Warhawks: Back on track

More news about: UW-Whitewater
Jake Kumerow has been a huge presence at receiver for UW-Whitewater, especially with Tyler Huber's availability limited.
Daily Jefferson County Union photo

After spending two seasons at the University of Illinois, Jake Kumerow felt he needed a change.

The 6-5 wide receiver transferred to UW-Whitewater because he wanted an opportunity to win a national championship. But in his first season with the Warhawks, the team that reached seven straight Stagg Bowls and won four national titles did not qualify for the playoffs.

This season, Kumerow and UW-W have a new focus and appear to be back on track to reach the playoffs after picking up back-to-back victories over top-10 WIAC rivals UW-Oshkosh and UW-Platteville during the last two weeks.

“We’re very happy to have gotten W’s in both of the games when we played teams in the top 10,” Kumerow said. “It’s very nice to have the two wins, but in no way, shape or form can we start letting up or taking the next teams lightly.”

Kumerow has played a key role on the Warhawks’ surge to the top of the WIAC standings, offering the offense the spark it needed as fellow wide receiver Tyler Huber has dealt with injuries. He leads the team’s deep group of wideouts – that also includes Joe Worth, Steve Morris and Justin Howard – with 44 catches, 775 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Kumerow was hurt in the first quarter of last week’s win vs. UW-Platteville and did not return. Although Kumerow was not on crutches on campus this week, UW-Whitewater was not willing to divulge any information on his status.

“Jake has been such a pleasure,” Leipold said. “I don’t know if there has been a person that I’ve worked with in all my years that has really done as much of a 180 in everything about his approach to the game as much as he’s done in the last eight months.

“It’s a pleasure to see him have a breakout season like this because he’s really turned it on,” he added.

Kumerow was recruited by the Warhawks when he was finishing high school. But Illinois offered him a position as a preferred walk-on, so Kumerow took the opportunity to play in the Big Ten like his father Eric – who played defense at Ohio State and was a first-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 1988.

“It’s been nice having my dad as being an ex-pro and playing in college. He knows the ropes, basically, so it’s been nice having him guide me through it,” Kumerow said.

When Illinois made a coaching change, Kumerow felt it was time to make a change himself. He looked to UW-Whitewater, where his sister Cortney was having success on the women’s basketball team.

Kumerow has adjusted to the small school environment. But other than the size of the players and facilities, he said he has not noticed a lot of difference between Division I and Division III.

“The time you put in, the work – all that – it’s the same. In practice you’re out there just as long. You lift just as much weight,” Kumerow said. “Football is football.”

After playing a small role on the team a year ago, Kumerow credited hard work in the offseason for his improved play this season. Leipold pointed to his work ethic too.

“His ability to compete – not just on game day – his willingness to compete daily has really been refreshing and has now become an example in our program,” Leipold said. “He’s doing the little things right – from finishing plays to ball security and all those different things.

“He’s being rewarded with success because he put the effort and time in.”

Kumerow and the other wide receivers even helped the Warhawks find the answer to their running game also. Injuries have plagued the UW-Whitewater backfield, but the passing game has kept the team moving forward.

Now Jordan Ratliffe and Booker Ross are emerging as solid running threats to help balance the offense.

“We didn’t have that big play ability last year,” Leipold said. “Now that we’ve been able to have some bigger threats and deeper threats it’s definitely helped our running game. And you can see that those two things feed off each other.”

“We all play our role very well,” Kumerow added. “It’s nice having a group like this to work with.”

Kumerow wants to experience the playoff atmosphere that UW-Whitewater has become familiar with over the last decade.

“Especially not getting there last year, it makes me extremely hungry,” Kumerow said. “Me and the guys want to get it real bad.”

But the players and coaches know there is more work to do with the team holding a one-game lead over Oshkosh and Platteville with two regular season games remaining.

The Warhawks will travel to UW-Stevens Point Saturday before hosting UW-River Falls in the regular season finale.

