No. 7 Pioneers steal win over Pointers

Faced with their first fourth-quarter deficit this season, the Pioneers went back to basics to preserve their perfect record.


University of Wisconsin-Platteville (6-0, 3-0 WIAC) scored a last-minute touchdown on a screen pass, a staple of head coach Mike Emendorfer’s offense, from 32 yards out to steal a 24-23 win from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (4-2, 2-1 WIAC) on Oct. 19.


In the Pioneers’ tightest game of the season, the offense took the ball back with just over three minutes to go, down 23-17 and engineered an eight-play 68-yard drive, capped off when senior quarterback John Kelly slung a pass to junior receiver Trevor Whitehead, who then weaved his way through three defenders on his way to the game-winning score.


Junior linebacker Jacob Zilbar intercepted a pass near midfield on the Pointers’ final possession to seal the win.


The Pointers slowed UW-Platteville’s high-flying offense, holding them to just half of their season average of 48.3 points per game entering the contest.


The Pioneers started the game well, scoring in just three minutes on the first drive of the game as Kelly hit Whitehead from 30 yards out.


Later in the first quarter, UW-Stevens Point got on the board with a field goal, ending a 12-play drive.


UW-Platteville added a field goal in the second quarter after recovering a Pointer fumble, but the first-half scoring stopped there as the Pioneers entered halftime with a 10-3 lead.


After the Pioneers forced a punt on defense, Kelly threw an interception, setting the Pointers up at the seven yard line, who punched in the tying score two plays later.


UW-Platteville took the lead back with a three-minute touchdown drive as senior running back Lee Vlasak punched in a six-yard score.


Both defenses kept the opposing offense out of the end zone for the rest of the third quarter, as the teams traded punts.


UW-Stevens Point tied the game again early in the fourth quarter, moving the ball 64 yards in 10 plays for the equalizer.


After a Pioneer three-and-out, the Pointers pulled ahead by scoring on a short run after connecting for a 54-yard pass to get the goal line.


However, on the point after attempt, UW-Stevens Point kicker Jesse Vervelde hit the upright and bounced out, leaving the door open for the Pioneers’ eventual comeback.


Whitehead finished the day with 11 catches, 161 yards and two scores, giving him a team-high eight receiving touchdowns this season.


The Pioneers return home for a conference battle against University of Wisconsin-Stout (2-4, 0-3 WIAC), who is coming off of a 21-3 loss to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.


Despite their lackluster record, UW-Stout did play defending conference champion University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, who is undefeated this season, to a tight 28-26 decision in September.


Kickoff is set for 2:30 Saturday at Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium.