Dec. 13, 2008

Courtesy of Wis.-Whitewater

UW-Whitewater is going to the Stagg Bowl, the NCAA III championship game in Salem, Virginia Saturday, December 20 at 10:00 (Central).  The Warhawks, 13-1, earned a berth in the title game with a 39-13 semifinal win over the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor December 6 at Tiger Stadium in Belton, Texas.  UW-W will face Mount Union College, 14-0, for the fourth consecutive year in the Stagg Bowl.  Mount Union won national titles in 2005 and 2006; UW-W is the defending Division III champion.

Whitewater, or to be more accurate, Whitewater's defense, scored on the first play of the game.  After the Crusaders returned the opening kickoff to just their own two yard line, a fumble by UMHB's Bryson Tucker was recovered in his end zone for a Warhawk safety.

That play also set up Whitewater's second score, because the ensuing free kick was returned to Whitewater's 37.  Jeff Donovan hit Aaron Rusch with a 25 yard pass on the first play of the drive, which ended five plays later with a twenty-five yard field goal by Jeff Schebler to make the unusual score of 5-0 at 11:39.

Late in the first quarter the Crusaders began a drive at their own 29, used 11 plays to go 71 yards to score on a Josh Saenz one yard run.  The PAT made the score 7-5 with 12:17 left in the half.

Holding UW-W to a three and out, UMHB took possession at their own 44, and seven plays later Alan Munoz booted a twenty-five yard field goal to up the Crusaders' margin to 10-5 with 4:11 left in the half.

Taking over at their own 20 after a touchback, UW-W went 80 yards in 11 plays, including a 23 yard pass from Donovan to Jordan Wells that put the Warhawks at the four, and Donovan ended the drive with a three yard TD toss to tight end Nick Slupski with just 0:26 left in the half and Whitewater back in the lead 12-10.

UMHB tried an onside kick on the first play of the second half, but it backfired with a penalty for illegal kicking Whitewater started its first drive of the half on the UMHB 24.  One play later, Danny Benson scored his first collegiate touchdown on a pass from Donovan to up the margin to 18-10 with just seven seconds gone in the third quarter.

After exchanging possesions, UW-W got back in the end zone late in the quarter.  Donovan threw his third TD pass of the afternoon, connecting with Slupski for the second time.   This time it was for eight yards, making the score 25-10 at 3:42.

Punting, a difficult task all afternoon because of a stiff wind, provided an opportunity after stopping the Crusaders.  UMHB's punt went just seven yards, giving the Warhawks the ball at Crusader 35.  Seven plays later, at 14:56 in the fourth, Levell Coppage dove over the pile to make it 32-10 Whitewater.

Mary Hardin-Baylor put what proved to be its final points on the board with 9:04 left in the game, on another Munoz field goal, this one from 44 yards out to make it 32-13.

The defense set up another Whitewater score late in the fourth, stopping the Crusaders when Jon Baldwin forced Seanz to fumble, and Wesley Hicks picked it up for UW-W at the UMHB 38.  Antwan Anderson took the first handoff from Donovan to the house with 4:00 left in the game, ending the scoring the contest.

UMHB, which came in to the game averaging 272 yards per game rushing, was limited to 125, on 42 carries, by the Warhawk defense which was ranked fourteenth in yards allowed rushing in Division III.  The Crusaders totaled 236 yards on offense, compared to 395 for UW-W.

Anderson rushed 19 times for 106 yards, and Coppage added 45 in his first action in three weeks -- giving UW-Whitewater two 1,000 yard rushers for the first time in school history.  Coppage has accumulated 1,420 yards and Anderson 1,092 this season.  Donovan, battling the wind, went 16-25 for 220 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions.  Sophomore linebacker Kyle Supianoski led the Warhawk defense with 16 tackles, three solo, and one shared quarterback sack.

Matt Hurst rushed 20 times for 74 yards for UMHB, and Seanz passed for 67 yards and rushed for 46.  Jeremy Salinas had 14 tackles, three solo, to top the Crusader defense.

Mount Union defeated Wheaton College (IL) 45-24 in the other semifinal to set up the, what is beginning to seem "annual", title rematch in Salem.