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Falcons enter conference play 1-2

October 2, 2008

With a loss to Northwestern College (Minn.) 41-34 on Sept. 20 and a win against Alma College (Mich.) 25-20 on Sept. 27, the Falcon football team will head into WIAC play with a 1-2 record.

UW-River Falls lost a close game against NWC in which two turnovers in the first half might have cost them the game.

After scoring on their first two possessions, UWRF had the ball on their own 10 yard line. Falcon quarterback Storm Harmon threw a pass to his left on a bubble screen, but the pass was too far behind and not caught by wide receiver John Bratcher.

NWC recovered the ball on the Falcons eight and punched in a touchdown two plays later.

“We have to limit our turnovers,” Harmon said. “That one put them in good field position.”

Throughout the first half, UWRF ran a lot of bubble screens because the NWC defense was plugging the middle after several long runs by running back Joel Yogerst, who had runs of 36 and 50 yards in the first quarter to set up Falcon touchdowns. Yogerst finished with 96 yards on six attempts and two touchdowns.

Another costly turnover came from an interception thrown by Harmon at the conclusion of the first half.

UWRF drove the ball deep into NWC territory. Instead of going for the field goal, the Falcons tried to get six more points, but Harmon’s pass was picked off by NWC defensive back Luke Delain.

“NWC is a team that has great players at the wide receiver and quarterback positions,” UWRF Head Coach John O’Grady said.

“We knew coming in how dangerous they could be,” he said. “Very concerned about their skilled players.”

NWC quarterback Zach Tarter had three touchdown passes, one of them coming on a 74-yard connection to receiver Kyle Thomforde.

“That was the duo we were most concerned about,” O’Grady said. “We had man-to-man coverage on him (Thomforde) and zone on everybody else.”

That was the last of many scores in the first quarter, which ended 21-19 in favor of the Falcons.

NWC had the only points in the second quarter and closed out the half with a 26-19 lead.

UWRF took the lead back midway through the third quarter as Greg Klingelhuts ran in a touchdown from four yards out. The Falcons failed their two-point conversion, but still had a 27-26 lead going into the final quarter.

NWC scored two touchdowns which ended up being enough, but UWRF almost tied the score in the closing seconds of the game.

After NWC’s second touchdown of the quarter, which gave them a 41-27 lead, UWRF drove 80 yards and capped off the final two with a Yogerst touchdown run, his second of the game.

With 3:51 remaining and down seven, UWRF opted to kick it to NWC. With more than a minute to play, NWC had fourth-and-inches at their own 40 and were going to go for it to try to run out the rest of the clock. However, a false start penalty pushed them back five yards and they were forced to punt.

With under a minute, UWRF had the ball on its own 35 and Harmon went to work. After several short completions, he threw a 39-yard fade to Michael Zweifel and was pushed out-of-bounds at the NWC four.

On second down Harmon tried to connect with Zweifel in the corner of the end zone. Zweifel caught the ball, but the referee said he did not get his foot in bounds

“It was a close play,” O’Grady said. “If he did get his foot down, he got part of his toe down and that was it.” 

“I was just hoping to see them (referees) throw their hands up in the air,” Harmon said.

On the final play, with four seconds left, Harmon took the snap and looked left for Zweifel, but NWC brought its safety over for help.

Harmon then missed an open receiver in the middle of the end zone as he was hit as he threw the ball and NWC won the shoot out 41-34.

“I didn’t know if I got hit when I threw it, because everything happened so fast,” Harmon said. “I was expecting the receiver to sit in the middle, but he kept on moving and I missed him.”

After the initial read, it would have been a hard play for Harmon to complete, O’Grady said.

“He looked at his first read and saw he was covered, then progressed through the rest of his reads and the rush got to him and he had to make a throw to his right,” O’Grady said. “A tough play to make.”

In the end, it was NWC’s explosive offense that hurt the Falcons.

“We gave up too many big plays against them,” O’Grady said. “We switched our defense to be more conservative to not give up those plays, but they did anyways.”

The Tarter-Thomforde connection put up 160 receiving yards and two scores.

“Most of the big plays involved those two,” O’Grady said. “It was disappointing that we allowed those to happen.”

Zweifel led all receivers with 162 yards receiving and one touchdown.

Harmon finished with 264 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception.

UWRF was able to shake the memories of a crushing loss and beat Alma on the road 25-20.

“It was a close one the whole way through,” O’Grady said.

Alma took the opening drive for a score on a Mackenzie McGrady to Jeremy Stephens touchdown pass.

UWRF countered with a 14 play, 80-yard drive of its own, holding the ball for 6:49. The extra point failed and the first quarter ended 7-6 in favor of Alma.

After a Jesse Finer field goal, the teams exchanged touchdown runs, which included Harmon’s second touchdown run of the year from the three-yard line and the first half ended with UWRF leading 16-13.

After a Finer field goal, McGrady ran in a touchdown from the UWRF three to give Alma a 20-19 lead going into the fourth.

“He’s a big, tough quarterback who isn’t afraid to get hit,” O’Grady said of McGrady. “Very talented player.”

Early in the fourth, sophomore running back Matt Pollock put the Falcons ahead for good with an 11-yard touchdown run, which ended up being the final scoring drive for both teams.

“It’s a very pleasing win,” O’Grady said.

When the Falcons got ahead in the fourth, it was the defense that stepped up to hold onto the slim lead.

“The defense played tremendous football,” O’Grady said. “They played the way we wanted them to play. We controlled the clock on offense and that’s how this team needs to play to win.”

With the victory, O’Grady now has 99 career coaching wins as Falcon head coach. If UWRF wins its homecoming game against UW-Stevens Point on Oct. 4, it would be win 100 for O’Grady.

“It doesn’t mean much than I’m getting to be an old man,” O’Grady said. “If it happens I will be happy for my team.”