December 18, 2010

Coppage carries UWW to Stagg Bowl repeat

More news about: Mount Union | UW-Whitewater
Levell Coppage broke through for three touchdowns in Stagg Bowl XXXVIII.
Photo by Ryan Tipps, D3sports.com

By Ryan Tipps
D3football.com

SALEM, Va. -- From downfield, all that was visible was a wall of black-clad Mount Union defenders, an imposing sight that seemed to box in the UW-Whitewater rushing attack.

But then, the white No. 33 jersey broke through. Over the course of 75 yards, the gap between him and his opponents lengthened. There was no catching Levell Coppage.

The junior All-American sealed the Warhawks' third Stagg Bowl victory in four years with just 2:34 left in the game. The UW-W coaching staff leaped into the air. The purple stands on the far side erupted in a deafening roar.

By the score of 31-21, UW-W became the undisputed champion of Division III.

What was going through his mind as he capped a performance that set a Stagg Bowl rushing record? He said three questions rattled about: Was I going fast enough; should I zig-zag; and was there anyone behind him?

The bottom line, though, "I was just hoping to get [to the end zone] before anyone tackled me," he said.

Coppage's effort was part of a bookend of breakaway runs. In the first quarter, he scored the first touchdown of the game with a 54-yard scamper, an overall performance worthy enough to earn him his second-straight Stagg Bowl most valuable player honor.

In a press briefing after the game, Mount Union coach Larry Kehres called Coppage a patient runner – with bite.

"He'll wait until he sees a gap in the defense, and then he's explosive," Kehres said. "He can start and accelerate so tremendously in the first 5 or 6 yards, then 'poof,' he gone."

The electricity that charged through the UW-W stands was mirrored in somber fashion on the UMU side. As the final minutes waned, Mount fans tried to breathe warmth into their hands amid the brisk Salem air, silently shaking their heads in disappointment. Three cheerleaders hugged, as one wrinkled her face with emotion and fought back tears. And after the clock ticked away, most Purple Raiders players kept their helmets on, a sure way to hide their sadness. Cecil Shorts knelt on the field and watched the victors celebrate.

Because while tears meant one thing for Mount Union, they meant quite another for Whitewater. Warhawk players cried with joy on the field. Quarterback Lee Brekke and linebacker Max Ford jumped into each other's arms. Cornerback Matt McCulloch and linebacker Lance Olson got celebratory slaps from head coach Lance Leipold. The mood echoed the payoff that the hard-fought game deserved.

Tyler Huber got turned around and was off-balance but made a touchdown catch to give UW-Whitewater a 24-21 lead going to the break. The Warhawk defense made that stand up.

As in every other Stagg Bowl meeting between these two teams, the winner broke 30 points. But unlike games past, this one saw a flurry of points during the first half and a near-shutout after the break. Mount Union made its way on the board with three touchdowns in a short four-minute span in the second quarter. Shorts hauled in a 58-yard reception and had wide running room to the end zone. For another, All-American defensive end Lambert Budzinski intercepted a pass from Brekke and set up an easy score by returning it down to the Whitewater 4 yard line.

"We were excited when we scored the first 21 points and how fast we did it," said Mount Union quarterback Matt Piloto. "But we knew we were going to have to keep going."

After those quick scores, "I think we were able to regroup and kind of stick together and trust our game plan and trust our coaches and just keep playing hard," said UW-W safety Steven McCollom.

In all, few scoring drives on Saturday were sustained. Most relied on big plays and acrobatic performances to add to the scoreboard's tally.

Coppage, who had 299 yards and three touchdowns, made sure he kept adding points. He credited his team's work during practice for helping him reach that mark. He said he got great looks and he knew exactly where he was going to go on many plays.

Winning, he said, was very satisfying. "This is why we play the championship. This is why we work hard."

Leipold, Whitwater's coach, echoed that sentiment. "It's not an accident. The practice, the conditioning: All of those things have paid off for these guys." Those are the things he can control, he said. It's not worth worrying about the things he can't.

Whitewater clearly took control in the second half. Brekke said about that point in the game, "We just took the game over with our philosophy of pound the rock."

Luke Hibner, a UW-W defensive lineman who had a sack and six tackles, pointed out that "the entire season, our defensive unit has been a second-half team. We just locked down in the second half. I don't think we don't try to do that on purpose, it just naturally happens."

