In the first 12 minutes of its opening game against Dubuque (Iowa), UW-Whitewater already had three players take a snap at quarterback.
The quarterback search remains a work-in-progress after inconsistent play plagued the fourth-ranked Warhawks for most of the game.
Fortunately for Whitewater, a bumper crop of running backs picked up the slack to help the Warhawks dismantle Dubuque 42-7 in front 10,316 fans.
Alex Peete rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns, while seniors Jarrod Ware and Ronny Ponick each added a rushing touchdown to help the Warhawks defeat the Spartans in a predictably chippy contest that included four personal foul penalties.
The tension might have stemmed from a La Crosse Tribune report in January that stated Dubuque coach and former Warhawks assistant coach Stan Zweifel allegedly received an email with UW-Whitewater’s defensive playbook before the 2018 season from former UW-W offensive coordinator Craig Smith.
Zweifel allegedly later sent the playbook to UW-La Crosse coach Mike Schmidt.
UW-Whitewater head coach Kevin Bullis downplayed the significance of the reported transgressions.
“Stan was the guy that got me into coaching and hired me as a student assistant and has been very influential in my career and I’m greatly indebted to him,” Bullis said. “We have put the controversy behind us and when you have a long friendship, things happen, but there is too much invested to let that serve as a distraction of our friendship.”
Bullis would rather invest time focusing on his quarterbacks. Junior Zach Oles, who started the game, completed 16 of 30 passes for 151 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Max Meylor was 5-of-6 for 40 yards.
“Ultimately, we will have to look at the film,” Bullis said. “Coach Peter Jennings has to evaluate the film, but all I know is we have two darn good quarterbacks.”
The Warhawks quarterbacks were aided by junior Mark McGrath’s blocked punt, two interceptions, and fumble recovery that all occurred in Dubuque territory.
“Those are the plays that people see, and they are big time plays, but I made a bunch of mistakes too,” McGrath said. “Our defense made a bunch of mistakes, but it was the first game and there are a lot of kinks to work out.”
Whitewater found a few Spartan kinks as well.
Following a botched snap on a Dubuque punt, Ware cashed in with a 2-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter.
Then after McGrath’s blocked punt, Peete took advantage with 6-yard score to make it 14-0. Peete later bounced off a handful of Dubuque tacklers to finish a 16-yard touchdown run to give Whitewater a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
Dubuque eventually answered with an AJ Hunter 40-yard touchdown catch from Sean Duffey late in the half to cut it to 21-7.
But that was as close as they would get as Oles found a rhythm in the second half with touchdown passes of 27 and 26 yards to Tyler Holte and Ryan Wisniewski, respectively, to build the lead to 35-7.
Ronny Ponick later added a 1-yard run to seal the commanding victory and send Dubuque to the locker room a defeated team.
The Warhawks travel to Concordia-Moorhead on Saturday.
WHITEWATER 42, DUBUQUE 7
Dubuque 0 7 0 0—7
UW-Whitewater 14 7 7 14—42
Scoring summary: W—Alex Peete, 6 run (W. Gasienica kick). W—Peete, 16 run (Gasienica kick). D—A.J. Hunter, 40 pass from Sean Duffy (A. Vujnovich kick). W—Tyler Holte, 27 pass from Zach Oles (Gasienica kick). W—Ryan Wisniewski, 23 pass from Oles (Gasienica kick). W—Ponick, 1 run (Gasienica kick).
Team statistics: First downs—D 9, W 30. Rushes—D 23-25, W 54-248. Yards passing—D 171, W 191. Passes—D 18-32-2, W 21-36-1. Fumbles—D 1-1, W 0-0. Penalties—D 8-78, W 3-25.