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Falcons get even in win over Gustavus

UW-River Falls defensive back Alex Wood hits Gustavus quarterback Michael Veldman in the first quarter of the Falcons' 20-12 victory over Gustavus Adolphus Saturday night, Sept. 9, at David Smith Stadium at Ramer Field. Veldman was penalized for intentional grounding on the play. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
UW-River Falls running back Michael Diggins (32) pumps his fist as he reaches the end zone to complete a 23-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of the Falcons' 20-12 victory over Gustavus Adolphus Saturday night, Sept. 9, at David Smith Stadium at Ramer Field. Diggins ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Falcons to their first victory of the season. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

After turning the ball over five times in a four-point loss to Coe College in its season opener the week before, the UW-River Falls football team wasn't going to let another game slip away Saturday, Sept. 9, at David Smith Stadium at Ramer Field.

After building a 20-6 lead, UWRF turned the ball over twice on back-to-back fourth quarter possessions, and while Gustavus was able to convert the second giveway into a touchdown, it was too-little-too-late as the Falcons held on for a 20-12 victory.

The win evened the Falcons' record at 1-1 and avenged a 24-21 loss to the Gusties last year in St. Peter, Minn.

The Falcons turned the ball over a total of four times in the game but the UWRF defense, led by a 12-tackle night by Somerset native Max Praschak and a pair of sacks from Hudson's Jared Johnson, never let the Gusties get untracked.

UWRF held Gustavus to just 29 rushing yards a week after the Gusties piled up 246 yards in a 38-0 win over Westminster College (Mo.). The Gusties were able to put up 334 yards through the air, but their only touchdown came on a 42-yard hail mary-like pass with two minutes remaining to make the final 20-12.

Led by Diggins' 115 yards, UWRF dominated the time of possession, 34:46 to 25:14.

Diggins scored from 23 yards out on the Falcons' first possession of the game to cap a 10-play, 54-yard drive. Gustavus got on the board with a 32-yard field goal at the start of the second quarter before quarterback Travon Hearns hit Tim McCarthy for an 11-yard touchdown pass to extend UWRF's lead to 14-3 at the break.

Gustavus put together a 15-play, 70-yard drive midway through the third but had to settle for a 38-yard field goal. The Falcons came right back, marching 71 yards in 11 plays to take a 20-6 lead on Diggins' second touchdown run of the game from four yards out.

Hearns fumbled on the Gustavus 10-yard line after the Falcons had marched 64 yards, and after the Gusties punted he threw an interception to give the ball right back to them at the Gustavus 14-yard line with 4:20 remaining. All Gustavus could get out of it was a desperation 42-yard touchdown with 2:00 left to make the final 20-12.

Hearns completed 13-of-21 passes for 117 yards with one touchdown and one interception. In addition to rushing for 115 yards, Diggins was also the Falcons' leading receiver with seven catches for 57 yards.

Praschak led the defense with 12 tackles, eight solo, and shared a sack and a tackle for loss while Johnson recorded two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. Mitch Dienger contributed seven tackles and picked off a pass while Geno DeMike had seven tackles, one for a loss.

The Falcons will hit the road for the first time this Saturday, Sept. 16, for their final nonconference game of the season against Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis. They have a bye the following week before opening WIAC play Saturday, Sept. 30, at UW-Eau Claire.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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