COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. (Blugolds.com) – While the UW-Eau Claire football team trailed by 17 points at halftime, the Blugolds made a comeback in the second half which fell just short against Saint John's University (Minn.) 17-14 at Clemens Stadium today.
The first quarter saw no scoring from either team but the Johnnies scored three times in the second quarter to take a 17-0 lead into halftime. They scored a touchdown at 11:31 and kicked a field goal at 3:26 before scoring another touchdown at 1:38.
But Eau Claire came out strong in the second half and took their first drive 66 yards in 2:53 to the end zone. Joel Sweeney (Sr.-Tomah, Wis.) capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run and after a Billy Emanuel (Sr.-Owatonna, Minn.) extra point, the score was 17-7.
Then midway through the fourth quarter, a quick Blugold drive which started with a fumble recovery got the Blugolds within three points. Sweeney ended the three-play, 33-yard drive with a 14-yard rushing touchdown.
Saint John's got the ball back and after six plays tried a 37-yard field goal but it was blocked and recovered by the Blugolds to give Eau Claire the ball back on their own 23 with just under six minutes remaining.
The Blugolds had a good drive going and found themselves down to Saint John's 18 with just over a minute left. But the drive would end after Mitch Olson (Sr.-New Auburn, Wis./Chi-Hi) fumbled and the Johnnies recovered. From there, Saint John's was able to run out the clock after getting one first down.
The teams both had similar numbers at the end of the day with turnovers and penalties being big parts of the contest. Both teams had four fumbles, losing three apiece, while Eau Claire threw two interceptions and Saint John's threw one. The Blugolds also had 11 penalties for 113 yards while the Johnnies had nine of 95 yards.
Sweeney had 266 yards on the ground of the Blugolds' 346 total yards of offense, the second best total he has reached in his career (281 is his career high, set last season against UW-River Falls) and the sixth largest total in school history. He now has 3,175 career yards, moving past hall of famer Roger Vann on the Blugolds' all-time career rushing yards list.
Mark Munger (Jr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial) finished the game going 4-for-17 for 64 yards with two interceptions while he was sacked four times. Drew Davis (Fr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial) led the Blugold receivers with 36 yards.
On defense, Sean Graham (Sr.-Hales Corners, Wis./Whitnall) and Jake Safstrom (Jr.-Grafton, Wis.) led the Blugolds with eight tackles each, including a sack for Safstrom. Cody Taubman (So.-New Richmond, Wis.) picked off one Johnnie pass while three different Blugolds recovered fumbles.
Eau Claire drops to 0-2 on the season while Saint John's improves to 2-0.
After taking next weekend off, the Blugolds will be at home for the first time this season, hosting 12th-ranked Pacific Lutheran (Wash.) on Sept. 28. Kickoff at Carson Park is scheduled for noon and it will be the Blugolds' Hall of Fame Game.