There was no announcement to declare the competition over.
But UW-Whitewater head football coach Kevin Bullis and his offensive staff have made their quarterback decision pretty clear over the past couple weeks.
After a lengthy competition through spring and fall camp and into the nonconference portion of the season, Zach Oles has clearly been the go-to signal-caller for the Warhawks.
Oles, a junior, has completed 57 of 105 pass attempts (54.3%) for 729 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception. He’s led UW-W to a 5-0 start overall and 2-0 mark in WIAC play heading into Saturday’s road matchup against UW-Stevens Point.
Bullis said Oles and Max Meylor would both see reps early in the season. They both did in the season-opening victory over Dubuque, but it was all Oles in the second game against Concordia-Moorhead (Minnesota).
Oles suffered an injury early in the final nonconference game at Saint Xavier on Sept. 21, and Meylor filled in admirably, completing 17 of 27 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns.
But it has been all Oles since then. He was 11 of 23 for 173 yards and zero touchdowns in the WIAC opener against Eau Claire. And he was 8 of 18 for 137 yards and a touchdown—adding 114 yards rushing—in last week’s 21-14 victory over Platteville.
“We’ve got a quarterback that can throw into the wind,” Bullis said Wednesday, looking back on Oles’ performance against Platteville. “A week ago, I was telling you we’ve got a quarterback that can throw with cold, wet hands. Now we’ve got a quarterback that can throw into the wind, as well. And to me, that’s really exciting.
“To throw those back shoulder passes to (Derek) Kumerow, to throw a couple of those longer passes that he did, into the wind, is terribly exciting.”
Asked what else has stood out to help Oles reach and hang on to the top spot on the depth chart, Bullis pointed to the Paletine, Illinois, native’s running abilities.
He has 189 rushing yards on 37 carries and scored a touchdown at Moorhead. Oles has at least one run of 20 yards or more in each of the past two games.
“We knew he was good at it (running the football), but you don’t know … until you get into game situations,” Bullis said. “He’s really showed his craftiness as a ball carrier, which really stretched Platteville’s defense.
“When you’ve got a quarterback that can run the ball … it stretches defenses horizontally. And that’s when you see him get vertical on a lot of those runs. Obviously he doesn’t have that capability if he doesn’t have an offensive line and some tailbacks that are going to make some people chase the wrong direction.
“But he’s really impressed me with his ability to run the football.”
Just for kicks
The Warhawks missed two more short field goals Saturday.
Wojciech Gasienica missed from 21 yards in the first quarter and from 28 in the second.
Gasienica is now 3-for-12 on the season, including just 2 of 6 from inside 30 yards. But Bullis pointed to Packers kicker Mason Crosby while standing firmly behind his kicker.
“We’ve found every way to miss a field goal, whether it’s poor protection by a wing or poor protection by a tight end or a mishandled snap or poor snap or bad kick,” Bullis said. “We’ve pretty much had the opportunity to mess up everything that can be messed up at this point.
“I’m not panicked about it by any dang means. Obviously concerned, but not panicked. Wojciech Gasienica, he’s proven, if you look at his track record. He doesn’t have a hammer of a leg … but we don’t need that.
“The Packers guy that won the game Monday night, Crosby made that kick, where a year ago everybody was all worried about him.”
Gasienica was 16-for-22 on field goals last season, including 11-for-14 inside 30 yards.
Hot starts, strong finishes
Get off to a hot start. Finish strong.
Those are two typical goals of football teams at every level.
Through five games, UW-W has allowed just three total points in first quarters. And Warhawks opponents have scored just seven points total in five fourth quarters.
“You watch the chemistry of a team develop, and the grittiness of this this team is really a key ingredient,” Bullis said. “They don’t flinch.
“That mental toughness will take us a long ways.”
The Warhawks find themselves going up against another pass-heavy offense this weekend.
Stevens Point is allowing nearly four sacks per game, including eight allowed at John Carroll to open the season and four last week against Oshkosh.
Whitewater’s defense is averaging three sacks per game, including four against Platteville last Saturday.
“We were disruptive with the quarterback, which caused him significant distraction,” Bullis said.