A rare first-half onslaught did not help UW-Whitewater’s football team escape an honest critique from its head coach.
The Warhawks earned a 35-10 victory against Monmouth College in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs Saturday at Perkins Stadium.
They gave themselves a 28-point lead at the half and were never threatened after that, but there were overtones of disappointment from fifth-year head coach Kevin Bullis.
UW-Whitewater quarterback Max Meylor completed a 52-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Wisniewski on the second drive of the second half. Other than that, however, the Warhawks didn’t sustain another scoring drive.
The performance was characterized by Bullis as disappointing more than once. If UW-W can build another lead in Saturday’s second-round home game against Wartburg College, he hopes his team will keep its foot on the gas pedal.
“I felt like we didn’t keep our edge that we had in the first half,” Bullis said in his weekly conference call with media Wednesday. “We came out of the gate fast as heck. We came out executing and playing very physical. I felt like we took our foot off the throttle. That’s something I talked to the team about.”
Saturday’s game kicks off at noon at Perkins Stadium, and the Warhawks coaching staff expects that correction to be made.
The 28-0 lead over Monmouth was the first time all season the Warhawks had more than a two-score lead at halftime.
UW-Whitewater trailed at the half twice during the regular season. Six times, the Warhawks led or trailed by seven points or fewer.
Bullis regularly refers to the scoreboard as the biggest distraction in the game.
The primary focus should always be the execution of a given assignment on each play, he says. And the scoreboard shouldn’t dictate how assignments are executed.
“A lot of times when I say that the scoreboard is a distraction, we equate it to us being behind,” Bullis said.
“That’s a pretty natural assumption. It also can be when you’re ahead. We allowed it to be a distraction to us rather than concentrating on the next snap.”
The Warhawks had two punts blocked against Monmouth on Saturday. Earlier in the season, they had one punt blocked against UW-Stout and one blocked against St. Xavier.
“There wasn’t anything wrong with the scheme, it was just execution on our part,” Bullis said. “We had to move some guys around a little bit on punt protection. We made that change during the game. It was one of those corrections that you always get worried that there’s a flaw in the scheme or with how we’re teaching it. We were confident during the game that we had eyes on the scenario, which is why we made the change.”
Defensive POY out
Mackenzie Balanganayi was named Defensive Player of the Year for his productivity in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference season last Thursday.
He injured his knee Saturday, and Bullis said he wouldn’t be able to play in the second round.
“We haven’t gotten the final word on his situation, but he won’t be playing on Saturday,” Bullis said.
The Warhawks are embracing the cliche next-man-up motto to replace the standout junior defensive end.
“We have good depth at the defensive end position,” Bullis said. “Mack is obviously a great player. As coach (Ryan) Cortez said to the D line group, it’s next man up and everybody grab a little extra piece of rope. ...
“We’re fortunate at that position. There are some darn good players there.”