/notables/2011/12/uww-finishes-three-peat

UW-Whitewater finishes the three-peat

More news about: Mount Union | UW-Whitewater
Levell Coppage loving the moment after UW-Whitewater claimed its third consecutive national title.
Photo by Dan Poel for d3photography.com

By Adam Turer
D3sports.com

SALEM, Va. — UW-Whitewater’s defense completed one of the most impressive stretches Division III football has seen. The Warhawks held their five playoff opponents to a total of 38 points. Three of those opponents — Franklin, St. Thomas, and Mount Union — ranked in the top 20 in the nation in scoring offense this season. 

Defensive coordinator Brian Borland’s unit was the deciding factor in the Warhawks’ 13-10 victory over Mount Union, giving Whitewater its third straight Division III national championship.

“I thought we had an outstanding defensive effort today,” said Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold. “We really played some outstanding defense throughout the playoffs.”

It all started up front for the Warhawks. The defensive line, led by Stagg Bowl XXXIX Most Outstanding Player Louissant Minett, stopped running back Jeremy Murray and consistently pressured quarterback Matt Piloto all night. While the usually potent Whitewater offense was held in check by a stellar defensive effort from Mount Union, the Warhawks defense rose to the challenge and set the tone for the game. Whitewater forced three turnovers, including the biggest play of the game.

“They’re a very good defense, as they showed tonight,” said Piloto. “They are very fast and they make you alter your feet and do some things that you’re not used to doing.”

What many expected to be another offensive shootout turned in to the biggest defensive struggle between the purple powers. This marked the first time in their seven meetings that the teams played to a scoreless tie after one quarter. The 3-0 Whitewater halftime lead was the lowest scoring first half between the two. Levell Coppage was held to 91 yards on 32 carries and Whitewater’s offense totaled just 210 yards despite leading in time of possession. Whitewater’s lone touchdown was what Coppage called the easiest of his career.

After a sack by Ryan Cortez backed the Purple Raiders to their own 5-yard line, Minett sacked and forced a Piloto fumble in the end zone. The ball bounced out to the 1-yard line, where it was recovered by Cole Klotz. On the next snap, Coppage scored the Warhawks only touchdown of the game. Personal statistics mean far less to Coppage than the only numbers that matter: 13 for the Warhawks, 10 for the Purple Raiders.

“You can never be frustrated with a win and you can never be frustrated with a championship,” said Coppage, who finished a stellar run at Whitewater with 109 career touchdowns.

That fumble had the biggest impact, but it was far from the only difference the Warhawks defensive line made. Minett twice hit Piloto as he threw on third down, forcing incompletions. He also hit Piloto to create a wobbly pass that was picked off by Noah Timm.

“Every play, I just focus on keeping my motor running,” said the sophomore defensive end. “Every play is not granted.”

Minett suffered an injury on Mount Union’s third down play with 1:38 to go in the game and had to watch from the sideline as the Purple Raiders attempted to convert on fourth down to keep their title hopes alive. With Minett on the sideline, Piloto had enough time to complete a pass to Jasper Collins and extend the drive. Minett returned two plays later, as Mount Union faced a third down and ten from its own 31 yard line. On fourth and ten, Jake Hohlstein and Anthony Bounds pressured Piloto and forced him to complete a short under route to Chris Denton. The Warhawks stopped Denton short of the first down and quarterback Matt Blanchard set up the Whitewater offense in the victory formation.

The young Whitewater defense held Mount Union to 238 total yards of offense and just 59 yards in the first half. This championship effort came one week after the Warhawks shutout St. Thomas to advance to Salem. Entering the season, Whitewater knew it had a proven senior star in Coppage and a talented senior quarterback in Blanchard. The defensive leaders would need to emerge as the season progressed. They came up with three game-changing turnovers.

“We needed guys like [sophomore linebacker] Ryan Cortez and [junior cornerback] Chris Pendergast to step up and be contributors this year and those are the type of guys that this team needed and they rose to the occasion and matured very quickly,” said Leipold.

The sophomore-dominated defense sends off senior leaders Coppage, Blanchard, and offensive lineman Logan Allemand with a third straight Walnut & Bronze trophy.

