It is time for UW-Eau Claire football to turn over the keys to the offense to Harry Roubidoux. Full time.
The sophomore quarterback showed poise beyond his years in his first career start on Saturday against UW-Stout. Despite the Blugolds’ 38-34 defeat, he passed for 306 yards and three touchdowns to help his squad stay in a shootout against a major rival.
To put his numbers into perspective: He’s the first Blugold quarterback to surpass 300 yards since Scott Procter went for 315 against UW-River Falls on Oct. 27, 2018. He’s the first to get three or more touchdowns since JT DenHartog tossed four against Wisconsin Lutheran in 2016.
He got help, of course. Darius Jones used his superb athleticism to go up and grab a 50/50 ball and run the rest of the way for a 76-yard score. Will Adair’s 55-yard touchdown was aided by strong blocking down field. But you couldn’t ask for much more out of a signal-caller in their first start, especially considering UW-Stout’s dominance in nonconference play. He didn’t display the pocket jitters you might expect given his age.
“Being the quarterback, you’ve got to stay calm, stay poised at all times,” Roubidoux said Saturday. “It definitely speeds up in a game for sure, but all games are like that.”
The Roubidoux experiment began two weeks ago, when UW-Eau Claire coach Wesley Beschorner decided to split time against UW-Stevens Point between him and incumbent starter Jonathan Malueg prior to opening kickoff. Malueg took the first two drives before Roubidoux came in. The sophomore threw an interception early, but settled down for 104 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-15 victory.
A week later, Beschorner’s publicly shared plans of splitting time again were dashed due to Roubidoux’s play on the field against the Blue Devils.
“Honestly, I was really proud of him,” Jones said. “To come in in his first start as a (first-year quarterback) and just to play the way he did, throwing the ball, in the huddle, carrying the team after bad plays, he’s a leader out there.”
Jones wasn’t surprised. He already knew Roubidoux was one of the more confident players in the UW-EC locker room. It appears that’s already making up for a lack of experience.
“His confidence is just crazy to me,” Jones said. “How young he is, and just the way he comes in and leads is good to see.”
UW-Eau Claire hasn’t been able to rely on the passing game consistently during Beschorner’s tenure as head coach. Roubidoux’s main competition for the starting role, Malueg, has more often than not failed to surpass 100 yards. His career high is 123. Before time was split this year, he’d thrown five interceptions to two touchdowns in the Blugolds’ first three games this fall.
UW-Eau Claire’s rushing game, backed by star Austin Belot, has helped make up for a lack of passing yardage and at points has been the cause of it. But Belot, a senior, won’t be around forever. It is yet to be seen if another back on the roster has his bell cow ability.
Despite officially being a sophomore, Roubidoux has four more years of eligibility due to last year’s season being called off amid the pandemic. He has an opportunity to ease in with a very proven player in the backfield.
Beschorner said after Saturday’s game the quarterback position remains fluid, and he reiterated that Tuesday while naming Roubidoux the starter for Saturday’s game against UW-River Falls. Take that with a grain of salt. He said last week Malueg would start and that the two would split time. Neither happened.
“The plan is we’re always trying to play two,” Beschorner said Tuesday. “I don’t know when that’s going to be again. Depends on practice.”
Malueg has been invaluable for his leadership as a member of the Blugolds. A captain, he was a leading voice when UW-Eau Claire players shared their disgust regarding racist Snapchat messages sent by their former teammates.
But on the field, it appears UW-Eau Claire has the opportunity to start grooming a quarterback that could make Carson Park his office for the next four years. Unless the youthful jitters start to get in the way, that’s a hard scenario to turn down.