ST. PAUL, Minn. (Blugolds.com) – Down 22-3 with just over a quarter remaining, the UW-Eau Claire football team fought back and nearly pulled off the upset at 11th-ranked University of St. Thomas (Minn.) today.
After St. Thomas built a 22-3 lead with 10 minutes left in the third quarter, the Blugolds were able to cut into the lead after Jake Neis (Fr.-Chatfield, Minn.) scored on a two-yard run with 1:08 left in the third quarter. A three-yard touchdown pass from Mark Munger (Sr.-Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial) to Cody Gerver (Sr.-Mahtomedi, Minn.) with 2:11 left in the game then got the Blugolds within six (22-17).
Eau Claire then recovered an on-side kick, getting the ball on its own 41 yard line. Three incomplete passes set up a 4th-and-10 but the Blugolds converted with a 26-yard pass from Munger to Chris Cummings (Jr.-Milwaukee, Wis./Riverside University).
With a new set of downs, the Blugolds followed with an incomplete pass, a false start penalty and a sack to bring up 3rd-and-21. But again a pass from Munger to Cummings for 18 yards, followed by another for six yards gave the Blugolds another first down. On the Tommies' 20 yard line, the drive came to an end with an interception and St. Thomas needed to kneel it just once to run out the final 36 seconds.
Earlier in the game, the Blugolds had a chance to score to take the initial lead. On the Tommies' opening drive, Brandon Luedke (So.-Wausau, Wis./East) recovered a fumble and the Blugolds worked their way to a St. Thomas' two yard line. But Eau Claire fumbled and two drives later, St. Thomas got on the board first.
The first quarter ended with the Tommies up 7-0 and midway through the second quarter they added another touchdown, going up 15-0. With three minutes left in the opening half, Parker LeMire (Jr.-Somerset, Wis.) connected on a 30-yard field goal to get the Blugolds on the board and the halftime score was 15-3.
St. Thomas scored one final touchdown on its first possession of the second half to go up 22-3 before the Blugolds held the Tommies scoreless the rest of the way.
The Blugolds led the Tommies in first downs, time of possession and total yards, but Blugold three turnovers, two interceptions and a fumble, had a big impact on the game. Eau Claire also had just five penalties to seven for St. Thomas.
Munger completed the game with 297 yards passing (33-for-58) while Neis led the Blugolds in rushing with 67 yards on 20 attempts, one of which was a touchdown. Munger's 33 completions ties for second most in school history while 58 attempts also ranks second. Korey Jacobson (So.-Baldwin, Wis./St. Croix Central) had 107 receiving yards to lead the game while Cummings had 106. Jacobson set a school record with 17 receptions, breaking the old school record of 13 by Chris Herzog vs. UW-River Falls on Sept. 23, 1989.
On defense, Cody Taubman (Jr.-New Richmond, Wis.) led the Blugolds with nine tackles (four solo, five assists). Jake Weber (So.-Durand, Wis.) had one interception for 14 yards, which led to the Blugolds' first touchdown, and Jayden Dobbs (Jr.-Athens, Wis.) recorded a sack.
Next up, the Blugolds will play their home-opener next Saturday, hosting Saint John's University (Minn.) at 6 p.m. at Carson Park. A tailgate, sponsored by Gordy's County Market, will begin at the park at 4 p.m.