UWEC VS PLATTVILLE FBL

UW-Eau Claire’s Josiah Johnson hands the ball off to Austin Belot during the Blugolds’ matchup with UW-Platteville on Saturday, Oct. 26, at Carson Park.

UW-Eau Claire football coach Wesley Beschorner experienced the highs that come with being a head coach early this season.

Now, he’s experiencing the challenges that come with it, too.

“Enlightening, certainly, for a number of different reasons, but I certainly don’t want to go through that,” Beschorner said.

The Blugolds’ upset of then-No. 6 St. Thomas in late September seems far in the rear view mirror after the program’s recent three-game losing streak. None of the three defeats, which have come against UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville and UW-Stevens Point, have been particularly close either. Combined, UW-EC has been outscored 114-23.

“You’ve seen some good things in games,” Beschorner said. “It’s just a matter of making sure those good things continue to happen. We had some really long drives that just didn’t end in points. We’ve got to be able to hit a field goal, hit a guy that’s open and break a tackle and I’ve got to call better plays. It’s all of us.”

The offensive step back is somewhat expected considering the injuries the Blugolds have dealt with. Starting quarterback Jonathan Malueg went down for the season with a leg injury in UW-Eau Claire’s last victory, a 27-14 outing against UW-River Falls. Last week the team played without the WIAC’s leading rusher, Austin Belot, who suffered a leg injury two weeks ago against the Pioneers.

The defensive issues are more surprising, especially in UW-EC’s last outing. The Titans and Pioneers have proven they’re two of the top teams in the WIAC, but giving up 40 points to a UW-Stevens Point team that was riding a three-game losing streak into the matchup is dubious.

“Losses in general are turned into wake-up calls,” Blugolds linebacker Sam Romanski said. “Every opponent in the WIAC is a great opponent. Any time you lose a game, you realize we need to reassess and get back to what we do and what we do best.”

Of course, the high scores against this usually mighty Blugolds defense aren’t entirely separate from the offensive performance. UW-Stevens Point started nine of its 12 drives on the Blugolds’ side of the 50-yard line and six inside the 30-yard line.

“I think it’s all three phases, they all compliment one another,” Beschorner said. “When the defense gives the offense a short field, the offense becomes better. When the offense scores and we kick off and give their offense a long field, it makes our defense look better. It takes all three phases.”

Beschorner said Belot remains day-to-day, but is working hard to get back out on the field. Conrad Bolz ran for 97 yards last week against the Pointers in his stead. Quarterback Josiah Johnson has surpassed 150 yards through the air in two straight weeks, though he’s thrown three interceptions compared to two touchdowns.

“At times, you can see him do some really good things,” Beschorner said. “Other times, it doesn’t matter who is in that spot, you’ve got to eliminate the negatives and don’t let the game of football beat you and be ball secure. When he is, he shows some really good flashes.”

Things don’t get easier for the defense this week in a matchup with UW-La Crosse, the third-best scoring unit in the league. Quarterback Evan Lewandowski showed his ceiling with an incredible nine touchdown performance against UW-River Falls on Oct. 19. He’s thrown at least two touchdowns in five straight games and 19 overall during that span.

“You’ve got to stop the run first,” Beschorner said. “We’ve got to stop the run and put them in long yardage situations. If we do that, I feel like we have a chance.”