/playoffs/2011/the-men-behind-the-man

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.”

Oct. 14: All times Eastern
Final
Salve Regina 45, at Nichols 10
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Mount Ida 14, at Dean 7
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Final
at Thomas More 59, Waynesburg 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Maine Maritime 34, Coast Guard 16
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Final
at Finlandia 27, Trinity Bible 21
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Final
Hamilton 28, at Bowdoin 7
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Final
at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Olivet 47, Albion 26
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Final
at Wesleyan 41, Bates 23
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Final
Union 27, at Rochester 0
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Final
Amherst 40, at Colby 7
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Final
at Western New England 41, Endicott 14
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Final
at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
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Final - OT
at Plymouth State 16, Framingham State 13
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Final
at RPI 27, Ithaca 14
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Final
Hobart 49, at Hartwick 27
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Final
at Ferrum 34, LaGrange 20
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Final
at Carnegie Mellon 42, Geneva 27
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Final
Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
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Final
DePauw 26, at Denison 17
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Final
at Trine 42, Kalamazoo 7
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Final
at Washington and Lee 47, Guilford 26
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Final
at Husson 49, Castleton 0
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Final
Gallaudet 35, at Alfred State 19
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Final
at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
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Final
Brevard 41, at Methodist 17
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Final
at Lebanon Valley 31, Stevenson 24
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Buffalo State 24, at St. Lawrence 21
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Final - OT
at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
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Final
at Randolph-Macon 52, Emory and Henry 29
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Final
at Wesley 29, Kean 9
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Final
at Hampden-Sydney 58, Apprentice 28
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Final
Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at N.C. Wesleyan 45, Greensboro 0
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Final
at Westminster (Pa.) 49, Grove City 27
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Final
Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 56, Crown 15
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Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 29, Iowa Wesleyan 7
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Final
at Knox 56, Grinnell 14
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Final
at Widener 31, Lycoming 17
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Final
Trinity (Conn.) 23, at Tufts 16
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount St. Joseph 66, Earlham 7
Video Box Score
Final - 2OT
Ohio Northern 27, at John Carroll 20
Preview Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Baldwin Wallace 23, at Muskingum 20
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Final
at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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Final
Rose-Hulman 44, at Manchester 13
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Final
at Hanover 31, Bluffton 28
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Final
Defiance 45, at Anderson 0
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Final
at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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Final
Hiram 62, at Kenyon 56
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Final
Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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Final
Williams 27, at Middlebury 26
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Final
at Westfield State 33, Fitchburg State 21
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Final
Marietta 43, at Wilmington 33
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Final
at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
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Final
Curry 40, at Becker 0
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Final
TCNJ 20, at Rowan 14
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Final
at SUNY-Maritime 51, Anna Maria 15
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Final
Salisbury 28, at Montclair State 10
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Final
at Huntingdon 28, Maryville (Tenn.) 16
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Final
at Austin 33, Millsaps 19
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Washington U. 55, Buena Vista 20
Video Video Box Score Recap
Final
Alma 27, at Aurora 19
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Final
at Rockford 29, Concordia-Chicago 14
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Final
Wisconsin Lutheran 22, at Concordia (Wis.) 19
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Final
at Lakeland 57, Benedictine 21
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Final
at St. Norbert 10, Chicago 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
St. Olaf 22, at Augsburg 20
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Final
Bethel 24, at Gustavus Adolphus 3
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Final
St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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Final
at Eureka 30, Greenville 19
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Final
Centre 27, at Trinity (Texas) 21
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Final
Dubuque 42, at Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Final
Central 30, at Coe 19
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Final
Lake Forest 56, at Cornell 28
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Final
at Carthage 31, Elmhurst 8
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Final
Millikin 28, at Augustana 27
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Ripon 52, at Beloit 28
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Final
MacMurray 49, at Minnesota-Morris 13
Video
Final
Macalester 21, at Lawrence 18
Video Box Score
Final
at Monmouth 59, Illinois College 14
Video Box Score
Final
at UW-Stevens Point 26, UW-Eau Claire 3
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Final
Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wooster 38, Oberlin 28
Video Box Score
Final
Texas Lutheran 41, at East Texas Baptist 34
Video Box Score
Final
at UW-Stout 21, UW-River Falls 16
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Sewanee 34, at Birmingham-Southern 13
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Hope 22, Adrian 3
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Final
Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
Video Box Score
Cancelled
La Verne at Occidental
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Final
Whitworth 17, at Pacific Lutheran 14
Video Box Score Photos Photos
Final
at Cal Lutheran 42, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 20
Video Box Score
Final
at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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Final
at Pacific 35, Puget Sound 27
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Pomona-Pitzer 45, at Whittier 23
Video Box Score
Final
at Western Connecticut 28, Massachusetts Maritime 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Scholastica 56, Martin Luther 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final - 5OT
at St. John Fisher 39, Utica 36
Video Recap Live stats Audio
Final - OT
at Heidelberg 48, Otterbein 45
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Final
at Shenandoah 38, Bridgewater 20
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Southwestern 60, at Belhaven 31
Video Video Box Score
Final
Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
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Final
at Louisiana College 52, McMurry 34
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Final
at Simpson 38, Luther 17
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Final
at Chapman 45, Redlands 26
Video Video Box Score Recap Recap
Oct. 16: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
Box Score Recap
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
Video Video Live stats Live stats
Oct. 14: All times Eastern
Final
at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final - OT
at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
Box Score Recap Live stats
Final
at Wesley 29, Kean 9
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
Video Box Score
Final
at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
Video Box Score
Final
Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
Video Box Score
Final
at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
Video Box Score
Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
Video Box Score
Final
Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
Video Box Score
Final
at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
Video Video Box Score Photos
Final
Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
Box Score
Oct. 16: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
Box Score Recap
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
Video Video Live stats Live stats