The UW-La Crosse football team was in need of a win that showed all of what it could be.
Could it sustain a strong defensive effort throughout a game? Could its offense steady itself after multiple up-and-down weeks? The Eagles needed to answer those questions before embarking on the stretch run of the WIAC season.
They did that — emphatically — with a 63-27 embarrassment of Stevens Point on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Field. La Crosse did whatever it wanted on offense, made the Pointers look like a clown show on offense, and won the position battle over and over on special teams.
The crowd of 3,022 that endured a chilly evening at Roger Harring Stadium saw undoubtedly the best performance of the year for La Crosse (4-2, 2-1), in which they scored their most points of the season and their most since 2016.
“It was what we needed. Our offense needed it badly,” senior quarterback Ben Schramski said. “We’ve had success at points this season, but we were able to string it together today.”
Schramski had a stellar night, going 18-for-27 passing for 283 yards and four touchdowns. He added 37 yards and a score on the ground. Junior receiver Cole Spieker had six catches for 103 yards and two TDs. The Eagles’ starting defense was suffocating, and held Stevens Point below 200 yards before La Crosse emptied the bench.
Everything snowballed quickly in La Crosse’s favor, and it had the game in hand by halftime.
Two big blocks set up Jake Simuncak for a lengthy return of the Pointers’ first punt, setting the Eagles up at the Pointers’ 45. The Eagles took seven plays to score — four touches going to Austin Mancosky — finally hitting pay dirt when Schramski hit Spieker on a fade route.
Spieker, a 6-foot-2 receiver, was covered by 5-8 cornerback OJ James on the play, and UW-L easily exploited the mismatch.
Another good punt return — a 20-yarder for Simuncak — kicked off another scoring drive. Schramski hit Spieker with a perfect deep throw down the right sideline to gain 33 yards and get UW-L near the red zone. Schramski carried a read-option from the 16 to put La Crosse ahead two scores in the first quarter.
The defense’s performance in the first half was even better than the offense’s. The Eagles allowed just 27 total yards on 25 offensive plays. They frustrated Pointers’ freshman QB Max Herro with pressure, and bottled up all running lanes.
Stevens Point (2-4, 1-2) had one first down — a 20-yard pass over junior cornerback Nathan Clark, who was starting in place of injured senior Colton Nieman — in the half, compared to 381 yards and 16 first downs for UW-L.
When the field flipped to the second quarter, an attempt at a screen pass lost yards for Stevens Point, and a bad punt set La Crosse up at the 50. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Schramski hit a deep post route to sophomore Devonte Amos for 47 yards. Senior Austin Mancosky punched it in from the 3 for his first TD of the season.
After yet another three-and-out and a bad punt, UW-L used old-fashioned ground-and-pound to score again. Junior Jalen Clark rushed four times on the drive for all 35 yards it took to get to the end zone, finished off by a 2-yard burst across the goal line for a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter for UW-L.
A déjà vu moment for the Eagles resulted in a fifth first-half touchdown. The Pointers went three-and-out again — they didn’t get a first down until their seventh drive — and then senior linebacker Elijah McGeehan blocked the ensuing punt. Spieker corralled the ball, shook off a tackler, and scored from the 13.
After freshman running back Joey Stutzman converted a third-and-9 with a catch-and-run of 26 yards, La Crosse scored again from the 6 on a pass to Trent Smith.
Stevens Point showed its only sign of life in the first half on the following kickoff. Senior receiver Christian Almonte returned it 97 yards, following a host of blockers along the east sideline, to give the Pointers their only points of the half.
The Eagles answered quickly, though. Using a trio of running backs — Clark, Smith and Stutzman — to move down to the Pointers’ 40. Then Schramski hit Spieker for another touchdown, a deep throw down the sideline on which Spieker fended off his man at the goal line.
The 43-point lead at half was the largest of the season.
Schramski caught the Pointers on a blitz on the second drive of the second half, and found Amos on a quick slant. The 5-6 speedster outran everyone after the catch for a 32-yard score, notching his first TD of the season.