Warhawks head to national title showdown
Danny Jones is the new featured running back for UW-Whitewater’s football team.
While that statement may sound preposterous to just about everybody in Wisconsin, it held true against Mary Hardin-Baylor.
With Whitewater clinging to a six-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, Jones shocked the Crusaders and the Warhawk crowd with a 62-yard run that set up a Jeff Schebler 39-yard field goal.
The Warhawks held on from there and clinched their third consecutive trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl with a tough 16-7 victory over the Crusaders in an NCAA Division III semifinal game here Saturday afternoon.
Whitewater (13-1) faces top-ranked and two-time defending national champion Mount Union (14-0) of Ohio next Saturday at Salem, Va. The Purple Raiders, who have knocked off the Warhawks in the last two Stagg Bowls, advanced by dismantling Bethel (Minn.), 62-14.
“The thing that I said at my press conference when I was named head coach, and the thing that I tried to strive for to this day, is to remember that its not about myself,’’ Whitewater first-year coach Lance Leipold said. “It’s about the program and the tradition, and the young men that have been here. “Their efforts are being rewarded today.’’
Leipold may not feel as rewarded against the Purple Raiders.
“I’ve heard that they (the Raiders), going into their game with Bethel, gave up something like 200 rushing yards for the whole season, which makes you think,” Leipold said. “But we’re going there to compete and not just going there to show up.’’
Mary Hardin-Baylor (12-2) made sure Leipold didn’t start thinking about Mount Union until after the game. Things were a lot tighter this time than when the Crusaders lost 41-14 to Whitewater at Perkins Stadium during the regular season.
With momentum and the total yardage in the Crusaders’ favor, Whitewater’s 13-7 fourth- quarter lead seemed in danger. But a designed running play for somebody other than Beaver surprisingly turned momentum back in Whitewater’s favor.
Facing a second-and-seven at his 13, Jones carried the ball around the right end and scampered the 62 yards to the Crusaders’ 25.
“We called it (the running play) once earlier in the game, and I had gotten out there too fast,’’ said Jones, who outgained Beaver, 87-60. “So the coaches told me to slow play it and set them up, and that’s what I did.
“I died at the end of the run’’ Jones said, “but we got enough for the field goal.’’
Three plays after the big run, Schebler shook off the rust from a hamstring injury and drilled a clutch, 39-yard field goal to put his team ahead 16-7 with 2:31 remaining.
“Schebler’s range was a little bit less than what it had been, but we had to give it a shot with him,” Leipold said. “Obviously, the kick late helped clinch it for us.”
Schebler’s kick only added to the disappointment for Mary Hardin-Baylor coach Pete Fredenburg.
“We’re very disappointed that we lost the ball game, and we owe an incredible debt to our seniors, who did a whole lot for our football team,” Fredenburg said.
Fredenburg’s team certainly didn’t go quietly in its rematch with Whitewater.
After Jones got the Warhawks going with a 1-yard touchdown with 7:43 left in the first quarter, the Crusaders responded with a Josh Welch 1-yard touchdown run to go up 7-6 with 2:05 remaining in the period.
Whitewater regained the lead at 13-7 with 13:40 left in the second quarter on Jones’ 25-yard touchdown pass to Neil Mrkvicka.
Mary Hardin-Baylor drove deep into Warhawk territory two more times in the second quarter, but failed to capitalize on either drive.
“You’ve got to give credit to Whitewater. They hung in there and made the big plays when the needed to, and we didn’t,” Fredenburg said. “That’s the difference between going to the Stagg Bowl and not.”
Fredenburg’s team continued to squander opportunities in the second half. A 56-yard Welch shovel pass to Quincy Daniels, and a 22-yard Welch pass to Brett Parker gave the Crusaders a first down at the Whitewater 2.
But Whitewater kept the Crusaders out of the end zone, and then celebrated after a botched snap ruined the drive and the game for Mary Hardin-Baylor.
“They are an excellent ball club,” Leipold said of the Crusaders, “and they wouldn’t have gotten to this point if they weren’t.”
The Warhawks get to face an even-better ball club in the Stagg Bowl.
WHITEWATER 16, MARY HARDIN-BAYLOR 7
First downs 11 14
Rushes-yards 50-105 44-147
Yards passing 164 126
Passes 7-17-1 9-22-0
Return yards 4-58 2-23
Punts-avg. 8-38.1 9-39.1
Fumbles-lost 2-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 3-41 4-47
Time of possession 31:25 28:35
MHB 7 0 0 0—7
Whitewater 6 7 0 3—16
W—Danny Jones, 1 run (kick failed), 7:43. MHB—Josh Welch, 1 run (Joel Munoz), 2:05.
W—Neil Mrkvicka, 25 pass from Jones (Jeff Schebler kick), 13:40.
W—FG, Schebler, 39, 2:31.
RUSHING–Mary Hardin-Baylor: Quincy Daniels 22-96, Jarvis Thrasher 11-16, Adrian Turner 5-12, Tommy Vadell 2-6, Team 1/-11; Josh Welch 9/-14. Whitewater: Danny Jones 16-87, Justin Beaver 28-60.
PASSING–Mary Hardin-Baylor: Josh Welch 7-17-1-164. Whitewater: Danny Jones 9-22-0, 126.
RECEIVING–Mary Hardin-Baylor: Peter Medlock 2-43, Cole Smith 2-24, Quincy Daniels 1-56, Brett Parker 1-22, Pi’Dadro Davis 1-19. Whitewater: Neil Mrkvicka 3-54, Matt Gifford 3-27, John Novak 2-20, Aaron Rusch 1-25.