December 14, 2011

Looking for redemption

More news about: UW-Whitewater
The Warhawks played the entire 2010 postseason without Matt Blanchard, but the quarterback hasn't missed a step in 2011.
Photo by Daryl Tessmann for d3photography.com

By Adam Turer
Special to D3sports.com

Even though he has never lost a game as a Warhawk, senior quarterback Matt Blanchard will be looking for redemption this week in Salem. He has won all 24 of his starts over the past two seasons, but will be making his first Stagg Bowl appearance.

Last year, injury kept Blanchard from making a postseason start after he led UW-Whitewater to a perfect regular season. This year, Blanchard has remained healthy and will be under center when the Warhawks’ offense takes its first snap on Friday night.

“If there was one person you were pulling extra hard for last week, it was Matt,” said Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold. “I’m really happy for him that he has the opportunity to do something that he didn’t get to do last year and that is start a Stagg Bowl.”

Blanchard was an efficient 14-of-19 passing and added 39 yards rushing in the 20-0 semifinal win over St. Thomas. He will now finally become the second member of his family to play in a Stagg Bowl for a Purple Power. Blanchard’s older brother Derek started on the offensive line in the Stagg Bowl in 2005, 2006, and 2007. He also coached in the 2008 Stagg Bowl. Remember, though, Derek Blanchard was a Purple Raider.

There is no sibling rivalry. In fact, Derek says that Matt is his best friend. There is no Mount Union-Whitewater trash talk between the brothers.

“It’s like ‘Fight Club,’” said Derek, now a teacher and coach at Lake Forest High School in Illinois. “We just don’t talk about it.”

Like Derek was in 2007, Matt is now a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy. The brothers’ success is a direct reflection of their work ethic, their commitment to represent their respective schools, and their upbringing.

“It’s a great opportunity for Matt and it’s well-deserved,” said Leipold. “It says a lot about Steve and Peggy Blanchard.”

Last year’s postseason was a trying experience for Matt Blanchard, but he handled himself well. While he was frustrated with his inability to play, he did everything he could to prepare backup Lee Brekke for the five postseason victories.

“He was on an emotional rollercoaster last year,” said Leipold. “He’s a very mature individual, but that was a test for anyone who waited his turn to be a starter and played so well for us throughout the season. He accepted what his fate was, and became a leader and supporter for Lee.”

Blanchard leaned on his brother and best friend for support.

“I told him to stay motivated, stay hungry, and put 100 percent effort into the things he can control,” said Derek. “It’s really been a struggle for him staying healthy. He’s really overcome obstacles and it’s made him a better overall quarterback. You can’t not root for him.”

As starting quarterback for the two-time defending national champions, Blanchard was not lacking motivation heading into the 2011 season. But if anyone on the Warhawks had an extra edge in offseason workouts, it was the senior signal-caller. Blanchard was determined to be the man lining his team up in a victory formation and taking a knee on the last snap of the 2011 Division III season.

“It was definitely tough, but with everything like that in life, you learn from it and mature. It was a humbling experience,” he said. “From day one of the offseason until now, I’ve had incredible focus and motivation.”

The quarterback still enjoys the benefit of playing with one of the top defenses in the nation and having the security of All-America running back Levell Coppage in the backfield. He remained an efficient passer and became even more of a dual-threat quarterback this season. His most significant improvement has been the continued growth and development of his leadership skills.

“Matt became more of a vocal leader as a captain,” said Leipold. “He’s a broad-shouldered, mature, confident young man. He can take care of so many things that coaches can’t control. He is an excellent leader.”

After his junior season ended on a bittersweet note, Blanchard’s senior season has played out as if scripted for a happy ending.

“It’s what I’ve dreamed of and more,” he said. “The Gagliardi nomination, homefield throughout the playoffs, playing my last college game for the championship against Mount Union—I could not ask for much more.”

There are still some important pages left to be written in the final chapter of Blanchard’s time as Whitewater’s quarterback. First up is the Gagliardi Trophy presentation on Wednesday night. Then, the biggest game of his life on Friday.

“I feel truly blessed to be in the top four,” said Blanchard of the Gagliardi Trophy. He is much more concerned with the outcome on Friday night.