“We’re in a pretty good position, but at the same time, last year we went up to Stevens Point and played very poorly and lost that ball game,” Leipold said. “We can’t get caught enjoying what we’ve just accomplished the last two weeks or we can’t get caught looking ahead somewhere.

“We’re guaranteed Games 9 and 10. We better make sure we focus on No. 9 first before anything else.”

St. John’s upset

Gustavus Adolphus defeated St. John’s 23-20 in double overtime Saturday, handing the Johnnies their second loss of the season.

Thomas Schleusener kicked a field goal in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Then after both teams scored touchdown in the first overtime, Schleusener gave the Gusties their first win over St. John’s since 1997 with a 37-yard boot.

“We let some chances slip away today, and against a good team that will cost you,” SJU coach Gary Fasching told the St. Cloud Times.

St. John’s loss shakes up the conference race as the Johnnies were lined up to potentially face Bethel for a share of the conference title in the final week of the season.

Now Concordia-Moorhead is the only team behind Bethel with one loss. The Royals, who beat the Cobbers head-to-head, will need to win one of their final two games to clinch a share of the MIAC title and secure the league’s automatic playoff berth.

The rest of the West

Jake Turkowski returned two interceptions for touchdowns during St. Scholastica’s 48-point second half. The Saints defense registered 10 quarterback sacks en route to a 55-7 win over Minnesota-Morris. … Loras coach Paul Mierkiewicz resigned before Saturday’s 48-3 loss to Central. Steve Helminiak will serve as interim coach for the remainder of the Duhawks’ season. In that game, two sets of brothers accounted for four of Central’s six touchdowns in a 48-3 win over Loras. Jack Norgaard and Sam Norgaard as well as Mitchell Boerm and Brendon Boerm all found the end zone for the Dutch. ... Taylor Irwin caught three touchdown passes in the first half to lead SCIAC leader Redlands to a 34-6 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The win improves the Bulldogs’ league record to 5-0. … Linfield topped Willamette, 56-15, in a meeting of ranked Northwest Conference teams. After Willamette struck first, the Wildcats scored 42-straight points to take control. Josh Yoder passed for 171 yards and two touchdowns and added 175 yards and four scores on the ground.

Rank ’em

The West Region has eight teams ranked in the Top 25 this week, including four in the top 10.

Linfield, Bethel and UW-Whitewater remained ranked Nos. 2, 5 and 6, respectively after strong wins this weekend.

UW-Oshkosh bounced back from its first loss and moved up two spots to No. 8. UW-Platteville slid three spots to No. 11 after losing at Whitewater.

Pacific Lutheran is up one spot to No. 15 while MIAC rivals St. Thomas and Concordia-Moorhead remained at Nos. 18 and 21, respectively.

St. John’s and Willamette dropped out of the Top 25 after taking losses this weekend. St. John’s received 18 votes and Willamette garnered 12.

Pacific received 19 votes while both Redlands and Coe got seven votes apiece.

Number of the week

500 – as in the number of passing yards compiled by Dubuque quarterback Bryan Bradshaw. He completed 27 of 39 passes to set an IIAC and Dubuque school record for passing yards in a game. He threw four touchdown passes but the Spartans lost to Simpson 50-46. The Storm’s win coupled with Wartburg’s loss to Coe pulls Simpson into a first place tie with the Knights in the IIAC standings.

Looking ahead

Greenville (9-0 overall) will host St. Scholastica (8-1) for the UMAC title Saturday. Both teams enter the contest with identical 8-0 league records. Last year, the teams shared the conference title along with Northwestern (Minn.). No tiebreakers will be necessary this season with a winner-take-all scenario in place. 

Be heard

Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, break-out players or any other storylines in the West. Or just drop me a note and let me know what you like or don’t about the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at josh.smith@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter at @DU_Josh_Smith.

Josh Smith photo

Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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