UW-Whitewater took another step in the 2010 NCAA III playoffs, defeating Trine University 45-31 Saturday at Perkins Stadium in Whitewater, Wisconsin. Whitewater, 12-0, moves on to the field of eight to play North Central College, 12-0, in Naperville, Illinois Saturday, December 4 at 12:00.
The first drive set the pace for a frenetic first half. UW-W took an unusual, deliberate short kickoff at their own 37. It took them five plays to score, ending with a Lee Brekke to Adam Brandes 26 yard scoring pass at 12:50. The reception tied Brandes for fifth place in the UW-W record book with 19 career touchdowns receiving.
Whitewater's next possession began at the UW-W 18, and ended with Eric Kindler's 44 yard field goal, his longest of the season, to put the Warhawks up 10-0 at 6:14.
Trine responded with a field goal of their own, Jeremy Howard connecting from 42 yards out, to make it 10-3 with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
Trine also scored on their next drive, which began at their 27. Trine QB Eric Watt went 5-5 on the drive, accounting for 69 of the 73 yards. One of those completions was a 27 scoring toss to wide receiver Paul Curtis. The extra point tied the game 10-10 with 14:53 left in the second quarter.
It took the Warhawks just 1:31 to cover 49 yards to go ahead. The big play in the four play "drive" was a Brekke to Luke Menzel pass that covered 35 yards to the Trine four yard line. The 35 yards exactly doubled Menzel's receiving yardage for the season on this fifth catch of 2010. Levell Coppage ran the final four yards to make it 17-10 with 13:20 left in the half.
With the pattern of the first half already established, Trine came right back with seven play drive that covered 72 yards. Watt completed a 38 yard pass to Thomas Wyman to put the ball at the Whitewater six. After an incomplete pass, Jeff Langley ran the ball in to tie the game 17-17at 11:02.
It was back to Whitewater, and UW-W traveled 77 yards on six plays, highlighted by a 61 yard run by Coppage, to tie the score on a Brekke to Aaron Rusch five yard pass to put UW-W back in front 24-17 with 8:30 left in the second quarter.
Watt went on another hot streak; again completing 5-5 passes on a drive, accounting for 47 yards of the 67 it took for Trine to tie the game at 24-24. Watt and Curtis teamed up again, this time for ten yards, for the score with 2:41 left in the half.
On another day that might have been the end of the scoring, but in the wild first half Whitewater had time to go 69 yards on seven plays, with Brekke and Rusch hooking up again, this time for the final 17 yards. Rusch caught four passes for 57 yards on the drive, with the touchdown catch breaking the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference career record for receiving yards, with 3,640 at that point, passing Jarod Jenkins of UW-Stevens Point (3,632).
UW-W took at 31-24 lead in to the locker room.
The Trine defense helped The Thunder tie the game. Whitewater took possession on a punt at their own 25. A personal foul on the Warhawks moved the ball back to the 12, and Trine DB Aaron Selking intercepted a pass and ran it back to the one yard line. After a rush for no gain, Devin Leas rushed for the TD to knot the game at 31-31 with 12:31 remaining in the third quarter.
Tied 31-31 at the end of the third quarter is the latest that UW-W has not led in a game since being tied with Mount Union 28-28 with 12:08 left in the fourth quarter of the 2009 Stagg Bowl --- and it is the most points UW-W has allowed since Mount scored 31 in the 2008 Stagg Bowl.
Then someone threw a switch and two seemingly different teams took the field. The next five possessions (three Whitewater, two Trine) netted a total of 12 yards on 20 plays. The sixth drive, by Trine, almost doubled that output with 27 yards on five plays --- but 15 of those yards came on a personal foul penalty.
Whitewater finally broke the spell with a 12 play, 67 yard drive that began late in the third quarter and ended with a Coppage nine yard TD run to give UW-W the lead 38-31 with 10:52 left in the game. The fifth play of the drive was a 12 yard completion to Rusch, which put him over 1,000 yards for his playoff career (17 games) with UW-W, the first receiver in school history to reach that mark. Later, on the eighth play of the drive Rusch caught a seven yard pass, to add the WIAC career reception record (277), to his resume', surpassing Jeff Gosa of UW-Stevens Point (276, 1973-76). Rusch also moved in to eighth place in NCAA III career records with that catch.
The next time the Warhawks stayed on the ground. They went 57 in seven plays, six of them runs by Coppage covering 51 yards, including the final nine to end the scoring with 6:25 left and UW-W ahead 45-31.
Trine went back to whatever worked in the first half, and marched down to the Whitewater 25. Watt completed a pass to Curtis that covered 23 yards, but UW-W DB Jared Kiesow forced a fumble that Steve McCollom picked up at the two and returned to the eleven.
UW-W rushed for 348 yards, averaging 6.8 per carry in the game. The Warhawks earned 16 first downs rushing, breaking the school record of 163 first downs rushing (now 171) set by the 2007 Warhawks.
Whitewater has totaled 3,451 yards rushing this season, breaking the 3,436 school record set just last year.
Watt, a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, went 26-38 for 276 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Curtis had five of the receptions for 81 yards, and Wyman caught seven for 79. Linebacker Aaron Shoemaker led The Thunder with twelve tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss.
Coppage rushed 38 times for 300 yards, the second highest single game output in school history. (Coppage rushed for 386 versus UW-Eau Claire October 10, 2009.) Brekke went 12-24 for 168 yards, three touchdowns and one pick. Rusch wound up with nine catches for 97 yards. For the first time this season UW-W had a defensive player, in fact two, in double figures. Linebacker Lane Olson made a team season high 15 tackles, and defensive back Ryan Wenkman contributed eleven tackles, and 0.5 for a loss.
UW-W has advanced to the final eight for the sixth consecutive year. The Warhawks defeated Wittenberg 31-13 in Perkins Stadium in the quarterfinals last year.
North Central advanced to the quarterfinals with a 28-9 win over Ohio Northern University Saturday in Naperville.