There's plenty of room for McCulloch among the Stagg Bowl heroes

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By Steve Hemphill/Special to the Gazette
Sunday, December 19, 2010
— At first, it didn’t appear that there was going to be enough room for Matt McCulloch to join in for the postgame press conference after UW-Whitewater repeated as NCAA Division III national football champion.

“That’s fine,” McCulloch said. “I’ll just take off.”

“No!” the conference moderator quickly replied. “We want you here, Matt.”

The Janesville Parker High School graduate earned his spot at the table—no doubt about that.

In Whitewater’s 31-21 win over Mount Union here Saturday night at Salem Stadium, McCulloch led the Warhawks with eight tackles—and that wasn’t even his best stat. In addition, he broke up two passes and picked off two more.

So, obviously, press row wanted to hear what he had to say.

“This is just unreal,” said McCulloch, a member of a senior class that was part of four Stagg Bowl appearances and three national championships. “I’m just so happy for our team.”

Being one of the older guys, McCulloch talked about how experience likely made a difference for the Warhawks on Saturday.

After getting out to a 10-0 lead, Whitewater struggled in the middle of the second quarter, as Mount Union’s defense forced two turnovers and a three-and-out on successive Warhawk possessions. That led to 21 straight points.

All of a sudden, it was the Purple Raiders who in front and in control.

“Did I think we might lose at that point?” McCulloch said. “Well, no, you never think that way, but I did think we were in some trouble.”

McCulloch said what came to mind was the 2008 Stagg Bowl, where Whitewater fell behind 21-7 in the first quarter, but eventually managed to get back into the game and even had a chance to win before falling 31-26.

“The same thing kind of happened this time,” McCulloch said. “We got down, but we came back. We just needed to keep playing tough.”

Looking back at his time at Whitewater, McCulloch said a lot has changed since 2007, when the Warhawks won their first national championship by beating the Purple Raiders, also 31-21.

“Back then, I don’t think we were sure that they were human,” McCulloch said of the Raiders, who have now played the Warhawks in six straight national title games. “Getting that win made us all believe that we belonged here.

“So are we big dogs now? I don’t know if I’d say that.

“Obviously, Mount Union has been here for so long, that no one thinks their reputation is going to change. But by winning three of the last four (Stagg Bowls), we have put ourselves on the map.”

Last updated: 3:47 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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