UW-La Crosse football coach Matt Janus is challenging the old football adage of “if you have two quarterbacks, you have none” with another old saying. Two heads are better than one.
Through one game playing both senior Cade Garcia and sophomore Keyser Helterbrand at quarterback, results are promising for the Eagles. The duo combined for five touchdown passes and 310 passing yards in UW-L’s 42-7 win over Dakota State on Saturday.
“The stats are going to tell you it’s not really a quarterback battle,” Janus said. “I think there’s some different plays we have the ability to play with Keyser in the run game, not to say Cade can’t run with it, too. I feel really good about that spot and we’re going to keep moving forward with it.”
Garcia got the opening drive of the game, which ended in a punt. Helterbrand came in on the next Eagles possession and got UWL in field goal range, but the attempt was blocked.
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The offensive rhythm wasn’t there early, but a pair of touchdown passes by Garcia early in the second gave UWL a comfortable lead. The senior credits the younger Helterbrand with assisting him after a slow start that saw him throw for only four yards in the first quarter.
“I thought it worked well today,” Garcia said. “I thought I started slow and he started faster. I started making plays and we were playing off each other. It’s whatever it takes and obviously we had a really good day on offense. I’m happy with the result.”
Finding a hot hand was one advantage the Eagles discovered in their opening run with a two-headed monster behind center, but Helterbrand said there are plenty of ways switching out with Garcia helps the team.
“We have each other's back,” Helterbrand said. “We can help each other out on the field and the sidelines. If he sees something on the previous drive, he can give me some info. He helped me out a lot today. Another benefit is I think it keeps the defense on its toes. They have a tough time adjusting to different quarterbacks and that’s probably what we’ll be able to do to a lot of teams.”
Not only did both have successful days, but they would have finished with identical passing attempt totals if not for an injury to Helterbrand that brought on Garcia for the first touchdown of the second quarter. Garcia went 11-for-14 for 189 yards and four touchdowns while Helterbrand went 7-for-12 for 121 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“We both made mistakes but we bounced back,” Helterbrand said. “We got off to a pretty slow start but found our groove and it took off from there.”
The two quarterback system isn’t just getting rave reviews from Janus and his quarterbacks. Junior wide receiver Jack Studer — who caught touchdown passes from both quarterbacks in the Dakota State victory — said early concern amongst the wide receivers was put to rest early.
“Earlier on it did seem harder to adjust to the quarterbacks but as it went on we got more focused,” Studer said. “We couldn’t even tell or remember sometimes which one was in the game. They’re both doing their thing, we were doing our thing and I think it worked out amazingly.”
THREE AND OUT
Murphy’s law hits a wall
Dakota State sophomore nose tackle Devonte Murphy had the attention of offensive coordinator Michael McGuire and offensive line coach Andrew McGlenn all week. While he got into the backfield on occasion, Murphy finished the game without a tackle.
“I think coach McGuire and coach McGlenn did a great job making sure we had two men on him the entire time,” Janus said. “We were going to double him all game.”
The protection for the quarterbacks was solid all around as Garcia was never sacked while Helterbrand was brought down in the backfield twice.
Cleaning up laundry
While the Eagles outgained the Trojans by 362 total yards, penalties were one of the few areas UWL lagged behind. The Eagles were flag for fouls seven times for a combined 90 yards, including three penalties on special teams.
“We had three penalties on our punt return team,” Janus said. “I’m not really happy with that, that’s going to come back and bite us in the butt if we can’t get that straight.”
Extra special point
While it wasn’t significant in the grand scheme of a blowout, the point after conversion by senior kicker Ryan Beirne to put UW-L up 28-0 with 2:19 left before halftime put him in the record books for most career extra-point conversions with 124. Though the West Salem High School graduate missed two field goals, the kicker and wide receiver was perfect on six extra-point attempts.
James Krause can be reached by email at James.KrauseJr@lee.net or on Twitter @jkrausepro.
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