Warhawks advance to second round
When UW-Whitewater defensive end Ryan Ogrizovich was lumbering hard to complete a 15-yard touchdown run that sealed his team’s 34-14 opening-round victory over Capital (Ohio) in the NCAA Division III playoffs here Saturday afternoon, one thing crossed his mind—Linfield.
Orgrizovich was recalling the moment when he picked up a fumble during Whitewater’s 44-41 quarterfinal win over Linfield (Ore.) and chugged 33 yards for almost-sure touchdown before running out of gas at the 3-yard line.
This time, however, the 6-1, 268-pound senior standout got the last laugh.
During the first play of the fourth quarter, Ogrizovich blindsided Crusader quarterback Robbie Thayer, grabbed the ball and ungracefully finished a touchdown run that put his team comfortably ahead 27-14.
Whitewater never looked back and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The Warhawks (10-1) will be at home again at noon next Saturday against North Central (Ill.), which outlasted Franklin (Ind.), 44-42.
Meanwhile, Ogrizovich could only think about his stunning touchdown run.
“It was a flashback to two years ago against Linfield,” he said. “I put my hand around the Capital quarterback, and the ball just all of sudden just rolled over his shoulder, and I covered the ball up and just sprinted.
“I thought I was going to get tackled, but then I knew it was real when (Whitewater linebacker) A.J. Raebel kept slapping my face mask as hard as he could.’’
Equally as shocked with the play was Warhawk coach Lance Leipold.
“I don’t know if Ogrivovich’s run was an interception or fumble recovery, but it was a heck of a play that kind of gave us a cushion that we needed today,” he said. “It was definitely a battle today.”
Whitewater quarterback Danny Jones also helped win the battle by running for touchdowns of 15 and 8 yards and throwing a 50-yard scoring pass to Neil Mrkvicka. Justin Beaver rounded out the attack with a 4-yard touchdown run as part of his 120-yard day.
“I thought the real difference-maker for them today was Jones,” Capital coach Jim Collins said. “He put some moves on our best players that we didn’t see on tape, which was the thing that really caught us by surprise.’’
Collins’ team caught Whitewater by surprise early in the second quarter.
James Starks’ 44-yard interception return to the Warhawk 23 gave Capital a chance to strike the first blow.
Two plays later, converted defensive lineman Zac McKenzie plowed up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Crusaders up 7-0 with 13:17 left in the second quarter.
After Beaver answered with his 4-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession, Whitewater linebacker Tristan Borzick intercepted a Thayer pass at the Crusader 23. Jones later capitalized with his 15-yard touchdown run, helping the Warhawks grab a 14-7 lead with 5:11 left in the first half.
Thayer then promptly tied the game at 14-14 with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Evan Blake.
However, the excitement of a 34-point second quarter wasn’t over. Whitewater responded again with Jones’ 8-yard touchdown run with 29 seconds left to lead 20-14 at halftime.
Capital remained within one score until Ogrivovich’s fourth-quarter touchdown gave Whitewater a crucial boost.
“Turnovers were what I thought were the difference in the second half,” said Collins, whose team gave up the ball five times. “Obviously, when they stole the ball from the quarterback’s hands at 20-14 was big time.”
Neil Mrkvicka’s 50-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth put the finishing touches on the victory.