’Hawks haunt Blugolds in win

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By Andrea Sidlauskas

Nov. 3, 2015

Rain, sleet and chilly 12-mile-per-hour winds couldn’t stop the Warhawk football team en route to its 14th-consecutive win against UW-Eau Claire this past Saturday.

The ’Hawks racked up a season-high 582 offensive yards to defeat the Blugolds, 63-0, in the annual Homecoming contest, marking the team’s 22nd-straight home victory.

“We had to adjust a little bit [to the weather], but it didn’t really play much of a factor for us,” junior quarterback Chris Nelson said. “Things started clicking right from the start. We had an offensive plan to go out there and start hitting it right away, and I felt like that worked for us.”

After a blocked punt by junior Jordan Gruettner on Eau Claire’s first drive, the ’Hawks took over on the Blugolds’ nine-yard line and punched in the first of nine touchdowns in just 41 seconds.

By halftime, the ’Hawks jumped out to a 35-0 lead and would go on to shut out the Blugolds, the team’s first since a 37-0 triumph over UW-Stout on Oct. 11, 2014.

“Coming off of playing the way we did today, in the sense of just playing fast, not letting up, finishing drives in the manner that we want to – that does nothing but continue to develop our confidence,” head coach Kevin Bullis said. “It was really good to see our kids put their foot on the accelerator fast at the beginning of the game and just not let up until the game was done.”

The ’Hawks scored in each of their five red zone appearances and accumulated 426 yards through the air, the team’s highest passing output since 2006. Nelson tied a career-high four touchdown throws and finished with 291 yards and 11-14 passes.

“Offensively, we haven’t been meshing that greatly throughout the whole season, so we really wanted to set a tone and go out there and put up some yards and put up some points,” Nelson said. “We wanted to get [our pass game] established to help the run game, because a lot of teams are trying to take away that run, so we wanted to let them know that we can throw the ball.”

Junior wide receiver Marcus Hudon led the receiving corps with a career-high 152 yards and two touchdowns in five receptions, while freshman wide receiver Mitchell Dess picked up 109 yards and one touchdown in two catches.

Senior running back Jordan Ratliffe led the Warhawk backfield with 81 yards and two touchdowns in 10 carries.

Defensively, the ’Hawks’ defense held the Blugolds to just 39 passing yards and 159 yards overall, stifling the conference’s leader in all-purpose yards, UW-Eau Claire wide receiver Matthew Knapp.

“We have such a high standard for holding teams to low rushing yardage, so in the first half we were kind of disappointed with how we were managing their run game,” Bullis said. “For us, it was seeing what they wanted to do against us, and that’s always the big thing defensively is what does a team want to do against you? And that allows you to tweak and adjust.”

Senior linebacker Justin Dischler paced the Warhawk defense with six tackles and a sack, and sophomore linebacker Kyle Schiedemeyer posted five tackles, including two for a loss.

Junior defensive back Vince Mason grabbed his team-high fourth interception of the season and is tied for first place in the WIAC for most interceptions.

The Warhawks are now 66-24-1 all-time in Homecoming games, good for a .731 winning percentage. The team averaged 11.4 yards per play and 22.4 yards per pass attempt against the Blugolds.

Next week, the ’Hawks travel to UW-River Falls for its last away game of the regular season. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

“River Falls handed it to us last year, and they’re having a heck of a season this year,” Bullis said. “They’ve had a pretty darn good season, so I anticipate that being a fantastic game.”

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