“It’s just a team effort, it’s not just one defensive player,” said Pendergast, who had the Warhawks’ other interception, at the Whitewater 4-yard line. “We all play as a team and we all fly around and it’s a credit to the game plan of Coach Borland and then we have to execute.”

Minett was pushed in offseason workouts by Coppage and learned quickly the kind of effort that it takes to build a champion. The seniors leave behind a legacy of three straight Stagg Bowl titles. More importantly, they leave behind the foundation and wisdom that they shared with the underclassmen who will be charged with keeping the tradition and the now 45-game winning streak alive.

 “For all of us to step up and do this for the seniors and try and carry this legacy is going to be the key for the future success of our defense,” said Minett.

The high-energy sophomore end paid the biggest tribute he could to his senior teammates by wreaking havoc on the Mount Union offense from snap to whistle each play that he was on the field. Although he is an underclassman, he showed that he understands what it takes to win a championship, and he proved it on this rainy night in Salem.

“I feel like I left everything on the field,” said Minett.

He and his defensive mates hope to be back here again next year playing for a fourth straight national championship, once again leaving it all on the field.

Oct. 19: All times Eastern
Final
Martin Luther 21, at Northwestern (Minn.) 6
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Oct. 20: All times Eastern
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at Stevenson 33, Wilkes 21
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at RPI 31, Hobart 24
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at MIT 13, Coast Guard 0
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Norwich 15, at Maine Maritime 7
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at Moravian 31, Juniata 14
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at Dean 53, Gallaudet 21
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Endicott 45, at Becker 13
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Frostburg State 24, at Montclair State 17
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SUNY-Maritime 68, at Castleton 41
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at Trinity (Texas) 28, Sewanee 14
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Johns Hopkins 51, at Gettysburg 14
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N.C. Wesleyan 29, at Brevard 21
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at Misericordia 37, FDU-Florham 33
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Union 29, at St. Lawrence 7
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at Ithaca 28, Rochester 3
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at Colby 23, Hamilton 21
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at Middlebury 35, Bates 34
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Trinity (Conn.) 48, at Bowdoin 6
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Springfield 23, at Catholic 11
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Amherst 33, at Wesleyan 3
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at Plymouth State 17, Massachusetts Maritime 14
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at Husson 54, Anna Maria 14
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TCNJ 13, at Kean 8
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Carnegie Mellon 41, at Thiel 7
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Salve Regina 30, at Curry 21
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King's 37, at Albright 26
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Trine 31, at Finlandia 0
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Susquehanna 41, at Ursinus 35
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Delaware Valley 52, at Lebanon Valley 7
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at Western New England 70, University of New England 13
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Franklin and Marshall 35, at Dickinson 14
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at Wittenberg 38, DePauw 23
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at Emory and Henry 52, Shenandoah 50
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at Wabash 32, Oberlin 7
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at Westminster (Pa.) 27, Washington and Jefferson 20
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at Hampden-Sydney 38, Guilford 35
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at Randolph-Macon 44, Bridgewater 41
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Cortland 56, at Hartwick 3
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at Denison 27, Ohio Wesleyan 10
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Waynesburg 12, at St. Vincent 10
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Salisbury 33, at Southern Virginia 0
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at Methodist 42, Greensboro 6
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Christopher Newport 39, at William Paterson 10
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Albion 49, at Adrian 42
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Thomas More 35, at St. Scholastica 0
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at Westminster (Mo.) 25, Minnesota-Morris 7
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Lake Forest 24, at Grinnell 0
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at Greenville 41, Crown 14
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at Merchant Marine 25, WPI 24
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at John Carroll 27, Marietta 24
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at Tufts 28, Williams 21
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Ohio Northern 49, at Capital 46
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Baldwin Wallace 35, at Wilmington 33
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at Mount Union 54, Heidelberg 0
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at Lycoming 52, Alvernia 0
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at Rose-Hulman 44, Anderson 6
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at Franklin 64, Earlham 20
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Hanover 48, at Manchester 14
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Mount St. Joseph 20, at Defiance 0
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at Utica 30, Alfred 22
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Maryville (Tenn.) 37, at LaGrange 17
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Framingham State 27, at Westfield State 2
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Morrisville State 35, at St. John Fisher 7
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at Muskingum 21, Otterbein 14
