Warhawks open WIAC play at La Crosse
UW-Whitewater outscored its last two opponents on the football field by a combined score of 120-14.
Indeed, the nonconference slate was good once again to the Warhawks. But they can probably say goodbye to such lopsided affairs from here on out.
UW-W opens its Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference season at UW-La Crosse at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“I’m very pleased to finish the nonconference portion of the schedule with a 3-0 record,” Warhawks coach Lance Leipold said. “But I think everyone in our program understands that the level of play, the intensity of play, and everything that goes along with our conference … is definitely going to be a new challenge for us.”
In the preseason, UW-Whitewater was picked to finish second in the WIAC behind UW-Platteville.
Platteville (3-0) was off last week but is ranked No. 6 in the AFCA Division III Coaches’ Poll. Whitewater is ranked No. 7, while UW-Oshkosh—picked by the conference’s coaches and sports information directors to finish third—is No. 9, giving the WIAC three teams in the top 10 nationally.
“I can honestly say I’ve not watched a game of anyone else other than the La Crosse ones this week,” Leipold said. “I’ve kind of always been a believer in what we’re doing and focusing on the week at hand.
“If you get caught trying to analyze and look too far down the road, you’re going to end up on the outside of this thing pretty quickly.”
UW-La Crosse enters Saturday’s game with an 0-3 record, but it’s been two week since it lost 27-14 at Missouri University of Science & Technology, a Division II program.
“(La Crosse’s record is) more than a little deceiving,” Leipold said. “They’ve played definitely one of the stronger nonconference schedules in the league. Dubuque’s a good football team; North Central (Ill.) is a very, very impressive football team; and then playing a Division II team, we always know what that is when you step in to play scholarship teams.”
La Crosse quarterback Andy Sires has thrown five touchdown passes in three games, but also has seven interceptions.
That should bode well for the Warhawks defense, which ranks fourth overall nationally in yards allowed per game and has helped the team get to a tie for the No. 1 spot in the country in turnover margin (+4 per game).
That said, while the real meat of the WIAC schedule is yet to come, Leipold will not allow his team to overlook its first league game.
“You’re still going to be judged on what’s done on this Saturday,” he said. “When you talk about the two most-storied, traditional programs in the conference, it starts with these two.
“Things can change awful quickly. We have great respect for UW-La Crosse.”