Warhawks’ offense still needs refining after first-game hiccups
A different year, a different team.
That was somewhat apparent during UW-Whitewater’s football opener Saturday against Adrian (Mich.).
The result was consistent of what the Warhawks have been doing for the past five seasons. Whitewater won, 35-0.
But Coach Lance Leipold admitted his team sputtered at the start. The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie, and the Warhawks led only 12-0 at halftime.
With Dakota (S.D.) State coming into Perkins Stadium for a noon nonconference game this Saturday, Leipold said his team still is putting the pieces together.
Getting junior Jeff Blanchard comfortable as the team’s starting quarterback is one of those items. Blanchard had a great game in his first start, completing 19 of 25 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 46 yards.
But this being Warhawk football, the lack of first-half scoring probably had some fans sweating.
“Jeff Donovan is not our quarterback,” Leipold said of the departed two-year starter, who was named WIAC Player of the Year last season. “It’s not as explosive as it was with Jeff Donovan passing off play-action. We have different ways of moving the football.
“Matt, once he got settled in, played a good ballgame. We have things we’re working on. It was 12-0 at half. We might have our share of those this year.”
The coaches had other offensive deficiencies to work on this week in preparation for Dakota State. Line blocking, reads from the running backs and perimeter blocking all were mentioned by Leipold as areas needing work.
The kicking game also suffered a dropoff from last season. Jeff Schebler, the all-time leading kicker in college football, graduated. Stephen Guelff, a freshman out of Lake Placid, Fla., won the job to replace Schebler during fall practice, but he missed his first three extra-point attempts.
Another freshman, Eric Kindler, a Germantown High School graduate, took over and kicked two extra points and a 24-yard field goal.
“Steve Guelff has the strongest leg of any kicker we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Leipold said. “It was a tough start for a young man so far away from home.
“Another talented kicker, Eric Kindler, came in. Eric will be handling those duties for us.”
Dakota State might be just the cure for the offensive ailments. The Bulldogs lost their opener to Midland College, 38-7, surrendering 306 rushing yards.
Dakota State threw 41 passes, completing only 15.
“They run primarily a spread offense,” Leipold said. Coach (Josh) Anderson is in his second year and trying to build a program. Their philosophy is to spread you out.”
Dakota State has 31 freshmen or sophomores.
Bringing in a NAIA school, which provides scholarships to players, was done out of necessity. Leipold would much rather play a fellow NCAA Division III school.
“It’s a huge disadvantage,” Leipold said of playing a NAIA school. “When the (NCAA Division III) regional rankings come out, these games don’t count. At the same time, when we have to fill out the schedule, we prefer to play teams that do offer athletic scholarships, because in the long run, it’s a good challenge for us.”