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Blugolds football team uses bye week to concentrate on improvement

By Allan Brown Leader-Telegram sports,


While the Blugolds’ football team was technically on a bye last week, they chose to use a different term to describe their days off before entering conference play this weekend.

“We called it an improvement week to improve upon our skills,” said UWEC wide receiver Isaac Garside during the team’s weekly media availability Monday morning at the McPhee Physical Education Center.

Garside deemed the week off as “extremely beneficial” and allowed the team to practice at being able to “perform at our highest ability.”

Explaining that the 1-2 Blugolds played “three really good teams” leading up to this Saturday’s Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) opener on the road at UW-Stevens Point, the down week the Blugolds team had between their last non-conference game — a loss 24-0 to Bethel at home on Sept. 16 — allowed the squad to not only rest and get healthy, but to reflect on the first third of the 2023 gridiron campaign.

“We were able to look at things we weren’t doing well,” Garside said. He even added a little Joe Namath-type guarantee to his statements when asked about the offense’s performance in that Bethel loss.

“That will give us an extra push and a promise that it won’t happen again,” the wide receiver said.

Garside said that he thinks having new Blugolds’ Head Football Coach Rob Erickson leading the charge will only prove to be beneficial to his team, as UWSP has not seen an Erickson-led team in live action yet and can only rely on film footage of the first three UWEC games.

“We have a new system and obviously everything in general about us is new,” Garside said, explaining that “obviously our game is going to be a lot different to them” than last year.

Hopefully without a different result for the Blugolds as they defeated UWSP, 46-28, in UWEC’s only WIAC win of the 2022 season.

This year’s Pointers stand at 1-2 overall and are coming off a a 30-7 loss at Albion College in Michigan last Saturday. UWSP’s lone win this season has been a 31-29 victory over St. Norbert College on Sept. 9.

For Erickson, a Junction City, Wisc., native the trip to Stevens Point will actually be a homecoming of sorts, but he’s more focused on the game at hand than any nostalgic return to his roots.

“We have got to be really sound on our run game,” Erickson said, noting that UWSP runs a solid defense and is a physical team that could present challenges to the Blugolds.

“What we as coaches focused on during our improvement week was to jump start our offense,” Erickson added.

One way the coach hopes to do that is with the likely return of Harry Roubidoux at quarterback.

The senior signal caller left during the second quarter of the Bethel College game with what Erickson then called a sprain in his shoulder.

In the ensuing days since that injury, Roubidoux’s rehab has progressed to the point where Erickson said Monday that “we do expect him to play. He looks solid, there’s a really strong chance he will play.”

Erickson said he will continue to monitor the quarterback’s progress this week and he was slated to start throwing Tuesday.

That Roubidoux is likely to play at all is almost miraculous given Erickson’s initial thoughts following the injury.

“Early thoughts were that he would be out multiple weeks to up to four-to-six weeks,” Erickson said.

The bye — or improvement week — helped buffer the time between games for not only Roubidoux, but for many other players, allowing them to get healthy and giving them time to re-energize before the start of conference play.

“We made sure we gave them extended time over the weekend to see family,” Erickson said, adding that during a bye, the “biggest thing is to try and get better,” both physically and on the field.

With that in mind, Erickson noted that the squad worked on blocking, tackling and how to reduce penalties.

The “improvement week” allowed Erickson and his staff — as well as the players — a chance to “find out where we need to get better at.”

Conversely, the start of conference play will show Erickson whether the team is where it needs to be to challenge in a competitive WIAC.

Without going into detail on any possible offensive or defensive scheme changes the team might employ starting with the Stevens Point game, Erickson said, though, that he did believe that “we are way more close than people think” to turning the negatives to date this season into positives.

Erickson did admit, though, that the key to future improvement is to “improve the run game. We want to be more balanced between running and passing each game.”

In the loss to Bethel, UWEC had a total of only four net yards rushing in 14 attempts, with the average yard per rush at 0.3. In a 44-14 loss to Coe College on Sept. 9 the numbers were decidedly better though not optimal with a net total of 92 yards rushing and an average rush per game of 3.3 yards. No rushing touchdowns were scored in either loss.

In the Blugolds’ season-opening 31-28 win against Concordia College of Minnesota, the numbers were similar, with the same 92 yards rushing gained, but with a slightly lower average rush per game of 3.0.

Kickoff for Saturday’s game is 1 p.m. at the Community Stadium at Goerke Park.

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