Nov. 29, 2008

 

Wisconsin-Whitewater Athletics

Offensive.  That's the only way to describe the display put on by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Willamette University Saturday in Whitewater's 30-27 win over Willamette in a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III second round playoff game in Salem, Oregon.  UW-W, 11-1, will host Wartburg College, 10-2, Saturday, December 6 at noon in in a championship tournament quarterfinal game at Perkins Stadium.

The total of 57 points doesn't begin to tell the story.  Whitewater and Willamette combined for 1,011 yards of offense, with the Bearcats with a slight 509-502 advantage.  Whitewater's offense came on the backs of the offensive line and the legs of sophomore running back Antwan Anderson, who rushed 34 times for a career high 269 yards.  Anderson moved in to the starting lineup when first team all-conference freshman Levell Coppage suffered an injury in last week's win over Saint John's.  Not only are his 269 yards a career high -- it is the fifth highest total in UW-W history.  (Justin Beaver set the school record of 286 versus UW-La Crosse October 14, 2006).

After holding Willamette to three and out Whitewater scored on its first possesion of the game, taking over at the Bearcat 42 and using six plays to put the first score on the board.  Anderson scored from one yard out and the PAT made it 7-0 just 2:27 into the game.  

It was more of the same the second time around, three and out for WI and UW-W taking over near mid-field, at their own 45.  Warhawk QB Jeff Donovan hooked up with Aaron Rusch for 46 yards on the first play, and two plays later Anderson had his second TD run of the game, this time from three yards out, to put UW-W up 14-0.

Willamette replied to the score with a long drive, taking it at their own 13 and marching to the Whitewatere 26, but on fourth and three an incocmplete pass ended the drive.  Whitewater took over and used six plays, including a key 44 yard Donovan to Adam Brandes pass.  Brandes also caught the scoring pass, a three-yarder, to make it 21-0 with 12:28 in the second.

The Bearcasts again responded with a drive, going from their own 24 to the Whitewater 25 in nine plays, but Warhawks safety Matt McCulloch picked off a Grant Leslie pass to end the threat.

Willamette was resilient though, picking off Donovan to set up their offense at their own 20.  They went all the way to the Whitewater nine yard line, facing a fourth and three, and Whitewater's defense forced an incomplete pass to keep the margin 21-0 where the half ended.

The Bearcats' perservence was finally rewarded on their first drive in the second half, starting at their eleven and using an 82-yard Leslie to Scott Schoettgen scoring pass to get on the board at 11:12.

Although offense was the order of the day, one of the most unusual of defensive plays occured in the game.  UW-W earned a safety in the third quarter, the first since December 10, 2005 in a NCAA III semifinal win over Wesley College in Perkins Stadium.

Whitewater set up to kick a field goal on the next drive, facing fourth and eight form the 35.  Warhawk placekicker Jeff Schebler punted instead, downing the ball at the four.  A sack by Anthony White pushed the ball back to the one, and Justin Ankley tackled Deon Horne in the end zone to make it 23-7 Whitewater at 7:31 in the third.  There was no more scoring in the third.

WU moved the ball 75 yards in 12 plays, ending with a Leslie to Josh Lee 16 yard pass to make it 23-13.at 14:55  A two point conversion, a pass, failed.  

Whitewater took the ensuing kickoff and went 63 yards in six plays, all runs by Anderson, to put the Warhawks up 30-13 at 11:40.

Again Willamette came back, responding with a ten play 76 yard drive, with Leslie hooking up with Schoettgen again, this time for 27 yards, to make it 30-20 with 8:10 left.

After a stop by the Bearcat defense, the WU offense continued its momentum, covering 70 yards in just four plays to narrow it to 30-27 with 3:37 left.  

The Warhawks used seven plays, six Anderson rushes, and Donovan ended the game taking a knee at the Willamette two yard line as the clock expired.

Although offense took center stage, UW-W linebacker Jace Rindahl led UW-W with 14 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss.  Defensive back Troney Shumpert was also in double figures with ten tackles and a pass broken up.  

Leslie completed 16-24 passes for 285 yards, throwing three TD's and one interception.  Schoettgen caught seven balls for 169 yards and two scores.  Horne rushed for 124 yards on 20 carries. Bearcat linebacker Tommy Grove led both teams with 15 tackles, one of four Willamette players in double figures for tackles.

The Whitewater-Wartburg winner will face the quarterfinal winner of Washington and Jefferson University and Mary-Hardin Baylor in a semifinal game Saturday, December 13.  Whitewater and Wartburg have never met in football.

This is the fourth consecutive year that UW-W has advanced to at least the quarterfinals of the championsip.  The Warhawks made it to week five, the Stagg Bowl, in 2005, 2006 and 2007.  Whitewater finished second in 2005 and 2006, and won the national title in  2007.