Mike Schmidt, a former UW-La Crosse football and baseball player, came here a little more than two years ago as a high-energy guy ready to turn a struggling Eagles’ football program around. Schmidt, who was an assistant coach at the University of Dubuque and defensive coordinator UW-Platteville before accepting the Eagles’ head coaching job on Feb. 4, 2016, expected big things from a program that was once a NCAA Division III powerhouse and has three national titles to its credit.
Mike Schmidt had just accomplished something he believed would be one of the most rewarding …
He’s certainly delivered.
One year removed from a .500 inaugural season, Schmidt led the Eagles to a surprising 8-2 record this fall and put UW-L in the 32-team Division III playoff conversation. While UW-L did not receive a bid, the Eagles’ turnaround was one of the most talked about stories of 2017 and comes in at No. 6 on the Top 10 stories of the year.
There were a number of key reasons for the Eagles’ resurgence, including the significantly improved play of the offensive line and a strong overall defensive unit, but the team’s quick-strike offense was likely the biggest. Despite having starting quarterback Tarek Yaeggi suffer an injury against UW-Whitewater that would keep him out until late in the season, the Eagles averaged 33.9 points and 431.2 yards per game behind backup Drew David and the magician-like moves of record-breaking wide receiver Nick Holcomb.
Holcomb had 80 receptions for 1,401 yards and 20 TDs — all UW-L single-season records — and was one of our finalists for the Gagliardi award.