Pioneers seek homecoming victory

The Pioneers (3-0, 0-0 WIAC) return to the football field Saturday for their Homecoming game against University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (0-3, 0-0).

Out-of-Conference Schedule
The out-of-conference schedule was more kind to the Pioneers than the Blugolds, as the University of Wisconsin-Platteville won its first three games by an average of 22.6 points.  Despite their winless record, UW-Eau Claire is coming off of a good performance against number 10 ranked Pacific Lutheran.  Although they lost 21-19, the Blugolds shut out Pacific Lutheran in the second half of the game and were a failed two-point conversion away from tying the game with 42 seconds left.

Opposite Offenses
The Pioneers’ offense, while having success this season rushing, lives and dies on the passing game.  As the team worked through a quarterback competition, both junior Bryce Corrigan and senior John Kelly completed multiple passing touchdowns.  Kelly appears to have won the starting job, as he has had nine touchdown passes and 731-yards this season.
Junior receiver Trevor Whitehead has emerged as a deep threat from the slot position, catching four touchdowns in the first three games.
UW-Eau Claire’s offense is highly dependent on the run, as senior running back Joel Sweeney has 445 rushing yards on 83 carries and six scores.
Sweeney is listed at 6-feet-1-inch and 249 pounds, making him a difficult man to bring down.  In two games against the Pioneers last season, Sweeney had 168-yards on the ground.

Defenses on the Rise
UW-Platteville’s defense has experienced some growing pains early in the season, as new starters are finding their roles in defensive coordinator Rob Erickson’s scheme.  The Pioneers have been vulnerable to deep passes, allowing six passing touchdowns of over 25-yards.
Despite the big plays allowed, the Pioneer defense has had success getting pressure on quarterbacks, amassing eight sacks on the season.
The Blugolds’ defense had a similar struggle early in the season, as they were torched for 52 points in the team’s debut Sept. 7 against St. Thomas (Minn.).  Since then, the team has allowed 17 and 21 points in their last two games.
UW-Eau Claire’s biggest defensive weakness is against the run, allowing more than 200-yards per game on the ground.

Key Matchup
Senior receiver Ryley Bailey leads the team with 22 catches on the season, and UW-Eau Claire is allowing 197-yards a game through the air.  Blugold junior cornerback Thurgood Dennis will most likely get the match up with Bailey, and if Kelly targets Bailey as often as he has in the past, Bailey may have another breakout game.

Prediction
The Blugold rushing offense will slow the game down, but the Pioneer offense is moving the ball too well through the air for the UW-EC defense to stop.  Pioneers will win big, 42-17.