MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The Eureka College football team held a 1-point lead after the first quarter of Saturday's Upper Midwest Athletic Conference game against Northwestern (Minn.), but the Eagles answered with 34 unanswered points on five touchdowns to run away with a 53-14 league victory over the Red Devils at the 12th annual UMAC Dome Day at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn.
After Northwestern (6-3, 6-2 UMAC) took a quick 6-0 lead on Josh Sinnen's 34-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the contest, Eureka answered right back with a 3-yard touchdown plunge from junior quarterback Sam Durley (Roanoke, Ill./Roanoke-Benson H.S.) with 9:56 left in the first quarter. The 3-play, 11-yard drive was setup when EC sophomore cornerback Wes Robinson (Chicago, Ill./Normal Community H.S.) recovered a fumble deep in Northwestern territory.
The Eureka (4-4, 4-3 UMAC) defense got stops on Northwestern's next three possessions and the Red Devils led 7-6 after the first quarter. The Eagles quickly regrouped, regaining the lead on a 40-yard touchdown run by Josh Balzer for a 13-7 advantage with 9:41 left before halftime. Balzer's score ignited a 14-point second quarter for Northwestern, as Chad Rusinkovic's 60-yard touchdown catch from Balzer with 5:04 left before halftime pushed the Eagles in front, 20-7.
Northwestern dominated the third quarter, scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions of the half to stretch its lead to 40-7. Each scoring play for the Eagles was 54 yards or longer.
After Rusinkovic made it 40-7 on his 42-yard touchdown reception with 5:50 left in the third quarter, Eureka showed signs of life and answered with a 2-yard touchdown run by sophomore Corey Dawson (Farmington, Ill./Farmington H.S.). The score capped a quick 6-play, 128-second drive and cut the Red Devils' deficit to 40-14. The Eureka defense promptly forced a three-and-out on Northwestern's ensuing possession, but Grant Stroud returned a Durley interception to Eureka's 13-yard line just four plays later to setup a 6-yard touchdown throw from Balzer to Matt Dammann. The touchdown made the score 47-14 in favor of Northwestern and effectively put the game away for the Eagles.
Eureka senior receiver Wes Schmidgall (Eureka, Ill./Eureka H.S./Culver-Stockton) made six catches for 105 yards, his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season. Dawson gained 48 yards on 19 carries, and his third-quarter touchdown run was his second of the season and fifth of his career. Durley finished the day with 219 yards through the air.
Defensively, senior free safety Mike Minehan (Washington, Ill./Washington H.S./McKendree) made a game-high 13 tackles. Sophomore linebacker Jacob Carls (El Paso, Ill./El Paso-Gridley H.S.) picked up Eureka's only sack of the afternoon and senior cornerback Rosney Beverly (Los Angeles, Calif./Normal West H.S.) recorded his eighth career interception when he picked off Balzer on the third play from scrimmage in the second quarter.
Northwestern rolled up 549 yards of offense in the victory. Young ran 20 times for 176 yards and two touchdowns, while Balzer's nine completions totaled 271 yards and five touchdowns. Rusinkovic hauled in seven of Balzer's completions for 202 yards.
The defeat drops the Red Devils to 1-1 all-time against Northwestern and 1-2 all-time at Dome Day. Eureka will try to end its three-game skid next Saturday in a 1 p.m. UMAC kickoff at MacMurray in Jacksonville, Ill.