Two missed opportunities deep inside Blugolds territory and an interception in the final minute cost UW-La Crosse a chance to beat rival UW-Eau Claire Saturday.
The Eagles' up-tempo offense was held in check in the first half in a 20-14 loss at Carson Park in Eau Claire. UW-L (2-2 WIAC, 5-2 overall) suffered its first loss to Eau Claire (1-3 WIAC, 2-5 overall) since 2013.
"We're going to learn from this thing and move forward on what we have to do," Eagles head coach Mike Schmidt said afterward. "We got out-played, got beat, that's what happens in football. Sometimes a team shows up, out-coaches you, out-plays you. It certainly hurts, but certainly not fatal, and doesn't change how we're going to approach the rest of the season."
After punting its first drive, the Eagles capitalized on good field position to score the game's first points. Ben Schramski, starting in place of an injured Tarek Yaeggi, connected with Joel Oxton on a 9-yard pass to give UW-L a 7-0 lead.
The Blugolds responded in the second quarter when JT DenHartog hit Matt Knapp for a touchdown pass, tying the game 7-7. Eau Claire would add a field goal later in the quarter to lead 10-7 at halftime.
Eau Claire took the opening drive of the third quarter for another score, as DenHartog ran for a 1-yard touchdown to make it 17-7.
Schramski led the Eagles right back down the field, scoring on a 11-yard run to close the gap to within 17-14.
UW-L had a chance to tie the game late in the third quarter, but missed a 25-yard field goal. The Blugolds scored a field goal on its next possession to lead 20-14 early in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles had another golden opportunity to close the gap midway through the fourth, but failed to convert a fourth and two from the Blugolds 3. Schramski's running attempt came up just short, giving the Blugolds the ball near the 1 yard line.
The Eagles defense forced another punt, giving Schramski and the offense plenty of time to work with for a potential game-winning score, but Ryan Ames intercepted Schramski near the Blugolds 5-yard line to seal the win for Eau Claire.
UW-L will host UW-Stevens Point next Saturday at Roger Harring Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.