Pioneers down Tigers in thrilling season opener

Pioneers down Tigers in thrilling season opener

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin-Platteville football team prevailed 38-30 over East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) to open the 2019 season after a neck-to-neck battle which saw tied scores at the conclusion of three quarters of the game.  In the end, a versatile offense, strength to convert on third down, and ability to capitalize in key situations secured the non-conference contest in Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium.

The Pioneers (1-0 overall) only held the ball for 25:37 in the nearly four-hour affair, but in that time head coach, Mike Emendorfer's squad piled up 484 yards of total offense while allowing 388 of total defense and ended with a 56% (10 of 18) efficiency on third-down.

Two Pioneers recorded over 100 receiving yards with junior Donald Allender tallying 117 yards on just four passes with a 57-yard high and touchdown while sophomore David Urke combined five receptions for 106 yards. Senior Tyler Knigge had a team high eight receptions for another 91 yards.  

UW-Platteville's defense stifled the Tigers to a 29% (4 of 14) third down efficiency and totaled five sacks for 28 yards, 12 tackles for a loss of 46 yards, five broken-up passes, and two interceptions.

Senior running back Wyatt Thompson returned to Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium for the first time since the 2017 season and made his presence known with 18 carries for 60 yards. Allender followed Thompson with four carries for 35 yards and a touchdown.

Junior quarterback Colin Schuetz led the Pioneers on Saturday afternoon with a clean season opener completing 23 of 45 attempts for 373 yards and four touchdowns with one interception on the day.

Each defense suffered targeting calls in the second half which removed ETBU's Justice Henson early in the third quarter and junior linebacker Eric Siedenburg in the fourth from the game.

Senior Walter Ollie paced the Pioneers with 11 solo tackles and one assist, one forced fumble and one interception.  Siedenburg claimed six solos three assists with two tackles for loss of five yards and one broken up pass. Junior lineman Jackson McMahan tallied two sacks and an assist for a loss of 18 yards. Senior cornerback Luke Johnson recorded the other Brian Baca interception in addition to breaking up two ETBU passes.

Freshman kicker Andrew Schweigert went a perfect five-for-five with extra points and recorded one field goal.

In a game that never saw a split of more than ten, ETBU got on the board first after the Tigers intercepted Schuetz and Baca sent one for 37 yards to Jalen Blanton to put ETBU ahead 7-0 with 7:17 left in the first quarter.  The Pioneers went on to tie it up six plays later when Schuetz found freshman receiver Ben Wilson for an 18-yard pass for a touchdown with 5:14 left in the first quarter.

Back on offense, the Pioneers took advantage of an offsides penalty against ETBU on a Pioneer 4th and 11 from the visitors' 16 yard-line. ETBU suffered a pass interference penalty the very next play to move the Pioneers into 1st and goal territory where Allender rushed for four yards to give the Pioneers the 14-7 lead with 14:59 left in the second quarter.

Ollie put a stop to the Tigers' next drive with a interception and three-yard return to give the Pioneers the ball with 13:37 left in the second quarter. The Pioneers drove into scoring territory but a false start on 4th and goal forced the Pioneers to go for three and edge their lead to 17-7 at the 10:48 mark.

ETBU built up steam in the middle of the second quarter and a Pioneer fumble recovered by the Tigers at the Pioneers' 29 yard-line led to the successful field goal attempt and the Tigers made it a one possession game at 17-10 with 6:50 left in the half.

As the half drew to a close, ETBU tied things up with a five play, 59-yard drive into the endzone with 0:36 left and the teams headed into the locker rooms tied 17-17.

The Pioneers received at the start of the second half.  A targeting call against the Tigers forced ETBU to adjust while the Pioneers set up for a three-play, 75-yard drive.  Schuetz found Knigge for a 58-yard touchdown and the Pioneers led ETBU 24-17 after less than a minute into the half.

The two teams went on to exchange four scoring drives in a row later in the half. The Tigers leveled the score at 24-24 with 1:07 left in the third quarter off a 14-yard Baca pass. However, the Pioneers quickly followed and covered 88 yards in five plays courtesy of Shuetz's 57-yard pass for touchdown to Allender to give the Pioneers the 31-24 advantage with 13:59 left in the game.

The lead was short-lived after a quick drive ended with an 11-yard Baca pass complete to Tariq Gray with 12:17 remaining, but a failed extra point attempt kept the Pioneers with 31-30 edge.

As the drives and touchdown celebrations exchanged, the Pioneers took over and began with a 31-yard pass from Schuetz to Urke to move the Pioneers into ETBU territory. Schuetz found Urke for another 25 yards on 3rd and 14 and finished when he sought out Bo Babich for a 15-yard reception and touchdown to give the Pioneers the 38-30 lead..

ETBU took over with 9:08 left in the game and caught a break when the Pioneers' Siedenburg was removed from the game for targeting. The Tigers moved 67 yards to the Pioneers' 19-yard line, but a forced fumble and recovery by Ollie turned the game over to the Pioneers with 5:05 remaining.

The Pioneers successfully converted on third down in three plays of the final drive to allow Schuetz to take a knee on 2nd and 17 and give the Pioneers their first win of the season.

"It was a great win and way to start the season," said Emendorfer. "We made too many mistakes, but found a way to overcome them and pull out an exciting win for our players and everyone in the stadium."

With the win on opening day, Emendorfer keeps the streak alive at 21 straight opening game victories since his arrival to UW-Platteville in 1999.

As for what's next, the Pioneers have a bye next weekend and return home on Saturday, Sept. 21 in Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium when they host Thomas More at 1 p.m.