Sophomore running back Justin Beaver ran the ball in from one yard out with 42 seconds remaining to give UW-Whitewater a 44-41 win over Linfield College in a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III football playoff quarterfinal in McMinnville, Oregon Saturday afternoon. UW-W, 13-0, will host Wesley (12-1) in a playoff semifinal game Saturday, December 10 at 12:00, noon, at Perkins Stadium in Whitewater, Wis.
Linfield came in to the game ranked number one in the NCAA III polls. Whitewater's win ended the Wildcats' 23-game win streak, which included the 2004 NCAA III championship. Whitewater, ranked second in the polls, added to its school record season win total.
Wesley College (DE) raised its record to 12-1 with a 46-7 win over Bridgewater (VA) in the quarterfinal that was set to match up with the Whitewater-Linfield winner. In other quarterfinal games Rowan University (NJ) defeated Delaware Valley (PA) 27-21, and Mount Union (OH) defeated Capital University (OH) 34-31. Mount Union, 12-1, will host Rowan, 11-1, in the other quarterfinal.
Whitewater and Linfield combined for 1,069 yards of offense and exchanged the lead eleven times. Linfield's 41 points are the most the UW-W's defense has given up this season (previously 28 by Platteville October 22) and the 44 are the most the Wildcats' defense has allowed (previously 32 by Whitworth October 8). Beaver (Palmyra/Palmyra-Eagle), the leading rusher in Division III, carried the ball 34 times for 197 yards to become the first back in school history to top the 2,000 yard mark (now at 2,110). Junior quarterback Justin Jacobs (jr, Sun Priarie) was 22-46 for 302 yards, the fourth time this season he has gone over 300 yards. Jacobs now owns the school records for yards (3058) and touchdowns (29, breaking a tie with current head coach Bob Berezowitz, who threw 27 I 1966). Nine of Jacobs' completions Saturday went to senior wideout Jim Leszczynski (sr, Franklin), who along with junior wide receiver Derek Stanley became the first two receivers in school history to go over 1,000 yards in a season, Leszczynski at 1,071 and Stanley with 1,094.
Linfield senior QB Brett Elliott completed 47 of 67 passes for 528 yards, 5 touchdowns and two interceptions. One of the interceptions was 35-yard return for a touchdown by linebacker A.J. Raebel.
Despite those numbers, it was a defensive play that led the game winning score. Sophomore defensive end Ryan Ogrizovich (Burlington) picked up a fumble and ran to the four yard line. Whitewater did not score on that possession, but Linfield also went three and out, and the resulting field position and punt gave UW-W the ball on the Linfield 42 with 3:21 left and Linfield leading 41-37. Beaver's run culminated a seven-play drive and provided the winning margin in the game.
UW-W went 10-0 in the regular season, including a 7-0 mark and the championship of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Warhawks defeated #18 Central College (IA) 34-14 in the first round of the NCAA III playoffs, and topped #3, and previously unbeaten Saint John's (MN) 34-7 in the second round. Both of those contests were played in Perkins Stadium because of UW-W higher seed in the playoffs, just as Whitewater traveled to Linfield based on the seeds.
UW-Whitewater has organized a free tailgate party for the Wesley game Saturday. A tent will be set up near Perkins Stadium's gates, with complimentary food and beverages provided courtesy of the UW-W alumni association, Chartwells', UW-W athletics, and DLK Enterprises. The tailgate will begin at 10:30 and last until the kickoff at 12:00.
Tickets for the Wesley game, priced at $8 for adults and $4 for senior citizens and students, will be available Monday-Friday in the UW-Whitewater ticket office. The ticket office will be open during regular business hours Monday-Friday, and tickets can be purchased by phone at (262) 472-2222, and then picked up at the stadium on game day.