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.”

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at Bridgewater State 34, Fitchburg State 25
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Sep. 24: All times Eastern
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Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
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at Hobart 27, Union 23
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at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
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at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
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at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
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MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
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at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
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at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
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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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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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at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
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Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
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at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
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Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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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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at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
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at Springfield 28, WPI 23
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at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
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at Denison 45, Wooster 7
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at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
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at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
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at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
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at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
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at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
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at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
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at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
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at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
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at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
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at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
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Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
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Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
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at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
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Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
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at Centre 49, Chicago 27
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at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
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Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
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at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
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Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
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Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
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Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
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UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
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at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
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at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
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Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
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Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
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St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
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at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
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Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
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at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
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at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
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at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
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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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Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
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at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
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Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
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at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
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at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
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Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
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Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
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at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
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at Ripon 33, Knox 19
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Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
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UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Central 42, at Loras 34
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at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
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UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
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St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
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UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
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at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
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Final
Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
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Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
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at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
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Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
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at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
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at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
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Final
at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
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Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
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Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
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Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
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Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
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Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
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Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
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Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
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Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
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