/playoffs/2011/looking-for-redemption

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.”

Oct. 20: All times Eastern
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at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
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at Framingham State 29, Westfield State 14
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Moravian 20, at Juniata 17
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at Salve Regina 41, Endicott 14
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at Thomas More 63, St. Vincent 13
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at Union 28, Hobart 23
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at Hamilton 27, Colby 24
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at Christopher Newport 27, William Paterson 19
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at Ithaca 35, St. John Fisher 10
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at Allegheny 44, Kenyon 35
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SUNY-Maritime 21, at Mount Ida 13
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Middlebury 43, at Bates 14
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at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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at Amherst 21, Wesleyan 17
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at Trinity (Conn.) 63, Bowdoin 14
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Husson 48, at Gallaudet 21
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Wabash 35, at Oberlin 21
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at Utica 34, Buffalo State 12
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Ohio Northern 7, at Muskingum 6
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at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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at Stevenson 26, Albright 23
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Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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at Albion 31, Alma 28
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at Guilford 45, Shenandoah 20
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Plymouth State 40, at Massachusetts Maritime 14
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Wooster 58, at Hiram 25
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Washington and Lee 36, at Hampden-Sydney 6
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at Anna Maria 36, Alfred State 34
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Bridgewater 31, at Emory and Henry 23
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at FDU-Florham 49, Wilkes 31
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Lebanon Valley 17, at Misericordia 0
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at St. Lawrence 36, Rochester 14
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RPI 30, at Alfred 15
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at Curry 46, Nichols 16
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at Salisbury 42, Southern Virginia 0
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Ferrum 27, at Brevard 24
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Randolph-Macon 63, at Apprentice 14
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at Susquehanna 21, Ursinus 14
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Cortland 34, at Morrisville State 20
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at Trine 50, Hope 14
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Trinity (Texas) 27, at Sewanee 21
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Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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at Franklin and Marshall 56, Dickinson 0
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Tufts 21, at Williams 13
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Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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MIT 30, at Coast Guard 21
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at Norwich 24, Maine Maritime 22
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at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Franklin 29, at Rose-Hulman 22
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John Carroll 48, at Capital 21
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at Manchester 28, Bluffton 21
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Mount St. Joseph 71, at Anderson 27
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UW-Whitewater 20, at UW-River Falls 7
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Kean 26, at TCNJ 3
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at LaGrange 59, Greensboro 10
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at Worcester State 45, Mass-Dartmouth 40
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Muhlenberg 40, at McDaniel 13
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Western New England 45, at Becker 0
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at Maryville (Tenn.) 35, Methodist 14
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Adrian 36, at Kalamazoo 22
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Denison 31, at Ohio Wesleyan 20
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at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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at Benedictine 43, Olivet 37
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Birmingham-Southern 31, at Austin 24
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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at UW-Stout 23, UW-Stevens Point 17
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Eureka 37, at MacMurray 20
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at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Nebraska Wesleyan 14, at Buena Vista 13
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Lakeland 48, at Wisconsin Lutheran 0
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at Aurora 28, Rockford 21
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at Concordia-Chicago 37, Concordia (Wis.) 17
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at St. Olaf 29, Carleton 26
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at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Westminster (Mo.) 24, at Greenville 14
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at Loras 44, Coe 38
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Monmouth 61, at Cornell 10
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Wheaton (Ill.) 56, at North Park 0
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Northwestern (Minn.) 30, at Martin Luther 14
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Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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at Lake Forest 70, Grinnell 6
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at Millikin 56, Carroll 35
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at Macalester 47, Ripon 31
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at St. Norbert 38, Lawrence 6
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St. Scholastica 49, at Crown 21
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at Iowa Wesleyan 24, Minnesota-Morris 17
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UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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at WPI 41, Merchant Marine 7
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at Centre 42, Rhodes 35
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Hanover 49, at Earlham 14
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Final
at Chicago 55, Beloit 12
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UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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at Dubuque 28, Simpson 27
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at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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at East Texas Baptist 68, Louisiana College 35
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at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Western Connecticut 27, at Bridgewater State 20
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Chapman 38, at La Verne 21
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Pacific 17, at Lewis and Clark 7
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Pacific Lutheran 27, at Willamette 14
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at Whitworth 38, Puget Sound 23
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Redlands 42, at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 25
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at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Sul Ross State 52, at Howard Payne 15
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at Castleton 17, Dean 14
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N.C. Wesleyan 21, at Averett 15
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at Otterbein 37, Baldwin Wallace 29
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Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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Carnegie Mellon 42, at Thiel 10
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at Illinois College 23, Knox 13
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at Cal Lutheran 60, Whittier 34
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Cancelled
Occidental at Pomona-Pitzer
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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Final
Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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Final
at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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Final
Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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Final
at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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