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at Berry 28, Millsaps 21
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at Muhlenberg 42, McDaniel 18
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at Rowan 28, Wesley 27
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at Wooster 28, Hiram 21
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Allegheny 54, at Kenyon 10
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at Nebraska Wesleyan 23, Luther 15
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Wheaton (Ill.) 20, at Augustana 3
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at Eureka 50, Benedictine 20
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Mary Hardin-Baylor 49, at Belhaven 0
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at Hardin-Simmons 58, Texas Lutheran 14
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Chicago 63, at Beloit 0
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at Concordia (Wis.) 45, Concordia-Chicago 34
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Aurora 25, at Rockford 7
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at Bethel 41, Concordia-Moorhead 13
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Lakeland 38, at Wisconsin Lutheran 12
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at St. John's 57, St. Olaf 7
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at Gustavus Adolphus 42, Augsburg 0
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Dubuque 38, at Buena Vista 7
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North Central (Ill.) 26, at Carthage 14
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at Ripon 58, Macalester 34
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at Monmouth 51, Cornell 0
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at Simpson 38, Loras 33
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at Knox 20, Illinois College 6
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UW-Stout 31, at UW-Stevens Point 27
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Millikin 14, at Elmhurst 13
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at MacMurray 20, Iowa Wesleyan 13
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UW-Eau Claire 40, at UW-Platteville 16
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at St. Thomas 68, Carleton 0
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at Mass-Dartmouth 41, Worcester State 27
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at Wartburg 47, Central 20
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at UW-Oshkosh 24, UW-La Crosse 13
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at UW-Whitewater 44, UW-River Falls 7
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at Birmingham-Southern 47, Austin 35
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Centre 41, at Rhodes 14
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at Carroll 23, North Park 0
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at Kalamazoo 17, Alma 10
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at Pacific Lutheran 33, Willamette 20
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at Brockport 65, Buffalo State 7
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at Averett 45, Huntingdon 17
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Washington and Lee 38, at Ferrum 35
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at Pacific 54, Lewis and Clark 22
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Redlands 35, at La Verne 17
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Whitworth 47, at Puget Sound 13
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Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 27, at Occidental 7
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Linfield 14, at George Fox 0
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at Hope 35, Olivet 30
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at Western Connecticut 50, Bridgewater State 48
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Case Western Reserve 27, at Geneva 14
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at Sul Ross State 28, Howard Payne 27
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East Texas Baptist 48, at Louisiana College 27
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Illinois Wesleyan 27, at Washington U. 21
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St. Norbert 46, at Lawrence 0
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at Pomona-Pitzer 42, Whittier 17
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Chapman 33, at Cal Lutheran 29
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Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
Frostburg State 24, at Montclair State 17
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at RPI 31, Hobart 24
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Trine 31, at Finlandia 0
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at Wittenberg 38, DePauw 23
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at Westminster (Pa.) 27, Washington and Jefferson 20
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Delaware Valley 52, at Lebanon Valley 7
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Final
Johns Hopkins 51, at Gettysburg 14
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at Mount Union 54, Heidelberg 0
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at John Carroll 27, Marietta 24
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Final - OT
at Berry 28, Millsaps 21
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Final
at Rowan 28, Wesley 27
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Final
at Muhlenberg 42, McDaniel 18
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Wheaton (Ill.) 20, at Augustana 3
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Mary Hardin-Baylor 49, at Belhaven 0
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at St. John's 57, St. Olaf 7
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Final
at Hardin-Simmons 58, Texas Lutheran 14
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North Central (Ill.) 26, at Carthage 14
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at St. Thomas 68, Carleton 0
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at UW-Oshkosh 24, UW-La Crosse 13
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at UW-Whitewater 44, UW-River Falls 7
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at Brockport 65, Buffalo State 7
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Whitworth 47, at Puget Sound 13
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Final
Linfield 14, at George Fox 0
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Final
Case Western Reserve 27, at Geneva 14
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Final
Illinois Wesleyan 27, at Washington U. 21
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