Tigers ground game undone by Winona

Published 12:26 pm Saturday, September 27, 2008

The sting of a 35-34 overtime loss to Mankato East last week seemed to linger for the Albert Lea football team Friday against Winona in a 21-0 loss at Paul Giel Field.

Tigers head coach Clay Anderson was worried about how his team would respond after the emotional homecoming loss, and he said the team came out flat against a rejuvenated Winhawk (4-1, 3-1) team.

“We were flat and we really had no spark the whole game,” Anderson said. “Coming off that loss we feared that.”

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In years past it was a game Albert Lea could count on winning, but not this year as Winona has matured and knocked off three conference opponents this season, ending a five-year winless streak.

The Winhawks scored first when Jay Moran intercepted a Cody Hansen pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

After putting up 34 points last week the Tigers’ offense sputtered and was shut out for the first time all season. Albert Lea couldn’t find room to run and the Winona defense shined, forcing the Tigers into passing situations.

Albert Lea (1-4, 0-4) passed the ball 29 times with Hansen completing 10 passes for 111 yards and four interceptions. The 29 attempts were easily the most in the season for Hansen and the Tigers. Albert Lea had attempted 46 passes for the season entering the game and 29 were far too many for a team not used to passing that much.

“The challenge is we’re trying to do something we can do every once and awhile,” Anderson said of the passing game. “The biggest thing is we couldn’t sustain anything on the ground and it made us one dimensional.”

The Tigers rushed for just 37 yards and were dealt a big blow when running back Luke Grossman came out of the game with an ankle injury. Grossman returned to the offense late in the fourth quarter but had difficulty making cuts on the ankle. Anderson said Grossman’s status would be questionable for next Friday’s game against Faribault.

The Winhawks rushing attack paced their offense with Chad Peterson rushing for 122 yards and one touchdown. Winona had 174 yards on the ground for the game.

Anderson said an important part of the game was field position and Winona got good field position through punt returns. The Winhawks took advantage of the short field in the second half with Peterson scoring on a 25-yard run in the third quarter and Mitch Jacobsen added a 3-yard run late in the fourth quarter.

Anderson said he didn’t see the same team as he has earlier in the season and the key will be finding that emotion as the team heads into a critical part of the season. Albert Lea has three games remaining starting with Faribault on the road next Friday followed by Rochester Century at home and finishing up with Austin in Austin.

“The first thing is we just need to get our confidence back,” Anderson said. “We just have to move forward with a positive attitude.”

Winona 21, Albert Lea 0

Albert Lea – 0 0 0 0 – 0

Winona – 7 7 0 7 – 21

First Quarter

Winona – Jay Moran 35 interception return (kick good)

Second Quarter

No scoring

Third Quarter

Winona – Chad Peterson 25 run (kick good)

Fourth Quarter

Winona – Mitch Jacobsen 3 run (kick good)

Total offense

Albert Lea – 148

Winona – 199

Total rushing

Albert Lea – 37

Winona – 174

Total passing

Albert Lea – 111

Winona – 25