There is only one way Blanchard envisions capping off this dream week and dream season: a Whitewater victory in Stagg Bowl XXXIX.

“You couldn’t ask for a better story to this point for his senior year,” said his brother, Derek. “He’s so excited, as he should be.”

Sep. 1: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Coast Guard at Anna Maria
7:00 PM
Defiance at Baldwin Wallace
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Johns Hopkins
7:30 PM
Trine at Manchester
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
Sep. 2: All times Eastern
TBA
Muhlenberg at Wilkes
6:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Mount Ida
6:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
7:00 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Stevenson
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Becker
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Albright at Salisbury
7:00 PM
WPI at MIT
7:00 PM
Salve Regina at Worcester State
7:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Curry
7:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
10:00 PM
Adrian at Pacific
Sep. 3: All times Eastern
TBA
Endicott at Framingham State
TBA
Kean at Christopher Newport
TBA
King's at Moravian
Live Stats
TBA
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
TBA
Marietta at Denison
TBA
McDaniel at Catholic
TBA
Wisconsin Lutheran at Trinity Int'l
TBA
UW-Platteville at George Fox
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Washington U. at Carnegie Mellon
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Chicago at Case Western Reserve
12:00 PM
Husson at Alfred
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Cortland at Heidelberg
12:00 PM
Otterbein at Buffalo State
12:00 PM
Ursinus at Bethany
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Kenyon
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton
Live Stats
1:00 PM
RPI at Norwich
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Dickinson
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Kalamazoo
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
1:00 PM
Wooster at Washington and Jefferson
1:00 PM
Alfred State at William Paterson
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Alma
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Olivet at St. John Fisher
1:00 PM
Rowan at Widener
1:00 PM
Hobart at Brockport
1:00 PM
Union at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Utica at Misericordia
1:00 PM
The Apprentice School at Methodist
1:00 PM
TCNJ at UW-Whitewater
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Bluffton
1:30 PM
Monmouth at Hope
1:30 PM
Bridgewater at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Austin at Hendrix
2:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Martin Luther
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Millikin at Greenville
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
Live Stats
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Rockford
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Westminster (Mo.)
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Luther
2:00 PM
Beloit at Lake Forest
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Jamestown
2:00 PM
Crown at Hamline
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
2:00 PM
Bethel at Dubuque
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at St. John's
Live Stats
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Grinnell
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at Mayville St.
2:00 PM
Simpson at UW-Stout
2:00 PM
Aurora at Carthage
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at Coe
2:00 PM
Ripon at Concordia-Chicago
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Loras
2:00 PM
Huntingdon at Louisiana College
2:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Robert Morris-Chicago
2:00 PM
Benedictine at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
John Carroll at UW-Oshkosh
2:30 PM
Southern Virginia at Earlham
Live Stats
2:30 PM
Lawrence at Presentation
4:00 PM
La Verne at Puget Sound
Live Stats
4:00 PM
Central at Whitworth
5:00 PM
Hartwick at Western Connecticut
6:00 PM
Wabash at Albion
6:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Berry
6:00 PM
Augustana at Mount St. Joseph
6:00 PM
Thomas More at Franklin
Live Stats
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Averett
6:00 PM
Redlands at Trinity (Texas)
7:00 PM
Hiram at Westminster (Pa.)
7:00 PM
Thiel at Allegheny
7:00 PM
Capital at Wittenberg
7:00 PM
Shenandoah at Gallaudet
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Illinois College at Rose-Hulman
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Hanover at Centre
7:00 PM
Geneva at Frostburg State
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Guilford
Live Stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Southwestern
7:00 PM
Anderson at North Park
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Mary Hardin-Baylor
7:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Texas Lutheran
7:10 PM
St. Thomas at UW-Eau Claire
Video Live Stats
8:00 PM
Willamette at Rhodes
8:00 PM
Cornell at Iowa Wesleyan
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Augsburg at Northwestern (Minn.)
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Howard Payne
8:00 PM
Sul Ross State at UT-Permian Basin
Dec. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 49, at St. Thomas 35
@ Salem, Va.
Box Score Recap Recap Photos