UWW Warhawks ready for work
That’s the mission this season for UW-Whitewater’s football team.
The Warhawks, who begin the 2009 season Saturday with a nonconference game at Dickinson State University in North Dakota, are on a four-year roll the likes of which the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has never seen.
Whitewater has won four straight WIAC titles and also has played in the NCAA Division III Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl national champinship game the last four years. The Warhawks won the Stagg Bowl title in 2007 in Lance Leipold’s first season as head coach.
With the Warhawks ranked first in The Sporting News preseason Top 25, and with 17 starters returning from last year’s 13-2 squad, expectations are off the charts.
“There has been a lot of hard work done to get the program to the point where it’s at now,” Leipold said. “But that alone doesn’t win football games. Nor does the hype.
“We saw last year in the WIAC how close things really are,’’ said Leipold, whose team shared the conference with UW-Stevens Point after a 17-16 loss to the Pointers. “And I expect the same thing this year.”
Whitewater ranked 20th in D3 in rushing a year ago, and with Levell Coppage and Antwan Anderson returning in the backfield, the Warhawks will have the best Division III 1-2 combination in the country.
After setting a league record with 42 rushing touchdowns last season, the dynamic duo of Coppage and Anderson could quickly erase that mark.
Making matters worse for Warhawk opponents is the return of quarterback Jeff Donovan. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound senior completed 64 percent of his passes last season with only 11 interceptions in 334 attempts.
Donovan’s top two receivers from a year ago also are back. Junior Aaron Rusch and senior Jordan Wells combined for more than 1,800 yards and nine touchdowns in 2008.
Throw in Jeff Schebler—the most prolific kicker in Division III history—and it’s safe to say that scoring points won’t be a problem for the Warhawks.
“Our whole team is explosive,” Donovan said. “We can pound it down your throat, or go over the top vertically. It’s kind of a nightmare for a defense.”
About the only advantage Dickinson State may have on the Warhawks is the fact that the Blue Hawks have played a game. They allowed 421 yards passing in a 28-7 loss to Rocky Mountain College. Dickinson State is an NAIA school that finished 7-4 last season.
Dickinson State plays in the Dakota Athletic Conference, and this is the first time Whitewater has played anyone from the conference.