TCNJ fills Whitewater's 10th game

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Lions quarterback Chris Spellman will face the defending national champion's defense.
TCNJ athletics photo

In a development that will produce a surge of electricity around the campus of The College of New Jersey, the Lions will host defending national champion UW-Whitewater in a non-conference battle on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. in Lions Stadium.

The Lions secured the final opponent of their 2014 regular season schedule and did so with flair. They will square off against a Warhawk football program that has captured four of the last five national titles.

“In order to be the best, you have to play the best,” stated TCNJ coach Wayne Dickens. “We are working hard every day to move our program forward, and in order to do that, you have to take on opportunities that present challenge.”

Dickens led the Lions to a 5-5 overall record in his first season in 2013. This fall, TCNJ will play three non-conference opponents before entering its New Jersey Athletic Conference schedule for the final seven-game stretch. The Lions suit up for their home opener on Friday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. against Ursinus before visiting FDU-Florham on Friday, Sept. 12. That following Saturday, UW-Whitewater will arrive in Ewing, N.J. to play its final non-conference contest before entering Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action.

It marks the first time the two programs will face each other on the gridiron. TCNJ will reciprocate by visiting UW-Whitewater in 2016.

"In order to be the best, you have to play the best. We are working hard every day to move our program forward, and in order to do that, you have to take on opportunities that present challenge."

-- TCNJ coach Wayne Dickens

The Warhawks enjoyed a perfect 15-0 mark last fall. They capped a brilliant season with a 52-14 victory over Mount Union in Stagg Bowl XLI. The defending champs return their top three offensive weapons led by quarterback Matt Behrendt. He threw for 3,290 yards and 40 touchdowns. Wide receiver Jake Kumerow caught 77 passes for 1,331 receiving yards and 19 TDs. Running back Jordan Ratliffe is also back in pads after leading UW-Whitewater with 1,259 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

"We were fortunate to have six home games last season and this year we will have six on the road including a bus trip to New Jersey and a trip to Indiana against postseason regulars Franklin," said UW-Whitewater coach Lance Leipold. "We will be traveling to three WIAC schools that are the furthest distance from Whitewater with two of those games in back-to-back weeks against UW-Stout and UW-Eau Claire." 

The Lions return both starting quarterbacks from last season in Chris Spellman and Sam Paladino. Top rusher Victor Scalici also returns to the offensive backfield. TCNJ was amongst the national leaders in scoring defense (16.6 points per game) throughout the 2013 season and led the NJAC in scoring and total defense (279.6 yards per game). They held their opponent to three points or less on three occasions.

“We’re hoping that Lions’ football country will be excited about the season and come out in droves this fall to support our players,” said Dickens. 

It has been a lively offseason for the Lions’ football program. The announcement about hosting UW-Whitewater comes off the heels of news this spring unveiling a revamped football conference that will welcome Wesley, Salisbury, Christopher Newport and Frostburg State in 2015. Southern Virginia joins the NJAC this fall.