UW-Eau Claire at UW-Whitewater
Game time: 2 p.m. Saturday.
Radio: WDRK (99.9-FM).
Records: UW-Eau Claire 2-1 overall (0-0 in WIAC), UW-Whitewater 3-0 (0-0).
Last time out: The Blugolds scored two touchdowns in the first minute and a half and rode an incredible defensive performance the rest of the way to an historic 21-19 upset of then-No. 6 St. Thomas. Running back Austin Belot ran for 142 yards, his third straight performance of at least 100 yards, and the defense forced four turnovers as UW-Eau Claire earned its first signature victory under head coach Wesley Beschorner. Since, the program has earned votes in both the D3Football.com and AFCA coaches’ Top 25 polls.
No. 3 UW-Whitewater continued its unbeaten start to the season by scoring 14 second-half points in a 28-20 victory against St. Xavier, ranked No. 5 in NAIA.
History: The Warhawks have won 17 straight against UW-Eau Claire, including last season’s 45-0 drubbing at Carson Park. UW-Whitewater outgained the Blugolds 501 yards to 164 in that contest, with Ryan Wisniewski catching three touchdowns. The squad is averaging 47.7 points against UW-Eau Claire in the last six meetings while allowing an average of 2.0 points. The Blugolds have only scored one touchdown and have been shut out three times in that span.
All-time, UW-Whitewater leads the series 48-22.
Weekly honors: UW-Eau Claire claimed both the WIAC Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week honors this week. Belot claimed the offensive award after his strong performance against a Tommie squad that averaged 0.0 yards rushing allowed entering the meeting. Victor Martinelli was spotlighted on defense after forcing a fumble and leading the team with 14 tackles, three quarterback hurries, two tackles for loss and a sack.
Welcome to the league: This marks Beschorner’s first WIAC contest, something he prepared for by watching film all summer.
“You’ve got to be ready to go every week,” Beschorner said. “We’re excited to get into it, no doubt. I know this conference has been ultra successful outside of conference so you know there are a lot of really good teams in this conference. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
For the foes: UW-Whitewater, the preseason favorite to win the league, is coming off a trip to the NCAA Division III playoff semifinals. Their only loss of the season came in that game to eventual champion Mary Hardin-Baylor.
The Warhawks have a balanced rushing game. Four players have accumulated more than 100 yards on the ground this season, including Stanley-Boyd graduate Ronny Ponick. Zach Oles, the quarterback, has thrown for 419 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 113 yards and a score. Watch out on special teams since UW-Whitewater leads the nation with three blocked punts.
— Jack Goods