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UWRF football brings down Southwestern for homecoming win

September 28, 2016

The Falcons’ offense exploded in the second half on Saturday to roll over Southwestern 42-22 and claim their second straight homecoming victory and first victory of their 2016 season.

The electric atmosphere around the entire weekend culminated with the Falcons putting up 35 second-half points to deflate any hopes the Southwestern Pirates had of spoiling UWRF’s homecoming.

It didn’t start easily for the Falcons though, as they trailed 9-7 at the break. The Falcons’ offense had trouble putting points on the board in the fist half, similar to their first two games.

The lone touchdown came off of a beautiful quarterback throwback play that quarterback Travon Hearns took untouched into the end zone for a 25-yard reception. The throw from wide receiver Tyler Halverson seemed to give the offense some life as they took the lead for the first time in the second quarter.

“That was something we had cooked up for them and were waiting for the right time to pull that off,” Head Coach Matt Walker said.

The crowd was so fired up after the play that Walker said, “The field was shaking, and that’s one of the first times I’ve felt that out there.”

The offense may have struggled early, but the defense made big plays in the first half to keep the Pirates close. The Falcons knew they needed a strong second half to avoid dropping to 0-3 after such high expectations to enter the season. Walker knew his team would be playing with some pent up frustration and urgency after two tough losses in weeks one and two.

The defense continued their hold on the Southwestern offense after halftime by forcing a turnover on downs as the Pirates entered the Falcons’ red zone. On the first play of the next drive, starting quarterback Sawyer Moon broke loose for a 48-yard gain to set up a six-yard Michael Diggins rushing touchdown that gave the Falcons a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the afternoon.

“We had a lot of confidence coming out to play well in the second half. Despite the score we were physically wearing on them pretty hard and knew our three and four yard runs were gonna be big in the second half,” Walker said.

Those three and four yard runs stretched to huge gains in the fourth quarter when senior running back Rance Ashley broke free for a pair of 54- and 44-yard touchdown runs that put the game out of reach. This came moments after the Pirates had brought the game back within five points.

“The first run I had was amazing blocking. I just ran straight through the hole and the hole was huge. And on the second [touchdown run], I just had to break a couple tackles on the secondary guys,” Ashley said.

Ashley ended the day with 115 yards on only seven carries, adding to the 264 yards the Falcons gained on the ground on Saturday. UWRF had a much more balanced offensive attack than previous games, throwing for 179 yards on 16-23 attempts split between quarterbacks Moon and Hearns.

“All units worked together to put up big numbers offensively. We’re designed to be a balanced attack and a pro-style offense. We have a lot of different personals because we’re not as good when we’re one-dimensional,” Walker said.

Credit was due to the UWRF defense even though the offense excelled in the second half. The defense forced two fumbles and cornerback Kyle Narges picked off Southwestern quarterback Frederick Hover in the fourth quarter to set up the offense for easy drives. The Falcons ended up scoring 20 points off turnovers, identical to their margin of victory.

Senior Tyler Ledbeter led the defense by forcing one fumble and totaling 3 tackles for loss and 10 solo tackles. Kyle Hunter also continued his strong season by adding two sacks to his forced fumble and 3 tackles for loss on the afternoon.

Walker especially praised his two quarterbacks for their play on Saturday. The debate on two quarterbacks is over for the head coach. He promises he doesn’t care what other’s opinions are, he’s going to continue playing Hearns and Moon together.

“We have two great players who can be starters on a lot of teams.  They both have weapons and can both can run the whole offense,” Walker said.

The win puts the Falcons at 1-2 for the season as they end non-conference play and enter their difficult WIAC schedule.  This performance in all aspects of the game will only give fans and players more confidence after another homecoming win.

“We showed what we can do offensively and defensively and showcased what we’re capable of on both sides of the ball,” Ashley said.

Apart from the game, Ashley and Walker both praised the atmosphere and homecoming crowd that greeted them on Saturday. Ashley described it as “the greatest energy I’ve been around,” while Walker wanted to thank all the fans and students for the clear home-field advantage the team felt.

“The guys appreciate it and alumni had tears coming back to this atmosphere on Saturday. I’ve never coached in a better home-game atmosphere,” Walker said.

While the Falcons will surely want to cherish and reminisce about this win, there is still work to be done as the team travels to undefeated UW-La Crosse this Saturday to take on the Eagles. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.