December 16, 2011

UW-Whitewater finishes the three-peat

More news about: Mount Union | UW-Whitewater
Levell Coppage loving the moment after UW-Whitewater claimed its third consecutive national title.
Photo by Dan Poel for d3photography.com

By Adam Turer
D3sports.com

SALEM, Va. — UW-Whitewater’s defense completed one of the most impressive stretches Division III football has seen. The Warhawks held their five playoff opponents to a total of 38 points. Three of those opponents — Franklin, St. Thomas, and Mount Union — ranked in the top 20 in the nation in scoring offense this season. 

Defensive coordinator Brian Borland’s unit was the deciding factor in the Warhawks’ 13-10 victory over Mount Union, giving Whitewater its third straight Division III national championship.

“I thought we had an outstanding defensive effort today,” said Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold. “We really played some outstanding defense throughout the playoffs.”

It all started up front for the Warhawks. The defensive line, led by Stagg Bowl XXXIX Most Outstanding Player Louissant Minett, stopped running back Jeremy Murray and consistently pressured quarterback Matt Piloto all night. While the usually potent Whitewater offense was held in check by a stellar defensive effort from Mount Union, the Warhawks defense rose to the challenge and set the tone for the game. Whitewater forced three turnovers, including the biggest play of the game.

“They’re a very good defense, as they showed tonight,” said Piloto. “They are very fast and they make you alter your feet and do some things that you’re not used to doing.”

What many expected to be another offensive shootout turned in to the biggest defensive struggle between the purple powers. This marked the first time in their seven meetings that the teams played to a scoreless tie after one quarter. The 3-0 Whitewater halftime lead was the lowest scoring first half between the two. Levell Coppage was held to 91 yards on 32 carries and Whitewater’s offense totaled just 210 yards despite leading in time of possession. Whitewater’s lone touchdown was what Coppage called the easiest of his career.

After a sack by Ryan Cortez backed the Purple Raiders to their own 5-yard line, Minett sacked and forced a Piloto fumble in the end zone. The ball bounced out to the 1-yard line, where it was recovered by Cole Klotz. On the next snap, Coppage scored the Warhawks only touchdown of the game. Personal statistics mean far less to Coppage than the only numbers that matter: 13 for the Warhawks, 10 for the Purple Raiders.

“You can never be frustrated with a win and you can never be frustrated with a championship,” said Coppage, who finished a stellar run at Whitewater with 109 career touchdowns.

That fumble had the biggest impact, but it was far from the only difference the Warhawks defensive line made. Minett twice hit Piloto as he threw on third down, forcing incompletions. He also hit Piloto to create a wobbly pass that was picked off by Noah Timm.

“Every play, I just focus on keeping my motor running,” said the sophomore defensive end. “Every play is not granted.”

Minett suffered an injury on Mount Union’s third down play with 1:38 to go in the game and had to watch from the sideline as the Purple Raiders attempted to convert on fourth down to keep their title hopes alive. With Minett on the sideline, Piloto had enough time to complete a pass to Jasper Collins and extend the drive. Minett returned two plays later, as Mount Union faced a third down and ten from its own 31 yard line. On fourth and ten, Jake Hohlstein and Anthony Bounds pressured Piloto and forced him to complete a short under route to Chris Denton. The Warhawks stopped Denton short of the first down and quarterback Matt Blanchard set up the Whitewater offense in the victory formation.

The young Whitewater defense held Mount Union to 238 total yards of offense and just 59 yards in the first half. This championship effort came one week after the Warhawks shutout St. Thomas to advance to Salem. Entering the season, Whitewater knew it had a proven senior star in Coppage and a talented senior quarterback in Blanchard. The defensive leaders would need to emerge as the season progressed. They came up with three game-changing turnovers.

“We needed guys like [sophomore linebacker] Ryan Cortez and [junior cornerback] Chris Pendergast to step up and be contributors this year and those are the type of guys that this team needed and they rose to the occasion and matured very quickly,” said Leipold.

