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Falcons victorious on West Coast

September 21, 2006

After suffering a one-sided 41-9 loss to St. Johns in the season opener Sept. 9, the UW-River Falls Falcons were looking to come back strong against Pacific Lutheran University in Seattle on Saturday.

The Falcons appeared to start out flat against PLU, turning over the ball on their first three possessions and allowing the opposition to gain points twice.

However, a spark was set during halftime and the Falcons scored 24 points in the third quarter alone to win the non-conference game 24-17.
“It was probably one of the most enjoyable victories in my career here,” Head Coach John O’Grady said. “The trip was draining, both mentally and physically.”

The players and coaching staff left for Seattle at 4:15 Friday morning for Saturday’s 1 p.m. game.

The Falcon defense picked off three passes and recovered three fumbles, while Pacific Lutheran picked off or recovered the ball five times.

O’Grady realized that the offense started off rough, but he kept a positive outlook on the day.

“Our defense played well and our offense started getting better,” he said. “I was extremely pleased.”

Entering the third quarter the Falcons were down 10-0, when defensive back Bruce Baillargeon intercepted the ball. His interception set up quarterback Jeremy Wolff’s touchdown run to pull the Falcons to within three.

Later on in the quarter, Wolff passed to wide receiver Josh Grover, and place kicker Spaslimir Bodurski made the extra point to give the Falcons a 14-10 lead.

Still in the third, Wolff ran the ball in from the 1-yardline to widen the Falcons lead to 21-10.

With 1:41 remaining in the third quarter, Bodurski made a 42-yard field goal to give the Falcons a 24-10 lead.

Early in the fourth, Pacific Lutheran scored, but that was all their offense could muster. The Falcon defense stayed strong and managed to shut down the opposition in an effort to pull even in the final minutes of the game.

Senior Dan Buker was on the field when Pacific Lutheran was on the field trying to tie the game, and he said shutting them down was a very exciting moment.

“Our defensive scheme is a lot more aggressive,” Buker said.

This was the third time senior Andy Kolstad had participated in a contest with Pacific Lutheran, and this season he can ense something different about his team.

“Confidence is the biggest factor,” Kolstad said. “The talk is positive and good things are going to happen.”

Kolstad went on to say he looks forward to seeing where the attitude is going to take his team.

In the season opener against St. Johns in Collegeville, Minn., the Falcons took on the Division III power house on the road. The Johnnies have the most successful football program all-time in NCAA Division III.

The Falcons managed to keep up with the Johnnies during the first quarter, but not much longer. The Falcons fell behind early, but corner Jamie Bisch intercepted a Johnnies’ pass and ran it 39 yards into the endzone for the score. The extra point was no good, but the Falcons were only behind 7-6. After that, the Falcons were only able to manage three more points, while the Johnnies continued strong, scoring an additional 34 points.

The final three points of the day came from a 25-yard field goal by Bodurski to bring the score to 20-9 at halftime.

Even though the Falcons didn’t beat the Johnnies, they took the season opener as a learning experience.

“They were pretty much what we expected,” O’Grady said. “They were a fast, talented football team. We learned a little bit about the future.”

This season, the Falcons believe UW-Whitewater is the team to beat in WIAC. They are the returning champions who have 17 of their 22 starters back from last season. In the 2005 season they made it all the way to the national title game.

However, UW-RF hopes to be a force to reckon with this season, returning from summer break conditioned and ready to play.

In the spring of 2006, the football team was working to prepare for this season. Game Day Friday was started to help the returning players with their conditioning.

“It definitely helps camaraderie,” Kolstad said. “It helps getting to know you’re not the only one getting up at 6:30 in the morning to throw a ball around.”

This season, players are working on positions they haven’t played before or since high school. Kolstad, who played halfback last season, is now playing defensively as a middle linebacker. He has also been a quarterback for the Falcons. He said he likes his new position a lot more.

The Falcons are on the road again this weekend with a 10-hour bus trip to St. Francis for their final non-conference game, beginning at 1 p.m. The St. Francis squad hasn’t lost a game at home in three years, and for that reason Buker believes St. Francis will be the toughest opponent this season.

The Falcons are looking forward to having crowd support when they return home. There haven’t been many fans on the road, however Chancellor Don Betz was in attendance against Pacific Lutheran.

UW-RF opens conference play on Sept. 30 with a home contest against UW-Oshkosh. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Ramer Field.

“We’re really pumped,” senior Jovin Kroll said about the opener. “I don’t think there’s been a night game since the ‘70s.”