UW-Whitewater in Division III title game
WHITEWATER The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team won its 44th straight game, earning a spot in the NCAA Division III championship game by defeating St. Thomas (Minn.) 20-0 on Saturday.
Wisconsin-Whitewater (14-0) will meet the University of Mount Union (Ohio) in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl on Friday in Salem, Va., for the seventh consecutive year. Wisconsin-Whitewater won the last two meetings.
Mount Union defeated Wesley College (Del.), 28-21, in the other semifinal.
Wisconsin-Whitewater scored on three of its four first-half possessions, racking up a 17-0 lead.
After quarterback Matt Blanchard threw for a touchdown and ran for another, the Warhawks tried to push their lead to 20-0. However, St. Thomas (13-1) blocked Eric Kindler's 41-yard field goal attempt with five seconds remaining before halftime.
"Jumping out to that 17-0 lead, even with the block field goal before the half, we still went into the half with a lot of momentum," Wisconsin-Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold said.
The Warhawks opened the second half with a methodical 16-play drive from their 20-yard line, which ended with a 29-yard Kindler field goal. The drive took 7:43 off the clock and gave Wisconsin-Whitewater its 20-0 advantage.
The Warhawks' defense limited St. Thomas' offense to just 64 yards passing, which worked against the Tommies as they played from behind the entire game.
With the St. Thomas defense focusing on running back Levell Coppage, Blanchard threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to fullback Bernie Tamsett and ran for another 5-yard score to pace Wisconsin-Whitewater.
"We knew they were going to key Levell, and we wanted to make sure we got our pass game going on early," said Blanchard, who finished the game by completing 14 of 19 passes for 179 yards. "We wanted to get going early on, get points on the board and get momentum on our side right away."
St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso said blocking the first-half field-goal attempt "still gave us an opportunity of staying within our system and our game plan. But I think one of the pivotal drives was their drive where they came out in the third quarter and chewed up about seven minutes of clock. Because at that point, the dynamic gets different with what you can and cannot call offensively."
St. Thomas threatened to score several times but couldn't crack the end zone. The Tommies were 0-for-4 on fourth down and Dakota Tracy threw two second-half interceptions.
"We did not take advantage of some of our early drives on offense," Caruso said.
Leipold gave credit to his defense.
"Any time you get a shutout, let alone in a semifinal game, your defense is doing some outstanding things," he said.
Safety Ryan Wenkman logged a team-high nine tackles and intercepted a pass for Wisconsin-Whitewater. Linebacker Kyle Wismer had eight tackles, including a sack, and one interception.
Coppage rushed for 110 yards. Tyler Huber led the Warhawks with 109 yard receiving on six catches.