The sophomore-dominated defense sends off senior leaders Coppage, Blanchard, and offensive lineman Logan Allemand with a third straight Walnut & Bronze trophy.

“It’s just a team effort, it’s not just one defensive player,” said Pendergast, who had the Warhawks’ other interception, at the Whitewater 4-yard line. “We all play as a team and we all fly around and it’s a credit to the game plan of Coach Borland and then we have to execute.”

Minett was pushed in offseason workouts by Coppage and learned quickly the kind of effort that it takes to build a champion. The seniors leave behind a legacy of three straight Stagg Bowl titles. More importantly, they leave behind the foundation and wisdom that they shared with the underclassmen who will be charged with keeping the tradition and the now 45-game winning streak alive.

 “For all of us to step up and do this for the seniors and try and carry this legacy is going to be the key for the future success of our defense,” said Minett.

The high-energy sophomore end paid the biggest tribute he could to his senior teammates by wreaking havoc on the Mount Union offense from snap to whistle each play that he was on the field. Although he is an underclassman, he showed that he understands what it takes to win a championship, and he proved it on this rainy night in Salem.

“I feel like I left everything on the field,” said Minett.

He and his defensive mates hope to be back here again next year playing for a fourth straight national championship, once again leaving it all on the field.

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Bridgewater State 34, Fitchburg State 25
Box Score
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
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at Hobart 27, Union 23
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Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
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Final
at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
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Final
at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
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Final
MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
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Final
at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
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at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
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Final
St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
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at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
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at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
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Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
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at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
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at Western New England 59, Curry 28
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at Utica 24, Cortland 13
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Colby 9, at Williams 7
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at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
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at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
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Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
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Final
at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
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Final
Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
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Final
at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
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Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
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Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
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at Plymouth State 30, Mass-Dartmouth 14
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Final
at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
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Final
at Springfield 28, WPI 23
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Final
at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
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Final
at Denison 45, Wooster 7
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Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
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Final
at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
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at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
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Final
at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
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Final
at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
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Final
at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
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at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
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Final
at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
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Final
at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
Final
at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
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Final
Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
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Final
Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
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Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
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Final
Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
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Final
at Centre 49, Chicago 27
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Final
at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
Box Score Recap
Final
Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
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Final
at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
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Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
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Final
Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
2:00 PM
Martin Luther at Northwestern (Minn.)
Final
at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
Box Score
4th - 03:07
14 Greenville
35 Westminster (Mo.)
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2:00 PM
Dubuque at Luther
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Final
Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
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Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
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Final
at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
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Final
Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
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Final
at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
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Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
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at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
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Final
at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
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Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
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at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
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2:00 PM
Cornell at Beloit
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2:00 PM
Augustana at Carthage
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2:00 PM
Coe at Nebraska Wesleyan
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2:00 PM
Finlandia at Wartburg
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Final
Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at North Park
Live Stats
Final
at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
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2:00 PM
Knox at Ripon
Final
Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score
3:00 PM
Thiel at Geneva
Final
UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
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HALF
7 St. John Fisher
28 Brockport
Video Live Stats Audio
4th - 10:46
37 UW-Stevens Point
19 Adrian
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4:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Carroll
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6:00 PM
Sewanee at Berry
Video Live Stats Audio
6:00 PM
Westminster (Pa.) at Bethany
6:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Oberlin
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Start of 2nd
0 Wesleyan
3 Tufts
Video Video Preview Live Stats
Start of 1st
0 Mount Union
0 Baldwin Wallace
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Wilmington at Capital
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7:00 PM
Austin at Southwestern Assemblies
Video Preview
7:00 PM
Langston at McMurry
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7:00 PM
Millikin at North Central (Ill.)
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10:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at Chapman
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Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score
HALF
7 St. John Fisher
28 Brockport
Video Live Stats Audio
6:30 PM
Mount Union at Baldwin Wallace
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Millikin at North Central (Ill.)
Video Live Stats Audio