UW-La Crosse football coach Joel Dettwiler was a happy guy Saturday afternoon.

Not for the reason you might think.

La Crosse upset No. 6 North Central (Ill.) 21-17 to open its season on Saturday in Naperville, Ill. Of course, Dettwiler was pleased about that.

The best part for Dettwiler was that the Eagles did not play a perfect game. He said there is a lot to work on as

La Crosse heads into a short practice week before playing NCAA Division II Northern Michigan at 6 p.m. Thursday in Marquette, Mich.

“It was good news, bad news,” Dettwiler said. “It wasn’t a perfect game. It’s a maturity thing: having the poise to get a huge win to get our program going in the right direction.”

The Eagles have played four ranked opponents in 11 games under Dettwiler, with a 2-3 record.

La Crosse won at No. 15 Oshkosh on Oct. 29. It lost twice to No. 1 Whitewater and at No. 5 Mary Hardin-Baylor last year. None of the losses were blowouts.

The win at North Central was arguably the La Crosse program’s biggest upset since it won 17-3 at NCAA Division I-AA South Dakota State to open the 2006 season.

AVERAGE ‘O’: The Eagles’ offense never got rolling against North Central.

Tailback Jared Stan’s 54-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the only offensive touchdown in a game dominated by the La Crosse defense (six turnovers, two touchdowns).

The Eagles turned in 206 total yards. Ben Hertrampf rushed 25 times for 78 yards.

Quarterback Andy Sires, who won a pre-season camp competition for the starting job, completed 9 of 14 passes for 67 yards and was sacked three times.

La Crosse allowed a WIAC-most 38 sacks last season.

“North Central’s defense played very well,” Dettwiler said. “We don’t have an offensive juggernaut yet but we can run the football. Their d-line gave our o-line fits, and (Sires) was not able to be productive and make good decisions because he wasn’t getting much time.”

BIG FOOT: Punter Christian Hallingstad lived up to his D3football.com pre-season All-America recognition.

The senior punted nine times for a 46.2 yard average, placing three inside the 20 (including one at the 2 in the fourth quarter).

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