Trailing in the first half to a surprisingly game UW-Platteville team in a conference opener, the Warhawks’ response was about what one would expect.
Platteville—picked to finish last in the league in the preseason poll—twice took the lead on the defending NCAA Division III national champions. The Pioneers trailed by just four points in the second quarter when they blocked a field-goal attempt and threatened to regain their advantage.
But on Platteville’s first play after the block, Whitewater junior linebacker Greg Arnold came free on a blitz and blasted Pioneers quarterback Nick Anderson on a designed draw. Anderson fumbled, Arnold recovered, and a mere three plays later the Warhawks were in the end zone.
That score started a string of 42 unanswered points as Whitewater whipped the Pioneers, 49-17, in the annual George Chryst Memorial Bowl at Pioneer Stadium.
“We don’t really see that a lot,” Whitewater quarterback Matt Blanchard said of his team trailing in a game. “That was a great moment for our team.”
Whitewater (4-0, 1-0) likely would have won Thursday night’s game either way, but Arnold’s defining moment showed the Warhawks can deliver when a big play is needed, not just when they’re rolling all over opponents.
“It was a huge momentum swing for us,” said Arnold, who was named the Warhawks’ defensive player of the game by the media. “(The play) just opened up like a floodgate, and I was able to get in there.”
Two plays after Arnold’s hit and recovery, Blanchard—his team’s offensive player of the game—fired a third-down strike over the top of the defense to Adam Brandes for a 33-yard score and a 21-10 lead for Whitewater with 2:13 left in the first half.
That was the first of three touchdown passes for Blanchard, who also ran for a score and completed 24 of 30 passes for 337 yards. Whitewater’s running game has dominated most of the team’s headlines early this season, but Blanchard was brilliant this time.
“He made some plays (through the air), and he made some plays with his feet,” Platteville coach Mike Emendorfer said, joking that Whitewater coach Lance Leipold is to blame for Blanchard’s lack of big numbers so far this season.
“(Blanchard’s) problem is he hasn’t played much this season. Whitewater keeps blowing teams out too fast. That’s Lance’s fault,” Emendorfer quipped.
Aaron Rusch caught nine passes for 123 yards, and Brandes five passes for 104 yards and a pair of scores.
The Warhawks’ running game also was just fine. Levell Coppage rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and Booker Stanley added 94 yards and a score.
Whitewater took the opening drive of the second half for a score and a 28-10 lead. Platteville (2-2, 0-1) turned the ball over on its next two possessions, and the Warhawks turned both into touchdowns, and the rout was on.
The negatives for Whitewater were two blocked kicks—Platteville also blocked a second-half punt and returned it for a touchdown —and 11 penalties for 106 yards.
“To win by this margin and get a win on the road in this league is difficult,” Leipold said. “We know there are things we need to get better at.”