Not that Mount didn't try to throw Whitewater off its game. Piloto stepped off the field for a couple of series, and Shorts channeled the snaps he took in practice and brought the Wildcat offense to the field. He completed five passes on seven attempts for 56 yards. He also gain 28 yards running from the formations.

But Shorts faced a lot of what Piloto had faced for much of the rest of the game. Whitewater is a fast team defensively. They're sound. And they don't make a lot of mistakes, Piloto said.

Leipold, who is in his fourth year as the head coach at Whitewater, said he was particularly proud of this team because these are the guys he started with as freshmen.

"They came into this program when there was transition," he said. "They didn't know exactly what was going to happen with the program. He said he told them, "You win this game today, you will be the class that every Warhawk football class will be compared to."

Brekke, who threw for 121 yards, played the entire game at quarterback, as he had done this whole 2010 postseason, after regular-season starter Matt Blanchard broke his thumb. After the game, though, Blanchard celebrated and showed no outward disappointment at not playing. He, like everyone else on the sidelines, was proud of those who played tough.

Winning the Stagg Bowl for the third time since 2007, McCulloch said, "It's unreal, it's awesome."

comments powered by Disqus
Oct. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 37, Gettysburg 14
Box Score Recap
Oct. 25: All times Eastern
Final
Hobart 35, at RPI 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Massachusetts Maritime 46, at Mass-Dartmouth 41
Box Score Recap
Final
Maine Maritime 62, at Nichols 43
Box Score
Final
at Alfred 14, Frostburg State 3
Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 32, Salisbury 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Framingham State 38, at Plymouth State 0
Box Score
Final
Morrisville State 47, at Southern Virginia 23
Box Score
Final
at Wesleyan 35, Bowdoin 0
Box Score
Final
Middlebury 27, at Trinity (Conn.) 7
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 61, at Alfred State 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Final - OT
at Bates 34, Colby 28
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Amherst 30, Tufts 3
Box Score
Final
Wesley 75, at Virginia-Lynchburg 12
Box Score
Final
Husson 47, at Castleton State 26
Box Score Recap
Final
Williams 21, at Hamilton 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 57, FDU-Florham 0
Box Score
Final
DePauw 59, at Allegheny 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin and Marshall 42, Moravian 12
Box Score
Final
at Olivet 30, Kalamazoo 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Trine 51, Albion 45
Box Score Recap
Final
Mount Ida 10, at Gallaudet 6
Box Score Recap
Final
Cortland State 21, at Kean 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Wisconsin Lutheran 17, at Adrian 7
Box Score
Final
Hampden-Sydney 45, at Shenandoah 27
Box Score Photos
Final
at Emory and Henry 62, Catholic 28
Box Score
Final
Hope 33, at Alma 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Vincent 38, Carnegie Mellon 31
Box Score
Final
Dickinson 33, at McDaniel 28
Box Score
Final
Guilford 28, at Randolph-Macon 6
Box Score Recap
Final - OT
Methodist 42, at N.C. Wesleyan 39
Box Score
Final
at Ursinus 44, Susquehanna 14
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 49, Kenyon 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Montclair State 20, Rowan 16
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at St. Lawrence 21, Springfield 7
Box Score
Final
at Delaware Valley 41, Misericordia 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wabash 70, Oberlin 10
Box Score Recap
Final
Hiram 35, at Ohio Wesleyan 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at Lebanon Valley 46, Wilkes 0
Final
at Muhlenberg 42, Juniata 13
Box Score Recap
Final - OT
at Albright 30, King's 24
Box Score Recap
Final
William Paterson 21, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Millsaps 38, Sewanee 20
Box Score
Final
Endicott 14, at Coast Guard 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 74, Wilmington 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at John Carroll 71, Capital 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 41, Rose-Hulman 21
Box Score Photos
Final
at Thomas More 64, Grove City 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Widener 34, at Lycoming 17
Box Score
Final
at Heidelberg 40, Marietta 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Union 16, Rochester 14
Box Score
Final
at Mount St. Joseph 63, Anderson 14
Box Score
Final
at Bluffton 24, Manchester 16
Box Score Recap
Final
Otterbein 20, at Baldwin Wallace 9
Box Score
Final
Utica 31, at Buffalo State 21
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Brockport State 17, at Hartwick 12
Box Score Box Score
Final
at SUNY-Maritime 13, Becker 6
Box Score Recap
Final
at Bridgewater (Va.) 24, Washington and Lee 13
Box Score
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Case Western Reserve 24
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Bridgewater State 27, at Westfield State 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hendrix 38, Austin 28
Box Score
Final
at Benedictine 44, Concordia-Chicago 11
Box Score Recap
Final
LaGrange 24, at Huntingdon 17
Box Score
Final
at Lakeland 14, Aurora 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at Birmingham-Southern 23, Berry 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Concordia (Wis.) 42, Rockford 14
Box Score
Final
at UW-River Falls 20, UW-Eau Claire 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. John's 52, Carleton 3
Box Score
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Hamline 7
Box Score
Final
Augsburg 38, at St. Olaf 20
Box Score
Final
at Illinois College 49, Lake Forest 6
Box Score Recap
Final
Loras 27, at Simpson 24
Box Score
Final
Buena Vista 44, at Dubuque 39
Box Score
Final
at St. Norbert 29, Beloit 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Carroll 48, at Ripon 14
Final
at Macalester 33, Lawrence 0
Box Score
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 72, at Texas Lutheran 16
Box Score Recap
Final
Augustana 31, at Carthage 26
Box Score Recap
Final
Elmhurst 29, at Illinois Wesleyan 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at North Park 26, Millikin 7
Box Score
Final
Central 45, at Coe 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wartburg 52, Luther 7
Box Score
Final
at Monmouth 38, Cornell 21
Box Score
Final
Martin Luther 13, at Minnesota-Morris 12
Box Score
Final
Crown 17, at MacMurray 14
Box Score
Final
at Greenville 52, Iowa Wesleyan 32
Box Score
Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 24, Northwestern (Minn.) 13
Box Score Recap
Final
Grinnell 21, at Knox 18
Box Score
Final
at UW-Whitewater 24, UW-Oshkosh 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at UW-Stevens Point 24, UW-La Crosse 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia (Mich.) 62, at Maranatha Baptist 0
Final
at Bethel 35, St. Thomas 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Centre 47, Rhodes 35
Box Score Photos
Final
Defiance 45, at Earlham 21
Box Score
Final
at Chicago 44, Washington U. 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Norwich 28, at Anna Maria 20
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 21, at UW-Stout 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Hardin-Simmons 51, at Howard Payne 20
Box Score
Final - OT
WPI 24, at Merchant Marine 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Linfield 59, at Lewis and Clark 7
Box Score
Final
at Pacific Lutheran 56, Willamette 14
Box Score
Final
Redlands 64, at La Verne 28
Box Score
Final
at Whitworth 62, Puget Sound 30
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Pacific 36, at George Fox 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at MIT 35, Western New England 34
Box Score Recap
Final
Worcester State 52, at Western Connecticut 49
Box Score Recap
Final
at Louisiana College 52, East Texas Baptist 49
Final
Ferrum 26, at Averett 14
Box Score
Final
Waynesburg 35, at Thiel 32
Box Score
Final
at Ohio Northern 31, Muskingum 10
Box Score Photos
Final
at Denison 38, Wooster 24
Box Score
Final
at Christopher Newport 45, Greensboro 31
Box Score
Final
at Geneva 20, Bethany 14
Final
at St. Scholastica 59, Eureka 0
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 34, North Central (Ill.) 31
Box Score Recap
Final
Chapman 45, at Cal Lutheran 21
Box Score
Final
at Occidental 21, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Pomona-Pitzer 24, Whittier 0
Box Score
Oct. 25: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 34, North Central (Ill.) 31
Box Score Recap
Final
Chapman 45, at Cal Lutheran 21
Box Score
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Case Western Reserve 24
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Thomas More 64, Grove City 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 74, Wilmington 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at John Carroll 71, Capital 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Wesley 75, at Virginia-Lynchburg 12
Box Score
Final
Hampden-Sydney 45, at Shenandoah 27
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wabash 70, Oberlin 10
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 61, at Alfred State 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 49, Kenyon 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Delaware Valley 41, Misericordia 7
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 21, at UW-Stout 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Bethel 35, St. Thomas 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Hobart 35, at RPI 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at UW-Whitewater 24, UW-Oshkosh 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wartburg 52, Luther 7
Box Score
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 72, at Texas Lutheran 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Hamline 7
Box Score
Final
at UW-Stevens Point 24, UW-La Crosse 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. John's 52, Carleton 3
Box Score
Final
Linfield 59, at Lewis and Clark 7
Box Score
Oct. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 37, Gettysburg 14
Box Score Recap

What We're Reading