UW-Whitewater tops Mount Union for Division III title
This time, the Warhawks found a date—the Amos Alonzo Stagg trophy.
Justin Beaver torched a previously impenetrable Mount Union defense for 249 yards, and Whitewater’s defense shut down college football’s most potent offense en route to a 31-21 victory in the NCAA Division III title game at a cold and rainy Salem Stadium here Saturday.
The Purple Raiders had won the last two Stagg Bowls, both over Whitewater, and came into this rematch with a 37-game winning streak. Whitewater didn’t care.
“There would’ve been no sense playing this game if we didn’t think we could win,” said first-year Whitewater coach Lance Leipold, whose team was a 20-point underdog. “Our goal was to come out early and be physical. Try and set the tone, and I thought we did that.
“Many people didn’t think we had a chance to be here at this point of the day,” Leipold said at the post-game winner’s press conference. “But here we are. I’ve got a group of 23 seniors that played their hearts out today.”
The Warhawks (14-1) led 10-0 at halftime and quickly pushed the lead to 17-0 when Michael Sherman recovered Beaver’s fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
The Purple Raiders, who were looking for their 10th Stagg Bowl trophy in the last 15 years, responded with two scores to cut the lead to 17-14 with 4:14 left in the third quarter.
With a 54.9 scoring average and momentum on its side, Mount Union appeared poised to take control. The Warhawks didn’t let it happen.
Beaver scored on a 13-yard run, and quarterback Danny Jones capped the Warhawks’ memorable day with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone with 1:33 left to play to seal the deal.
Mount Union coach Larry Kehres, who has the best all-time winning percentage in all divisions of college football, was offering no excuses afterward.
“Whitewater played the better game tonight and deserved to beat us,” said Kehres, whose Raiders finished 14-1 after going 15-0 each of the last two years. “Their coaches did a great job of preparing the team.
“We weren’t able to accomplish everything we hoped for this season, and that’s what hurts the most. And that’s because Whitewater played a great football game.”
Whitewater’s defense, which received little attention leading up to the game, was the story in the first half. The Warhawks stymied the Purple Raiders by switching up defensive schemes against the spread offense.
Mount Union had outscored its opponents 548-22 in the first half this season but got nothing against a defense coordinated by Brian Borland. The 10-0 deficit was the first time the Purple Raiders had trailed at halftime since playing Ohio Northern in the seventh week of the 2005 season.
The Purple Raiders were only 1-for-6 on third-down conversions and 0-for-3 on fourth-down.
Whitewater’s defense set the tone early as Ryan Ogrizovich and Anthony White stuffed Nate Kmic at the 1-yard line on a fourth-and-goal with 2:53 left in the first quarter. That came after Mount Union was denied a touchdown on an official review of the third-down play.
Ogrizovich, who spent plenty of time in the Mount Union backfield, said the goal-line stand was critical.
“We had to calm each other down before the play because we knew it was going to set the tone one way or the other,” Ogrizovich said. “That play kind of wraps up our whole season on defense. It’s the bend but don’t break mentality.”
Whitewater scored on a six-play, 71-yard drive on its opening possession. Beaver, the Gagliardi Trophy winner, set up the score with a 26-yard run to the Mount Union 2. Jones scored two plays later on a 1-yard run, and Jeff Schebler added the extra point for a 7-0 lead the Warhawks never relinquished.
Mount Union’s defense came in allowing an average of only 24.9 rushing yards per game, but Beaver scampered for 124 yards in the first half—including a 45-yard burst that set up Schebler’s 32-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half.
With the national title in tow, the Warhawks head home today for a 4 p.m. celebration at the Williams Center.
And they don’t have to worry about going stag.
UW-WHITEWATER 31, MOUNT UNION 21
Mount Union 0 0 14 7 — 21
UW-Whitewater 7 3 7 14 — 31
WW—Jones, 1 run (Schebler kick), 10:32.
WW—FG, Schebler 32, :02.
WW—Sherman, fumble recovery in end zone (Schebler kick), 10:32.
MU—Kmic, 11 run (Zimmerman), 8:28.
MU—Kmic, 1 run (Zimmerman), 4:14.
WW—Beaver, 13 run (Schebler kick), 6:11.
MU—Kmic, 5 run (Zimmerman), 3:36.
WW—Jones, 1 run (Schebler kick), 1:33.
RUSHING—Mount Union: Kmic 30-121, Micheli 21-90, Garcon 1/-1. UW-Whitewater: Beaver 31-249, Jones 15-27, team 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—Mount Union: Micheli 19-32-1-235. UW-Whitewater: Jones 9-24-0-136.
RECEIVING—Mount Union: Wray 5-52, Davis 4-98, Garcon 4-30, Shorts 2-28, Boehm 2-17, Kmic 2-10. UW-Whitewater: Mrkvicka 5-52, Rusch 3-61, Gifford 1-23.