WHITEWATER—The UW-Whitewater football team plays its final regular-season game at Perkins Stadium against UW-Stevens Point at 1 p.m. Saturday.
If that game goes as expected, it might get a few postseason contests in the coming weeks.
The Warhawks can wrap up the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship with a victory. The Warhawks (7-2 overall) are tied with UW-La Crosse (8-1) for first place with 5-1 conference marks, but visiting Whitewater defeated the Eagles 34-31 in the conference opener to give it the tiebreaker and the WIAC’s automatic NCAA Division III playoff bid if both teams win Saturday.
Whitewater’s chances for a victory appear much better than the Eagles, who play host to third-place UW-Platteville (4-2, 5-4) in their conference finale. If Whitewater wins, La Crosse will need a victory to be considered for one of Division III’s 10 at-large playoff berths.
Stevens Point has not won a conference game and comes into Perkins Stadium at 0-6 in the WIAC and 1-8 overall. La Crosse defeated Stevens Point 55-13, and Platteville handled the Pointers 31-3.
The Pointers have not had a winning season since 2016. Previous head coach Greg Breitbach announced in March that he was stepping down, and Stevens Point did not name a successor, former UW-Oshkosh offensive coordinator Luke Venne, until April.
The late transition is showing on the field. The Pointers rank last in the WIAC with a 13.1-point scoring average while allowing a second-worst 39.6 points a game.
“Luke is really building that thing from the ground up,” UW-Whitewater coach Kevin Bullis said Wednesday morning. “He’s a great coach. I consider him a great friend.”
Venne is installing an offense around a dual-threat quarterback just as his offenses at Oshkosh did.
But the new offense is not what Oshkosh has developed. Pointers quarterback Trey Schroeder is averaging just 130 yards passing and 30 yards rushing in nine games.
The Pointers defense is designed like Oshkosh’s, also.
“Their thing is to take away intermediate and long routes,” Bullis said. “If you throw the ball, you’re going to have to throw it short.
“We have to play well on first-and-10,” Bullis said, “so it isn’t second-and-9 or second-and-10.”
If things go to plan, Warhawks quarterback Evan Lewandowski will spend much of his day turning and handing off to his trio of running backs—Tamir Thomas, Jaylon Edmondson and Preston Strasburg.
Thomas ranks fifth in the WIAC with 565 yards rushing and Edmondson is sixth at 562. Thomas is averaging 5.8 yards and carry and Edmondson 4.8. Strasburg is the short-yardage specialist who has scored four rushing touchdowns.
Stevens Point has allowed an average of 5.6 yards per carry, so the Warhawks should be able to control the ball and the clock. The Pointers have lost time of possession by an average of 32:20 to 26:58. The Warhawks lead the WIAC in time of possession, averaging 33:49.
“Each week, we’re taking strides,” Bullis said of the running game. “We have to finish our runs. Against Stout (last week), we had some long runs, but we would miss one block. We have to make that one block.”
A victory likely would give the Warhawks at least one playoff game at home. The playoff field and brackets will be announced Sunday.
Saturday’s game has been designated Military Appreciation, Shriner’s and Senior Day. All veterans will receive a free ticket and an additional ticket if needed at the ticket windows at Perkins Stadium.