There must be a switch somewhere. Linfield College came out of the locker room charged up, jumping out to a 17-0 over UW-Whitewater in just over a quarter. Then someone hit the switch and UW-W scored 28 points the rest of the way for a 28-17 win in a NCAA Division III championship playoff quarterfinal game at Perkins Stadium in Whitewater Saturday afternoon.
It didn't take long for the top offense in Division III to do what it does best. Linfield took the opening kickoff 66 yards in five plays. Quarterback Josh Yoder connected with split end Evan Peterson for 39 yards to put the ball at the three, and Yoder ran it in on the next play, just the fourth rushing touchdown allowed by UW-W this season. Josh Repp's kick put the Wildcats up 7-0 with 13:21 left in the first quarter.
Linfield's kickoff was fumbled by Marcus McLin, and recovered by Chad Coburn at the 21 yard line on Whitewater's side of the field. The Wildcats took it to the one, but on fourth down at the one the snap to Coburn was mishandled and the Warhawks took over at the one.
Winning the game within the game, field position, later in the quarter Linfield started a drive at their 47. Two plays later Yoder and Peterson hooked up again, this time for 41 yards as Peterson wrestled the ball away from a Whitewater defender at the nine. Four plays later, with 1:48 on the clock, Josh Repp's 23 yard field goal made it 10-0 Linfield.
Linfield gained 162 yards in the quarter to 59 for Whitewater, with 22 offensive plays and 12 for the Warhawks.
UW-W finally got the field reversed, with Linfield starting at its own 14. That didn't faze the Yoder-Peterson connection, which struck for a 60 yard TD on the fifth play. Repp made it 17-0 with 12:55 remaining in the second quarter, giving Linfield more points than any Warhawk opponent had scored in a game this season.
Justin Howard's 46 yard kickoff return set the Whitewater offense at its 49. Six plays later Matt Behrendt tossed a 19 yard pass to Tyler Huber to get the Warhawks on the board. Eric Kindler's point after cut the Linfield margin to 17-7 with 11:06 left before halftime.
Linfield's next possession moved the ball 33 yards to the Whitewater 45, and the punt put UW-W's offense on its 16. The Warhawks rolled off ten plays, with Behrendt completing 7-8 passes. Behrendt found Jake Kumerow in the left side of the end zone with a 12 yard scoring pass, and Kindler narrowed the Whitewater defecit to 17-14 with 4:07 left in the half.
Linfield racked up 309 yards in the half to 193 for Whitewater. Yoder completed 17-19 for 257 yards, with Peterson catching four for 145 yards. Behrendt went 14-20 for 156 for the Warhawks. The Wildcats controlled the ball for 19:28, Whitewater for 10:32.
Whitewater took the second half kickoff and marched from the 24 to Linfield's 12. Kndler came on for the tying field goal, but the 29 yard attempt went wide left.
Linfield took over and failed to move the ball, facing a fourth and seven at the Whitewater 49, the Wildcats went into punt formation, but Jordan Giza took the snap and ran left for a first down. The drive ended four plays later when defensive lineman John Flood blind-sided Yoder, forcing a fumble that linebacker Kyle Wismer recovered at the Whitewater 45.
UW-W covered the 55 yards in eight plays, with Kumerow hauling in his second score of the game on a 25 yard throw from Behrendt. Kindler kicked the point after to give Whitewater its first lead of the game, 21-17 at the 1:48 mark of the third quarter.
The Warhawk defense limited Linfield to 22 yards in the third quarter.
Whitewater took possession with one second left in the third quarter. The Warhawks used seven plays to go the length of the field, with Behrendt and Kumerow combining on a ten yard score. Kindler's kick gave UW-W 28 unanswered points and a 28-17 lead with 12:15 left in the game.
After the kickoff return Linfield took over at their 40. On the next play, UW-W defensive end Loussaint Minett hit Yoder as he released a pass, with cornerback Brady Grayvold picking up the interception at the Linfield 40. It was Grayvold's fourth interception in the last two weeks and seventh of the season.
Linfield had the ball late in the fourth quarter, but the bid to close the gap ended when Warhawk defensive end Marshall Rutherford forced a fumble that was picked up by linebacker Josh Williams at the Linfield 30. Whitewater ran out the clock.
Although the 17 points is the most given up by the number one defense in Division III, and the fewest scored by Linfield in a game this season, the Warhawk defense held Linfield to 89 yards in the second half. Linebacker Ryan Cortez led UW-W with nine tackles, also adding a pair of tackles behind the line. Defensive end John Flood recorded two sacks, among the season high eight by the Warhawk defense. Tailback Jordan Ratliffe rushed for 94 yards, the most Linfield has allowed an opponent. Kumerow wound up with seven catches for 149 yards, the largest of any Linfield opponent this season, and the three touchdowns.
Yoder completed 28-37 passes for 374 yards, all season highs. The 374 yards is the most UW-W has allowed through the air. Brian Balsinger caught eleven of the passes, most by a UW-W foe, for 136 yards. Peterson ended up with 163 yards receiving, the highest UW-W has given up to an opponent. Safety Kyle Wright had eight tackles for the Wildcats. Whitewater's 28 points is the largest by a Wildcat opponent.
Linfield ends the season 11-1.
Whitewater, 13-0, will face Mary Hardin-Baylor (13-0) in a semifinal set for Saturday, December 14 at noon local time. The site of the game will be announced later Sunday. Mary Hardin-Baylor defeated Saint John Fisher 45-23 in another quarterfinal. Whitewater will be facing Mary Hardin-Baylor for the third time in playoff action. The Warhawks won 16-7 in the 2007 semifinals, and 39-13 in the 2008 semifinals. The other semifinal match includes North Central College, 13-0, and Mount Union College, 13-0. 2013 marks the eighth time in nine years that UW-Whitewater has advanced to the national semifinal. The semifinal winners will meet in the title game, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, Friday, December 20 in Salem, Virginia.