An aerial assault by senior quarterback John Kelly led No. 16 University of Wisconsin-Platteville to a 49-19 win over University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in a non-conference tilt on Thursday at Pioneer Stadium.
The Pioneers (3-0) continued to show its offensive fireworks in the win. Through the first three games, UW-Platteville has racked up a school record 157 points through its first three games, surpassing the previous mark of 153 by the 1970 team.
A key factor in the offensive fireworks is the play of Kelly, who completed 30 of 41 passes for 414 yards and 4 touchdowns in the win. The 400+ yard effort passing by the Chicago, Illinois native is the most since Brent Nelson threw for 440 yards against the Blugolds on November 1, 2003 in a 42-35 defeat in Eau Claire. His favorite target on the night was Ryley Bailey (pictured below), who caught 11 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.
The Blugolds (0-3) had a balanced offensive attack with a 100-yard ground game and a 100-plus yard receiver in the defeat. Joel Sweeney ran the ball 23 times for 100 yards and a touchdown and Austin Goetsch caught seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown in the loss for UW-Eau Claire.
After the Pioneer defense forced the Eau Claire to punt on the first drive of the game, Kelly completed his first seven passes that culminated with an 18-yard touchdown reception by Trevor Whitehead. On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore Yoel Wonsey forced and recovered a fumble by Blugolds' return man Michael Price to set the stage for a short field for UW-Platteville. Then, on the next play, Pioneers' senior running back Lee Vlasak would score his first of three touchdowns on the night from four yards out. Vlasak ended the contest with 15 carries and 58 yards for his third multi-touchdown game of his career.
With a 14-0 lead, the Pioneers added another quick score after another UW-Eau Claire special teams miscue. After a UW-Platteville punt, the Pioneers' Kevin Ybarra recovered a fumble by the Blugolds' punt returner. Three plays later and on an audible called by the Pioneer coaching staff, Kelly found Russell Martin to put UW-Platteville ahead 21-0. In two of the first three games, the Pioneers have scored 20+ points in the first 15 minutes of action.
The Blugolds did not go away easily as they went on the longest drive by a UW-Platteville opponent in 2012. UW-Eau Claire quarterback Austin Neu orchestrated a 17 play, 74-yard drive that ran 6:50 off the clock, ending with an eight-yard pass to Cody Gerver that cut the Pioneer lead to 21-7.
Kelly brought the Pioneers back down the field for two more touchdowns in the half, including a 42-yard touchdown pass to Bailey and a 14-yard run by Vlasak. With a 35-7 halftime lead, UW-Platteville through the first three games is outscoring its opponents by a commanding 108-14 advantage.
Sweeney and the Blugolds on their first drive of the second half cut the Pioneer lead to 35-13 when he scored from six yards out. The big play in the drive was a 42-yard pass completion by Neu to Clint Larsen; however, UW-Eau Claire had its point-after attempt blocked by the Pioneers.
Kelly heated back up in the start of the fourth quarter, completing six-straight passes and a steady diet of Vlasak ate up the clock. Four of the six completions went to Bailey including a 26-yard touchdown completion that put the Pioneers' ahead 42-13.
With UW-Platteville in a prevent defense, Neu completed back-to-back completions to Goetsch, including a 25-yard touchdown completion that cut the Pioneers' lead to 42-19. Again, UW-Platteville and its offensive unit went back to a balanced attack of Vlasak on the ground and Kelly through the air. After two-straight rushes by Vlasak to start the drive, Kelly found an open Paul Reit for a 57-yard completion to move the ball into Blugolds' territory.
After a rush by Vlasak and a rare incompletion by Kelly, he found Bailey for a 17-yard reception to move the ball to the 4. Then, on the next play, Vlasak bulled into the end zone for his third touchdown of the game to put the finishing touches on the win.
Next up for UW-Platteville is "Orange Out" on Saturday, Sept. 29th at 1 p.m. when they host UW-Whitewater at Pioneer Stadium.