Falcon Football team wins homecoming game by one point
October 8, 2015
If fans had doubts about the Falcon football team earlier this year, they were all erased after Saturday afternoon’s exciting homecoming conclusion.
The Falcons played a game fans and players will remember for years, defeating UW-La Crosse 21-20 in a thrilling overtime finish in front of an electric homecoming crowd.
The Falcons were led by their lock-down defense, who have been completely shutting down opposing teams’ rushing attacks the last two weeks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a defense that has held an opponent to negative rushing yards in back-to-back games like this team has. Our defense is making teams completely one-dimensional and I’ve been especially impressed with how many different players have been stepping up,” Coach Matt Walker said.
That defense was tested early, when UW-La Crosse got out to a 7-0 lead off of a 44-yard connection from quarterback Trent Cummings to wide receiver Tommy Young. That pass capped a 3-play, 73-yard drive that was due to Cummings’ ability to throw the deep ball under heavy pressure.
The Falcons responded with a touchdown of their own in the second quarter, with quarterback Ryan Kusilek throwing a 6-yard strike to Freshman Evan Verhota to even the score up at 7-7.
The game looked to be at a stalemate heading into halftime, but a botched snap by the Falcon punter set up a short field for the visiting Eagles. They converted on another short drive with a 14-yard touchdown to WR Joel Oxton to give Cummings his second touchdown pass of the day.
The Falcons refused to shrink from the challenge after halftime, fighting through a sloppy third quarter by both teams to enter the fourth quarter still trailing by a single score.
A mishandled punt, this time by the UW-La Crosse punter, served as the catalyst to the Falcons’ comeback early in the fourth quarter. Running back Michael Diggins added a 3-yard touchdown run to his 120-yard day to even the score back up at 14-14.
Walker said, “We just managed to physically wear the defense down, which led to our rushing attack being so strong on Saturday. We’re a grind it out, physical type of team that’s going to stay in games until the very end.”
This especially rang true late on Saturday, when the Falcons’ line bullied the La Crosse defense in overtime. UWRF didn’t even have to attempt a pass, rushing the ball seven times with Diggins bouncing outside for a 2-yard touchdown run for his second touchdown of the afternoon.
With the score at 21-14, La Crosse was backed up against the wall for the first time that afternoon. However, the Eagles responded emphatically with a 25-yard touchdown pass to AJ Sandford Day on just the second play of overtime. The Falcons special teams, however, came up huge like they did all afternoon, blocking the extra point to seal the stunning victory.
“I was extremely impressed with how our special teams responded after the botched punt. They dominated the kick game the rest of the way, forcing a missed field goal near the end of regulation and obviously the blocked extra point to win the game. We’ve had great effort on special teams all year and today they proved the level of determination they bring every week,” Walker added.
The win improved the Falcons to 2-2 on the season and 1-0 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC). That start is their fastest since 2009 when the Falcons began 2-1.
This was in large part due to the play of linebacker Geno DeMike and defensive lineman Nick Jacobsen on the defensive side. DeMike had four tackles for loss and three sacks, while Jacobsen added an interception in the fourth quarter and blocked the crucial extra point in overtime.
Coach Walker was especially impressed with Jacobsen’s role on the last play, saying, “He’s pretty much unblockable when he’s matched up one-on-one with a blocker, and our guys around him did a great job of freeing him up to make the play.”
The Falcons now continue on through conference play looking like a tough team to beat. However, they’ve managed to keep perspective after their recent success.
“We’ve done a great job of breaking down the season into one-week wars. After Sunday nights, we put the previous game behind us and learn from our success and also our failures. Our mindset has been great this year and we’ve been using the positives and negatives as energy to work harder every week,” Walker said.
The Falcons now travel to UW-Eau Claire to face the winless Blugolds. Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. Saturday.