point comeback of 1980 against UW-Eau Claire when the Pioneers' victory secured the conference championship title.

"What a remarkable game? Let's hand it to ETBU they took it to us in the first half and we weren't ready and that was on me" said Mike Emendorfer.  "In that second half, the Pioneers were ready to play. I'm just so proud of how the team responded and retained their composure and how the assistant coaches responded"

Sean Studer(124 yards) and Bo Babich (104) each rushed for more than 100 yards, and Colin Schuetz passed for 304 and a touchdown. The Pioneers offense came up big and totaled 331 yards in the second half compared to 196 in the first. Both teams surpassed 500 yards of offense, with the Pioneers holding a 527-505 advantage. 

The ETBU Tigers' speed on the field and in between plays challenged the Pioneers from the start.  ETBU took an early 7-0 lead just 34 seconds into the game with a 23 yard pass from sophomore quarterback Brian Baca to senior receiver Tarek Beaugard.

The Pioneers answered with a 25 yard field goal by senior Michael Pratl, but more challenges in the first half would soon come in the form of Baca connecting with senior Jauque Kuykenda for a 72 yard reception, followed by Baca rushing into the end zone putting the Tigers up 14-3. The Tigers would go on to use their speed and strength to pull away to a 20-3 lead with 9:21 left in the first quarter.

The Pioneers picked up momentum with a 67 yard kick return by sophomore Bo Bacich from their own third to the ETBU 30 yard line.  Schuetz connected with receivers sophomore Donald Allenderand seniors Connor Fedderlyand Tim Jansen, before Babich took two downs to hammer into the end zone and lessen the deficit to 20-10.

A 38 yard field goal by ETBU's Drew Mackay gave the Tigers a 23-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter followed suit and started with the quick and accurate Tiger offense rushing for a touchdown with 12:12 left in the half.

Senior defensive back Josh Mackiepicked the first Pioneer interception of the night and gained possession at the ETBU 47, but was followed by an ETBU interception four snaps later to give possession back to the Tigers.

The Pioneer defense held the Tigers in their next attempt and ETBU's Joseph LeBlanc's punt was blocked and recovered by UW-Platteville senior linebacker Ben Mogilevsky. After a 16 yard reception to Allender, a 20 yard rush by senior Sean Studer, Schuetz drove into the end zone for his first college career touchdown with the Pioneers trailing 30-17 with 2:19 left in the half.

The Tigers responded immediately with a 95 yard kick return by junior Dominic Haggerty putting the score at 37-17 for it to stay until the second half.

"At the half, we made some adjustments and you could tell our strength and conditioning  dominated," Emendorfer said. "I told the team this is right where we want them.  Give them some false confidence.  It was those big plays in the second half that we needed and the team delivered."

The first drive of the third quarter began with Schuetz connecting four passes with four different receivers for a total of 70 yards which positioned sophomore Babich's two yard rush into the end zone.  That drive proved to be the turning point that the Pioneers needed to set the game into motion for the comeback of the ages.  

What happened next took the Tigers by surprise with exceptional game-making plays by offense, defense, and specialists.

Babich's touchdown was followed by a blocked ETBU punt by Knigge and recovered by junior Antonio-Jose Ramoswhich stationed the Pioneers to take over at ETBU's 30 with 10:30 left in the third. 

Sophomores Schuetz and Allender connected for a 14 yard reception drawing the Pioneers closer.  Pressure on Schuetz and then a holding call against the Tigers preceded an eight yard reception from Schuetz to junior Tyler Knigge for another Pioneer touchdown bringing the Pioneers closer to evening the game 37-31 with 9:40 left in the third.

ETBU's next possession was short lived with a Baca attempt to junior Richard Johnson falling incomplete at the hands of junior defensive back Luke Johnson. The next snap ended with another big play by Mogilevsky in the shape of an interception and one yard return to the home 10 yard line. The Pioneers were able to capitalize on Mogilevsky's pick and position Babich for another touchdown that left the Pioneers finding their way into the lead 38-37 with 8:17 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers were able to take the lead once more with Baca showcasing his capable running skills followed by a 23 yard reception to ETBU's Johnson with 5:51 left in the third quarter.

Schuetz connected with senior receiver Connor Fedderlybefore letting it up to the Pioneer running game to continue to impress with senior running back Sean Studer's three yard scoring rush that put the Pioneers into the lead 45-44 with 3:48 left in the third quarter.

UW-Platteville's Pratl 53 yard kick placed the Tigers at their own 12 yard line. After three failed passing attempts and a timeout, ETBU set up in punting position only for it to be blocked again and this time returned to the end zone by Ramos. The Pioneers finished the third quarter outscoring the Tigers 35-7. 

Preseason All-American senior punter Connor Foleydrilled a 56 yard punt for a touchback, and a personal foul against ETBU on the play sets the Tigers back and unable to convert, LeBlanc's punt was returned all the way by Babich giving the Pioneers the 59-44 lead and soon to be final score with 13:33 left in the ball game.

Possession is traded only a few times more with two 40+ yard Foley punts marked at the ETBU's four and two yard lines. 

The Pioneer offense took the field one last time with 1:20 left in the game and a third-and-one drive by Babich achieved the first down needed to run down the clock and allow the Pioneers to celebrate one of the most exciting comebacks in Pioneer football history.

"I'm just excited for the team, the families, and the fans that traveled here and were able to be part of one thrill of a game," Emendorfer said.

In all, the Pioneers outscored the Tigers 42-7 in the second half and went 3-3 on fourth down conversions.  

Sophomore receiver Donald Allenderled the Pioneers with 140 yards.

Also receiving was Senior receiver Tim Jansen(74 yards), junior Tyler Knigge(33 yards and one touchdown), junior Brett Geisz(23 yards).

Kicker Michael Pratlwent eight-for-eight in PATs and Connor Foleypunted for total of 211 yards with a 56 yard long. 

Ben Mogilevskyand Josh Mackieeach intercepted ETBU one a piece and Antonio-Jose Ramosblocked one and recovered two punts with the second being returned for a touchdown.

On defense, seniors Clayton Beckerand Cleveland Reddlead with 13 tackles a piece.  Becker and Logan Ketelhutare credited with the two Baca sacks of the evening while heavy pressure from junior defensive back Luke Johnsoncreated security against the Tigers' 6'4" 205 Richard Johnson.

Thursday night's win adds to the winning streak as UW-Platteville has now won all 20 of its season openers under Coach Mike Emendorfer. 

Looking ahead, the Pioneers have a bye week and then hit the road again to play the second game of the season at Thomas Moore in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio on Sept. 15 at noon.

The Pioneers' first home game is Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. against Lakeland, and will once again host a Saturday night under the lights.

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