/seasons/2010/contrib/201012192x361b

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."

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