December 7, 2011

The men behind the man

More news about: St. Thomas | UW-Whitewater

By Adam Turer
for D3sports.com

Levell Coppage, behind an offensive line with four new starters this season, is 480 yards from Nate Kmic's all-divisions career rushing record.

Levell Coppage, behind an offensive line with four new starters this season, is 480 yards from Nate Kmic's all-divisions career rushing record.
By Daryl Tessmann, d3photography.com

There is no easy way to stop UW-Whitewater’s offense. Some might say that there is no way, period. The legs of Levell Coppage and the arm of Matt Blanchard get most of the attention, but it is the entire unit’s attention to detail that has the Warhawks offense churning through the postseason.

Coaches and players from Whitewater’s two most recent playoff opponents all noted the way the Warhawks seem to operate in unison on each snap. If you are hoping to catch a break due to a Whitewater player missing his assignment, you will likely still be waiting when the game clock strikes all zeroes. The commitment to detail is the key to the Warhawks’ overpowering offensive attack.

“It starts in the offseason with us putting in extra work after practice to make sure we’re all on the same page,” said first team All-West Region tackle Logan Allemand.

Allemand entered the season as the only senior starter on the offensive line. The offensive linemen, led by Allemand, put in extra time in the offseason and throughout the season. The extra work has paid dividends and the unit has been able to overcome inexperience and injury.

“We watch film together, do walk throughs together, and make sure we’re all in the same mind-set,” said Allemand. “The younger guys have gotten enough experience now. They do a really good job of listening.”

Coppage has rushed for 7,594 career yards to date, breaking Justin Beaver’s school and WIAC records. With potentially two games remaining, the NCAA all-divisions career rushing record is 480 yards away -- within striking distance.

“I’ve got to give all the credit to them,” Coppage said of his offensive linemen, past and present. “Those guys work in the trenches and don’t get the recognition that they deserve. All of my appreciation goes to them.”

With Coppage returning in the backfield and Gagliardi Trophy finalist Matt Blanchard back at quarterback, the closest thing to a question mark entering the season was how quickly the Warhawks’ offensive line would come together. Allemand and Ryan Olson were the most experienced linemen returning this year. The younger players have stepped up and protected Blanchard while paving the way for Coppage.

“I’m happy to see how they’ve come along,” said Coppage of his less-experienced blockers. “We have some young guys who are going to do great things for the Whitewater program.”

Coppage came to Whitewater with loads of talent, but has become a complete back over the past four seasons. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards each year and has learned the nuances of the position. Instead of relying solely on his skills, Coppage now knows how to play with patience and harmonize with the other ten members of the offense.

“He’s trying to be aware of what the offensive linemen, tight ends and wide receivers are doing. We teach reads at each level of the defense,” running backs coach Nelson Edmonds said.

“If you can be a great back, you can influence that third level of a defense. I think Levell can influence the corndog vendor in the stands.”

In addition to working with the linemen in practice on the interior running game, the Warhawks backs spend practice time with the offensive line working on blitz pickups. The coaching staff has stressed the importance of picking up the blitz and converting on third down, said Edmonds. Edmonds has a solid grasp of offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Dinkel’s philosophy, which allows the backs to understand the grander scheme of the system.

“I’ve worked with Coach Dinkel for nine or ten years now,” said Edmonds. “I think we deliver a consistent message.”

Edmonds has worked with Coppage to get the West Region Co-Offensive Player of the Year to understand the system. Coppage has bought in to the coaching and has developed the kind of patience that makes him not only a dangerous threat to score every time he touches the ball, but a complement to Blanchard and the rest of the offense.

“I’m doing the same things I’ve always done, but now I understand why I’m doing them,” said Coppage. “Patience is the key, letting our linemen do their job and finding the hole.”

“I think he’s become more disciplined. He always has a knack that he wants to score every play in any way possible,” said Edmonds. “Now, he’s buying into discipline and that’s allowed his natural talent to shine through even more.”

Coppage has rushed for over 200 yards in the Warhawks’ past two playoff victories. He will face a stout test this week against St. Thomas’s top-ranked rush defense. The Tommies allow just 47.85 rushing yards per game and are third in the nation allowing just 9.38 points per game. The Tommies may focus on Coppage, but they will do so at their own risk.

“You can’t just worry about stopping Levell. You have to worry about our quarterback who’s playing great, and our wide receivers,” said Edmonds. “Once Levell gets up on you, he’s hard to stop.”

No matter how the Warhawks beat you offensively, there is always one constant: the play of the offensive line. It would be hard enough to stop a one-man show led by Coppage, but trying to stop a unit of eleven consistent performers is something no opposing defense has figured out in nearly three years. The running back and the linemen feed off of one another.

“He’s the best athlete I’ve ever seen,” said Allemand. “With Levell rushing for all these yards, it’s something that we take pride in.”

When asked who is more tired at the end of a game, Coppage after rushing for all those yards, or his linemen for paving the way for him, the All-American running back once again deferred.

“Probably them,” he answered with a humble laugh.  “They usually stay in for more plays than I do.”

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
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
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Final
MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
Box Score
Final
at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
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Final
St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
Box Score
Final
at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Western New England 59, Curry 28
Box Score
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Colby 9, at Williams 7
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Final
at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
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Final
at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
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Final
Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
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Final
at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
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Final
at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
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Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
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Final
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
Box Score Recap
Final
at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
Box Score Recap Photos
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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Final
at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
Box Score Recap
Final
at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
Final
at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
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Final
at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
Box Score Photos
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
Box Score Photos
Final
Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
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Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
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
Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
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Final
at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
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Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
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Final
Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
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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
Box Score Photos
Final
Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
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Final
at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
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Final
Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
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Final
at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
Box Score Recap
Final
Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
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Final
at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
Final
Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
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Final
at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
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Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
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Final
Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
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Final
Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
Final
at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
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Final
at Ripon 33, Knox 19
Final
Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
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Final
UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
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Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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Final
UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
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Final
UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
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Final
at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
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Final
Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
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Final
Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
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Final
at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
Box Score
Final
at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
Box Score Photos
Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
Video Live Stats
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
Box Score Recap
Sep. 29: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Randolph-Macon at Shenandoah
Live Stats
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
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
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score Recap
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap