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
Sep. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Christopher Newport 31, at N.C. Wesleyan 28
Box Score
Sep. 19: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Framingham State at Fitchburg State
Live Stats Video
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
RPI at Castleton State
Preview Live Stats Video Tickets
12:00 PM
Maine Maritime at Massachusetts Maritime
Preview Live Stats Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Gallaudet at Rochester
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Alfred State at Husson
Preview Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Randolph-Macon
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Moravian at Johns Hopkins
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Frostburg State at Utica
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Alfred at Buffalo State
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Newport News Apprentice at Catholic
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Becker at Nichols
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Wesleyan at Middlebury
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Worcester State
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Hamilton at Tufts
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Bates at Amherst
Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Colby at Trinity (Conn.)
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Salve Regina at William Paterson
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Stevenson
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Allegheny at Hiram
Live Stats Live Stats Video Video
1:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Merchant Marine
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at St. Vincent
Preview Video
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Thiel
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Ursinus at Franklin and Marshall
Preview Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Endicott at Kean
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Coast Guard at Hampden-Sydney
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Averett
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Albright at Widener
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Hobart at Curry
Live Stats Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
LaGrange at Greensboro
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Dickinson
Video Audio
1:00 PM
Rowan at Wesley
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
FDU-Florham at Misericordia
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Juniata at Gettysburg
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Lincoln (Pa.) at Montclair State
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Wabash at Denison
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Bethany at Westminster (Pa.)
1:00 PM
Mount Ida at Springfield
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Hartwick at Ithaca
Live Stats
1:00 PM
WPI at Norwich
Live Stats Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Iowa Wesleyan at Minnesota-Morris
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at Methodist
Video Video
1:30 PM
Ohio Northern at Baldwin Wallace
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Capital
Preview Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Franklin at Anderson
Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Carnegie Mellon at Washington and Jefferson
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at John Carroll
Preview Live Stats Video Video Audio Audio
1:30 PM
King's at Lycoming
Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
Geneva at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Muskingum
Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Defiance
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Earlham at Manchester
Live Stats Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Bowdoin at Williams
Video
2:00 PM
Muhlenberg at McDaniel
Preview Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at TCNJ
Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Marietta at Otterbein
Audio
2:00 PM
Hope at Lakeland
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Olivet at Aurora
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Trine at Rockford
Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Albion at Concordia (Wis.)
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
North Park at Washington U.
Preview Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Kalamazoo at Wisconsin Lutheran
Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Eau Claire at Wheaton (Ill.)
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Tickets
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at St. John's
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Bethel
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Augsburg at Carleton
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Hamline at Gustavus Adolphus
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Stetson at Birmingham-Southern
Preview Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at Sul Ross State
Audio
2:00 PM
Occidental at Austin
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Howard Payne
Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Central
2:00 PM
Grinnell at Luther
Video
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at Coe
Audio
2:00 PM
Eureka at Greenville
2:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at MacMurray
2:00 PM
Loras at Augustana
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Texas Lutheran at Louisiana College
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at Simpson
Live Stats Video
2:30 PM
Rose-Hulman at Hanover
Preview Live Stats Video
3:00 PM
Plymouth State at Western Connecticut
Live Stats
3:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Wayland Baptist
Live Stats Video Audio
3:00 PM
Lewis and Clark at Whittier
Live Stats Video
3:00 PM
Willamette at Cal Lutheran
Live Stats
3:30 PM
Alma at Concordia-Chicago
Live Stats Video
3:30 PM
Carroll at Lake Forest
Live Stats Video
3:30 PM
Whitworth at La Verne
Live Stats Video Audio
4:00 PM
Westfield State at Mass-Dartmouth
Live Stats Video
4:00 PM
Crown at St. Scholastica
Live Stats Live Stats Video
6:00 PM
DePauw at Wittenberg
Preview Preview Live Stats Video Audio
6:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Brockport State
Audio Tickets
6:00 PM
UW-River Falls at South Dakota Mines
7:00 PM
Guilford at Southern Virginia
@ Salem Stadium
Live Stats Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Wooster at Oberlin
Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
Ferrum at Shenandoah
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
Centre at Washington and Lee
Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
Kenyon at Ohio Wesleyan
7:00 PM
Wilkes at Delaware Valley
Live Stats Audio
7:00 PM
Pacific at Dubuque
Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Platteville at North Central (Ill.)
Preview Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Chicago at Elmhurst
Preview Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Mary Hardin-Baylor at UW-La Crosse
7:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at South Dakota State
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
7:30 PM
Adrian at Benedictine
Live Stats Video Audio
8:00 PM
UW-Stout at Wartburg
Audio
8:00 PM
Martin Luther at Northwestern (Minn.)
Live Stats Video
8:00 PM
Southwestern at East Texas Baptist
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
10:00 PM
Rhodes at Pomona-Pitzer
Preview Live Stats Video
10:00 PM
Linfield at Redlands
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Brockport State
Audio Tickets
6:00 PM
DePauw at Wittenberg
Preview Preview Live Stats Video Audio
8:00 PM
UW-Stout at Wartburg
Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at South Dakota State
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Platteville at North Central (Ill.)
Preview Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Mary Hardin-Baylor at UW-La Crosse
10:00 PM
Linfield at Redlands
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at TCNJ
Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Muskingum
Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at John Carroll
Preview Live Stats Video Video Audio Audio
1:30 PM
King's at Lycoming
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Rowan at Wesley
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Coast Guard at Hampden-Sydney
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Wabash at Denison
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Thiel
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Hartwick at Ithaca
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Hobart at Curry
Live Stats Live Stats Video Audio Audio
12:00 PM
Moravian at Johns Hopkins
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Bethel
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-Eau Claire at Wheaton (Ill.)
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Tickets
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at Simpson
Live Stats Video

What We're Reading