WHITEWATER, Wis. -- Wisconsin-Whitewater defeated St. Norbert 31-7 in the first round of the Division III tournament Saturday afternoon at Perkins Stadium.
UW-W's defense forced a three and out on St. Norbert's opening possession. The Warhawk offense took over on its 39, and on the seventh play of the drive Eric Kindler's 39 yard field goal put Whitewater in front 3-0 with just over three minutes off the clock.
St. Norbert advanced the ball to the Whitewater 44, but facing a third and three, James Tringali's pass deflected off his receiver's hands to Whitewater defensive back Andrew Keister. The two interceptions mark the third time Tringali, or the Saint Norbert offense, had two in a game this season.
St. Norbert stopped Whitewater, but the Warhawks maintained possession when Kindler's punt was fumbled by Matt Fargo and recovered by Zach Koch at the Green Knight's 21. Whitewater advanced into the red zone, but Jordan Ratliffe's fourth down run from the one was stopped by Paul Allen and Zach Klarkowski.
The Green Knights moved out to their 24. Facing directly into a stiff wind, Kevin Krueger's punt was held up, and then took a backwards bounce, and Whitewater took over on the SNC 32.
UW-W closed in to the 19, but a sack, a penalty, and two incomplete passes took the Warhawks back and were forced to punt.
In the second quarter, Krueger played a role in putting the Warhawk offense in the hole with a 55 yard punt that rolled dead at the Whitewater 8. He added a 42-yarder later in the quarter that put UW-W's back's at the four.
Late in the second quarter Warhawk defensive end Mykaell Bratchett forced a hurried throw by Trangali that was picked off by linebacker Cole Klotz, the WIAC defensive player of the year, at the SNC 48. UW-W junior quarterback Matt Behrendt attempted six consecutive, completing four, the last a ten yard score to Tyler Huber with eleven seconds left in the half. Kindler's kick made it 10-0 Whitewater going into the locker rooms.
The score wasn't an aberration. In addition to coming up with three turnovers, Whitewater's defense limited the Green Knights to 23 yards passing. St Norbert's defense bottled up Warhawk rushers, with UW-W totaling 21 yards on the ground in the first thirty minutes.
In their second possession of the second half, the UW-W offense put together its longest drive of the game. Pinned back to their one on the exchange, Whitewater used nine plays to go the length of the field. The key play in the drive was a pass from Behrendt to running back Ryan Givens that took the Warhawks from their own seven to the SNC 45. Givens ended the drive with a 12 yard run, and Kindler's kick made it 17-0 with 7:23 left in the third quarter.
St. Norbert responded with its longest drive of the day. The Green Knights used twelve plays to go 68 yards, the longest an 18 yard run by tailback Brad Boockmeier. Tringali hit Brian Fliess with a seven yard toss to put SNC on the board, and Randy Hill's kick with 2:01 on the clock cut Whitewater's lead to 17-7. The score broke a streak of more than six scoreless quarters (91:26) stretching back to a loss to Lake Forest last week, for St. Norbert. It also ended the Warhawks' longest streak without allowing a score, which stretched almost six quarters (88:34) back to the win against UW-River Falls in the regular season finale.
UW-W took advantage of another short punt into the wind, starting a fourth quarter drive on the SNC 46. On the third play from scrimmage Behrendt tossed his second TD pass of the day, hitting Jake Kumerow for a 33 yard score. Kindler's kick made it 24-7 with 8:34 remaining.
The Warhawks bottled up the Green Knights in their own end, forcing a punt from their 15, which set the Whitewater offense up on the St. Norbert side of the field, at the 45. Givens took the handoff on nine consecutive plays, advancing the ball to the four, where junior tight end Derric Junakin caught his second touchdown pass of the season, and Berhrendt's third of the game. Kindler's PAT ended the scoring with 0:36 showing. he fourteen points by the Warhawks equals, for the fourth time, the most St. Norbert has allowed in a quarter this season.
UW-W, the number two scoring defense in NCAA III statistics and number two in total defense, held St. Norbert to 169 total yards, 95 rushing and 74 passing. The Green Knights averaged 2.7 yards per rush and 2.8 yards per pass completion. Tringali went 13-25. Sophomore running back St. Norbert was penalized just once for five yards, the least for a Whitewater opponent this season. Boockmeier rushed for 61 yards on 19 attempts and caught four passes for the SNC offense. Senior linebacker Nick Keller led SNC with nine tackles.
Whitewater's offense totaled 414 yards. Behrendt went 24-38 for 279 yards, connecting with Justin Howard 11 times, the most St. Norbert has allowed an opponent this season and tied for the most by a Warhawk (Jake Kumerow had 11 vs. UW-Stout). Givens ended the game with 125 yards on 25 carries. Klotz paced the defense with ten tackles, plus one tackle for a loss and the interception.
The win pushed Whitewater's playoff record under Lance Leipold, in the NCAA tournament for the sixth time, to 24-2.
UW-W and Franklin have met three times previously. Their first meeting came in the 2010 playoffs, with UW-W winning 52-21 in Perkins Stadium. The following year UW-W won a regular season meeting 45-0 at Franklin, then faced the Grizzles in the first round of the playoffs and won 52-21.