Falcons football drops close game in rainy conditions against UW-Stout
Despite being fairly even in time of possession and a tremendous performance by Michael Diggins, which resulted in 30 carries for 158 yards and two touchdowns, UWRF couldn’t overcome the incredible downpour or their offensive slump to beat the UW-Stout Blue Devils.
UW-Stout got the ball back from UWRF in the fourth quarter and wasted several minutes before having their drive stall out with ample time for River Falls to make a comeback late in the game. However, after driving 51-yards, senior quarterback Travon Hearns threw an interception to Blue Devils sophomore strong safety Jed Schlegel. This would prove to be the game-clincher, as Stout ran the clock out for the victory over River Falls.
“We played pretty good football in the second half but it just wasn’t enough,” Falcons Head Coach Matt Walker said.
UW-River Falls lost their second straight game last weekend as they were defeated by UW-Stout 21-16 in Menomonie at Williams Stadium.
The Falcons started the game on an impressive 14-play, 68-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard field goal by freshman kicker Angel Bautista, giving the team a 3-0 lead early in the first. Despite this quick start, the game would slowly start to slip away from River Falls.
Blue Devil’s junior quarterback Jay Alston would throw a seven-yard pass to senior wide receiver Brian Sandifer to give Stout the lead with 5:33 remaining in the first quarter.
Within the final minute of the half, Alston would throw another touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Kevion McDonald, giving Stout a 14-3 lead at halftime.
After trading a pair of punts to begin the third quarter, UW-Stout would get on the board again with an eight-yard touchdown reception by Sandifer, his second of the afternoon. River Falls was now staring at a three-possession game with 9:15 remaining in the third quarter.
“The short pass game was tough,” Walker said. “This was the wrong day to try and come from behind”.
Again, a pair of punts would be traded before the Falcons would cap off a 49-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run by senior running back Michael Diggins. The two-point conversation wasn’t successful, leaving River Falls down 21-9.
“We didn’t make any plays on fifty-fifty balls, we just didn’t make any,” Walker said. “I have a ton of confidence in our wide receiver group. We needed to get chunks of yards to get back in a two-score game, we felt we had to throw it down field. He didn’t throw it terrible, it was about as bad of a time as ever to throw the ball.”
As the rain started to turn into a massive downpour, both teams had no success driving the ball down the field offensively in the fourth quarter. Four punts and two fumbles later, the Falcons got great field position at Stout’s own 22-yard line. Two plays later, Diggins ran the ball in for his second touchdown of the game. UWRF was now within one possession, being down 21-16 with 7:15 remaining in the game.
A scary moment occurred midway through the fourth quarter, as Diggins went down with a knee injury on a brutal hit by a Blue Devils defender. Players on the Falcons sidelines were visibly distraught.
“Your heart drops into your throat pretty good when something like that happens,” Coach Walker said. “I’ve been around the game long enough to know it might be nothing or you might be done for the year, so you just never know.”
Walker did admit that he felt much better when he saw Diggins walk off under his own power.
Walker knew the game was going to be out of hand when he looked at his starting quarterback.
“Travon Hearns has as big of hands as any quarterback I’ve ever been around in the history of college football, and even he’s having trouble throwing the ball in the conditions of the game.”
While it’s easy to point fingers at the rainy conditions, Coach Walker made no excuses for his team relating to the weather.
“Losing teams come out and talk about things like the rain and the balls,” he said. “Teams that win the games don’t talk about those things.”
The Falcons now sit at 3-3 on the season and 1-2 in the WIAC. However, Walker isn’t concerned about the future of his team.
“I’m not worried about it,” Walker said. “We will bounce back. We have a resilient group and we put way too much time, effort and energy to throw in the towel.”
Walker added that every week will continue to be a challenge, because there are no games off in a league as tough as the WIAC. UWRF looks to bounce back against UW-Whitewater on Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon.