MENOMONIE — In the locker room at halftime, the UW-Stout football team knew it was a play or two away from breaking things open. When the Blue Devils returned to the field, they wasted no time at all proving their theory right.
Stout safety Cannon Griner picked off a pass from St. Norbert's Ben Kohl on the first play of the third quarter, and a few moments later running back Rayshawn Graham pushed into the end zone to turn a one-score game into a two-possession contest.
The momentum only kept rolling from there.
The Blue Devils pulled away with 21 unanswered points to start the second half, securing a 34-14 victory over St. Norbert on Saturday at Williams Stadium.
"We had a lot of momentum coming out of the locker room, but that (interception) just took it over the edge, for sure," Graham said. "It turned the whole game for us."
With Stout (2-0) leading 13-6, Griner brought the interception back to the Green Knights' 8-yard line. From there, the Blue Devils' power back did what he does best, punching through contact for a 2-yard score.
"Sometimes they don't want to run it (in the red zone)," Graham said with a grin. "But I'm never going out when we're at the 10-yard line, I'm taking it in every time."
Graham added another touchdown later in the third quarter, this time from eight yards out, and Blue Devils quarterback Sean Borgerding threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Parker Fossum early in the fourth to seal the win.
"Cannon Griner made a great interception to kind of spark us, and then the offense putting it in flipped the momentum real quick to start the second half," Blue Devils coach Clayt Birmingham said. "That was key."
Borgerding completed 18 of 23 passes, good for a 78% completion percentage. He threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns in a remarkably efficient showing. Meanwhile, Graham ran for 98 yards on 18 carries.
With the way the Stout defense was playing, the offense was more than enough.
St. Norbert's only score when the game was still within reach came on Ben Kohl's 22-yard touchdown pass to John Bunks late in the first quarter. The score came after a Stout fumble in its own territory gifted the Green Knights (1-1) great starting field position.
When facing a long field ahead of them, St. Norbert couldn't get much going against the Blue Devils' defense. They added a long touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter, but they were already trailing by 28 by then.
"I just liked how our defense flew around," Birmingham said. "We were playing aggressive. We're still trying to figure out our identity a little bit these first two games, but so far I think we're kind of finding out we've got an aggressive group of guys."
Borgerding got the Blue Devils on the board early, hitting Arthur Cox on a 40-yard flea flicker pass for a touchdown just two minutes into the game.
"We wanted to take a shot," Borgerding said. "We heard they were pretty good at staying over the top, so we had to look into the bag of tricks a little bit. We got the flea flicker, got them to come up on the run and then were able to hit them over the top."
Chippewa Falls alumnus Jack Meyer added a pair of field goals from 46 and 52 yards to put Stout ahead 13-6 at halftime, and the Blue Devils pulled away over the final 30 minutes of game time.
Fossum led Stout with seven receptions for 96 yards. Levy Hamer added six catches for 47 yards, and Cox had 52 yards of his own in another strong day for the Blue Devils' aerial attack. Stout is averaging 38 points per game through the first two weeks of the season.
"We're putting up a lot of points, but we still think we can do more," Borgerding said. "There are some things we can clean up. ... It's been a great start to the season, but we're just ready to keep working and keep going."
Stout will look to stay unbeaten when it travels to UW-Stevens Point next Saturday. Despite the contest being a matchup of two WIAC foes, it will count as a nonconference game. Conference play begins Oct. 2.
UW-Stout 34, St. Norbert 14
UWS: Arthur Cox 40 pass from Sean Borgerding (Jack Meyer kick), 13:00.
SNC: John Bunks 22 pass from Ben Kohl (kick failed), 3:46.
UWS: Meyer 46 field goal, 0:56.
UWS: Meyer 52 field goal, 0:00.
UWS: Rayshawn Graham 2 run (Meyer kick), 14:09.
UWS: Graham 8 run (Meyer kick), 11:12.
UWS: Parker Fossum 44 pass from Borgerding (Meyer kick), 14:53.
SNC: Parker Lawrence 35 pass from Kohl (John Trinh pass from Kohl), 7:30.
Team & Individual Statistics
RUSHING (att-yds): St. Norbert (35-101): Owen Kudick 16-42, Kohl 14-39, Trinh 3-14, Charlie Hietpas 1-3, David Lox 1-3. UW-Stout (35-182): Graham 18-98, Borgerding 4-44, Matt Pomietlo 10-32, Cox 2-10, Carter Fonger 1-(-2).
PASSING (comp-att-int-yds): St. Norbert: Kohl 18-31-1-169, Bunks 1-1-0-38. UW-Stout: Borgerding 18-23-1-218.
RECEIVING (rec-yds): St. Norbert: Lawrence 5-94, Dylan Leschewski 6-39, Lox 3-24, Bunks 1-22, Karter Decker 1-16, Logan Dorner 1-6, Kudick 2-6. UW-Stout: Fossum 7-96, Cox 2-52, Levy Hamer 6-47, Tyler Seymour 2-17, Bradley Sarauer 1-6.