The third-ranked UW-Whitewater football trounced Dubuque, used the passing game to double-up Concordia-Moorhead and again leaned on its passing game to get past St. Xavier, the fifth-ranked NAIA team in the nation.
Three passes from Max Meylor stood out and gave the Warhawks the advantage it needed to earn a 28-20 victory over St. Xavier in a nonconference game Saturday at Bruce R. Deaton Field in Chicago.
Junior Derek Kumerow caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Meylor on 4th-and-9 as he twisted and fell inside the pylon to give the Warhawks the final score of the game with 25 seconds left.
“We pride ourselves on being fast, physical and disciplined. It’s our identity,” said Whitewater coach Kevin Bullis on the WFAW postgame show in an interview with Don Wadewitz on Saturday. “We say it, we live it, we believe in it and our kids played that way today.
“We had some moments where we had some mistakes …
“That’s what I said to the guys on Monday in the first meeting, and I said to them again at halftime, the discipline to what you have to do and the team that bounces back from their own mistakes is going to be the key thing.”
Bouncing back from mistakes was especially key for sophomore wide receiver Tyler Holte, who fumbled a kick return in the second quarter, setting up St. Xavier with the ball on Whitewater’s 32-yard line. The Cougars settled for a field goal and a 13-7 lead with 3 minutes, 45 seconds to play in the second quarter.
Holte made up for the fumble when he caught a 29-yard pass from Meylor with one hand in the middle of three St. Xavier defenders. Holte came down on the 1-yard line and junior running back Alex Peete leaped over the linemen into the end zone to give the Warhawks a 14-13 lead with 43 seconds to play in the half.
“That’s the type of guy Tyler is. He doesn’t let it bother him,” Bullis said. “That’s what I was talking about, if you mess up and make a mistake. Forget about it. Move on. That’s history. It’s an opportunity to learn from it, but don’t hang on to it.”
The passing game was a necessity as UW-Whitewater ran the ball 48 times for 79 yards. The lack of a rushing game put the Warhawks in several poor spots to convert on third down. The offense converted 7 of its 17 tries on third down and 1 of its 3 tries on fourth down.
The first of the three crucial pass completions by Meylor was a spot-route run by JT Parish. Parish caught the pass around the 6-yard line and carried a couple of defenders to the St. Xavier 1-yard line. Meylor rushed the UW-Whitewater offense to the line and Ronny Ponick jammed a run up in the middle to take a 7-3 lead with 10:18 to play in the second quarter.
Meylor took over at quarterback after Zach Oles, who appeared to come out ahead in a head-to-head quarterback competition last week in a 20-10 victory over Concordia-Moorhead, left Saturday’s game with an injury.
Oles threw all of the passes last week. Meylor threw all except for one this week.
“We talk about discipline and guys staying disciplined to what we do: Max jumped in there without batting an eye, no one else batted an eye and it’s the next man up,” Bullis said. “Max did a fantastic job to take all of those snaps in a nail-biter like that with all that stress is impressive. We’ll learn more about Zach as time goes along.”
The extent of the injury to Oles was unknown immediately after the game. The Warhawks have a week off before beginning the WIAC slate with UW-Eau Claire at home on Saturday, October 5, at 2 p.m. in Perkins Stadium.
UW-WHITEWATER 28, ST. XAVIER 20
Whitewater 0 14 7 7—28
St. Xavier 3 10 7 0—20
Scoring: SXU—FG Iturbe 48. WW—Ponick 1 run (Gasienica kick). SXU—Davis 4 run (Iturbe kick). SXU—FG Iturbe 35. SXU—Simmons 19 pass from Martinez (Iturbe kick). WW—DeLany 34 pass from Meylor (Gasienica kick). WW—Kumerow 19 pass from Meylor (Gasienica kick)
Statistics: First downs—WW 18, SXU 23. Rushing (att.-yds.)—WW 48-79, SXU 23-78. Passing yards—WW 204, SXU 376. Passing (comp.-att.-int.)—WW 16-27-0, SXU 36-57-0. Fumbles—WW 3-1, SXU 2-1. Penalties—WW 5-46, SXU 2-1.
Individual leaders: Rushing—WW Ware 12-41; SXU Watson 1-39, McShane 9-34. Passing—WW Meylor 16-26-204-2; SXU Martinez 36-57-376-2. Receiving—WW Holte 2-53, SXU Davis 5-96.