Oct. 24—RIVER FALLS — Just in time for Halloween, the UW-Whitewater football team got a scare on Saturday.
But a couple of big special-teams plays over the game's final six minutes turned a trick into a treat, leading to a pair of Matt Maldonado field goals and a 34-28 victory over UW-River Falls.
The victory kept the nationally third-ranked Warhawks atop the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference at 4-0 (7-0 overall).
River Falls (5-2, 4-2) tied the game at 28-28 with 5 minutes, 41 seconds left to play, following an interception by Aaron Borgerding—Meylor's only intercepted pass of the season—with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Kole Hinrichsen to Andy Groebner.
But Jaylon Edmonson gave the Warhawks a lift with a 46-yard return of the ensuing kickoff, all the way to the River Falls 19, to set up a 28-yard field goal by Matt Maldonado with 2:56 left.
Maldonado's kickoff resulted in a fumble by Kaleb Blaha, forced by Daniel Baggett and recovered by Ryan Wisniewski at the River Falls 14. This time, Maldonado connected on a 31-yard field goal with 1:51 to play for a six-point lead —and Kyle Koelblinger intercepted Hinrichsen on first down to close the door on the Falcons.
Meylor, who entered the game completing 72.6% of his passes, was sacked three times and hurried a few others. The senior went 15-for-26 for 166 yards, including five catches for Derek Kumerow covering 64 yards.
The rushing game responded by producing 208 yards, including 83 on eight carries by Tamir Thomas and 74 on 16 attempts by Alex Peete.
The Whitewater defense held the WIAC's most prolific offense to 28 points, 19.5 below its average, and 349 total yards, more than 200 yards below its average of 540.5 yards. Hinrichsen went 27-of-42 for 212 yards and four touchddowns, with Koelblinger making two interceptions, and also led the rushing attack with 79 yards on 21 carries.
In the early going, there was no indication that the fourth quarter would be a nail-biter down the stretch. The Warhawks' defense held River Falls to six yards on its first two drives, both three-and-outs—and the Warhawks responded with touchdowns each time.
The first came on a 6-yard pass from Meylor to Tyler Holte, ending a 60-yard drive; the second went from Meylor to Wisniewski for 23 yareds and a 14-0 lead less than 8 1/2 minutes into the game.
But the Falcons then asserted themselves. First came a 19-yard, 75-yard drive capped on a 5-yard TD pass to Groebner on the first play of the second quarter. A third-down sack of Meylor led to a short Whitewater punt, and River Falls drove 47 yards in eight plays to tie the game, capped by a 21-yard pass from Hinrichsen to Anthony Silva.
After another Whitewater punt, the Falcons drove 70 yards in 13 plays to take a 21-14 halftime lead, as Hinrichsen connected with Charlie Huschka for a 23-yard score with 2:34 left before halftime. The Warhawks lost a fumble on their next possession, but Koelblinger intercepted a pass to close the half.
Niko Lemke recovered a Hinrichsen fumble at the River Falls 44 early in the third quarter, and the Warhawks tied the game on a 25-yard pass from Meylor to Sam DeLany. Whitewater's next possession resulted in a go-ahead score, as Alex Peete ran for a 6-yard score to close a 10-play, 70-yard drive.
After two weeks on the road, the Warhawks return home on Saturday to take on UW-Eau Claire (3-4, 1-3) at 1 p.m.
WISCONSIN 30, PURDUE 13
W—Tyler Holte 6 pass from Maxs Meylor (Matt Maldonado kick), 10:34.
W—Ryan Wisniewski 23 pass form Meylor (Maldonado kick), 6:33.
RF—Andy Groebner 5 pass from Kole Hinrichsen (Cade Henry kick), 14:59.
RF—Anthony Silva 21 pass from Hinrichsen (Henry kick), 9:40.
RF—Charlie Huschka 23 pass from Hinrichsen (Henry kick), 2:34.
W—Sam DeLany 25 pass from Meylor (Maldonado kick), 10:16.
W—Alex Peete 6 run (Maldonado kick), 2:51.
RF—Groebner 24 pass from Hinrichsen (Henry kick), 5:41.
W—Maldonado 28 field goal, 2:56.
W—Maldonado 31 field goal, 1:51.
Time of possession;32:05;27:55
Rushing—Whitewater: Mellusi 27-149, B.Allen 12-140, Schipper 3-12, J.Chenal 1-0, Mertz 4-(minus 1), Pryor 1-(minus 3), (Team) 3-(minus 7). River Falls: Doerue 9-20, Burton 1-1, Downing 2-1, Plummer 8-0, O'Connell 4-(minus 35).
Passing—Whitewater: Thomas 8-83, Peete 17-74, Edmonson 2-15, Meylor 9-6, Strasburg 2-5, Team 5-(minus-12). River Falls: Hinrichsen 21-79, Silva 8-17, Fugate 5-14, Blaha 1-5, Beise 2-0.
Receiving—Whitewater: Kumerow 5-64, Wisniewski 2-43, DeLany 1-25, Berentes 1-10, Peete 4-9, Sherman 1-9, Holte 1-6. River Falls: Groebner 5-53, Huschka 2-36, Reissman 5-33, Beise 3-28, Morrison 3-27, Agrimson 4-22, Silva 1-21, Fugate 3-7, Traxler 1-6, Trenary 1-1, Blaha 1-0.
Missed field goals—Maldonado 39.