UW-W is approaching 2011 like a junior high math story problem. The Warhawks know the question, and their season opening 26-7 win at UW-La Crosse Saturday night had them sharpening pencils and scribbling in the margins, getting closer to their answers.
The Warhawks took the opening drive 51 yards in seven plays, with senior quarterback Matt Blanchard (Lake Zurich, IL/Lake Zurich) completing two of three passes and running for nine yards. Sophomore Eric Kindler booted a 38 yard field goal with 10:57 left for the first points of 2011.
After the Whitewater defense forced a three and out, the UW-W offense put another score on the board. The Warhawks used eight plays to go 83 yards, with Blanchard 2-2 on the drive and senior tailback Levell Coppage (Oak Park, IL/Oak Park) carrying the ball four times for 24 yards, including a one yard scoring run to make it 10-0 with 5:41 on the clock.
Late in the second quarter UW-W had La Crosse backed up. Facing a third and eight at their 18, sophomore QB Mike Butterfield's pass was picked off at the line by sophomore defensive end Louissaint Minett. Three plays by the Warhawk offense netted a minus eight yards, but Kindler came through again, this time from 33 yards to make it 13-0 with 2:07 left in the half.
Whitewater's defense limited the Eagles to three downs, and gave the ball back to the offense with 1:01 left in the half. Blanchard gained 12 yards on a run and completed a pass to sophomore wideout Luke Menzel (Sheboygan Falls/Oostburg) for 16, and Kindler connected again, this time from 41 with 18 seconds left in the half, to make it 16-0 at intermission.
UW-W held La Crosse to two first downs in the half and 63 yards of offense, while gaining 150, 97 of those on the ground. The Warhawks were 3-3 in red zone conversions.
Whitewater's opening drive of the second half almost mirrored the first half, but it took longer. The Warhawks controlled the ball for almost eight minutes (7:45), using 15 plays to cover 65 yards. When the drive stalled it was ... Kindler tying the UW-W school record with his fourth field goal of the game, this one 36 yards with 3:21 left in the third. The last time a UW-W placekicker booted four field goals was November 3, 2007, when Jeff Schebler did it at UW-Stout.
In the fourth quarter, after an exchange of possessions, UW-W started at the UW-L 45. A penalty moved the Warhawks back, but Blanchard hit senior tight end Jason Ford (Palatine, IL/Fremd) for 32, then back to Menzel for 11, and back again to Ford for 16. Junior tailback Desmin Ward (Milwaukee/Hamilton) ran the ball three times to punch it in with 6:47 left and a 26-0 lead.
La Crosse replied with its first scoring drive of the year, covering 67 yards in five plays. All-WIAC tailback Lee Lauters had a gain of 21 yards, and two personal foul penalties also aided the Eagle drive. Butterfield ran it in from seven yards out with 4:35 left to make it 26-7.
UW-W gained 421 yards and held La Crosse to 119, 40 of those passing. Whitewater was 7-16 on third down conversions, UW-L 2-11, and the Warhawks were 5-5 in red zone conversions and the Eagles 1-1.
Blanchard went 18-30 for 248 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions for the Warhawks. Menzel caught five balls for 61 yards, Ford 5-62. Coppage rushed 21 times for 108 yards. Butterfield was 4-10 for 19 yards and one interception, and the rushing touchdown, and Lauters carried the ball 15 times for 89 yards for UW-L. Sophomore linebacker Kyle Wismer (Spring Grove, IL/Richmond-Burton) had six tackles and one tackle behind the line for Whitewater, with junior defensive lineman Anthony Dowery (Saint Francis/Milwaukee South) contributing five tackles, a sack and a tackle for a loss. The Eagles had three players in double figures in tackles, led by DB Jack Leahy's 12 with three tackles for a loss. Fellow backs jake Meckstroth and Matthew Buswell both had ten tackles.
The victory upped UW-W's win streak to thirty-one games, longest in NCAA football -- any division. Whiteawater's last loss was to Mount Union in the 2008 Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.
The Warhawks will be on the road again next week, traveling to Franklin, Indiana to face the hometown Franklin College Grizzlies, who opened the season at Valparaiso University. Franklin is ranked 24th in the D3football.com preseason poll. UW-W and Franklin met last year, with Whitewater winning in a NCAA III first round playoff game in Perkins Stadium.
Warhawk fans are invited to a special pregame tailgate hosted by chancellor Richard Telfer and director of athletics Paul Plinske.
Whitewater's first home game of 2011 will be September 17 at 12:00, with Campbellsville University visiting Perkins Stadium. Tickets are sold in the University Center ticket office on the main campus mall Monday through Friday during normal business hours. Tickets are also available at the Perkins ticket windows on game day. Call 262-472-2222 for ticket information.