/playoffs/2010/coppage-carries-warhawks

Carrying the load

More news about: UW-Whitewater

By Ryan Tipps
D3sports.com

Levell Coppage
Levell Coppage was banged up in the 2008 playoffs and during the 2010 regular season, but the Warhawks' depth allowed him to be rested for the 2010 drive for Salem.
Photo by Darryl Tessmann, d3photography.com

Levell Coppage rushed seven times on a drive that lasted 10 plays and resulted in a UW-Whitewater touchdown. On the Warhawks’ next series, he ran six times on seven plays -- touchdown again.

Those 82 yards and 12 points broke last weekend’s playoff game open in the fourth quarter. Prior to that, Whitewater was tied at 31 with Trine, an underdog that wasn’t expected to hang this long with the defending national champions.

But thanks largely to Coppage and his 300-yard game, Whitewater gets to play again this weekend.

The All-American is one of three rushers who have helped Whitewater’s ground game to more than 3,000 yards this year, a number that has crippled opposing defenses. Coppage alone accounts for more than half of that total – along with 20 touchdowns.

His trajectory this fall, though, hasn’t always trended upward. In mid-September, the junior from Oak Park, Ill., got banged up on the field and struggled. For the next month, there were glints of the Coppage fans were familiar with, but questions were raised about whether he was at full strength, culminating with  an Oct. 23 game against UW-River Falls in which he didn’t play.

“I don't think I've ever been out of my true form this season,” he said. “It’s a long season, and injuries are part of the game. But I felt that I've done a good job at battling through them. It’s frustrating at times because I always know my body can feel better, and my performance can go along with that. But I continue to stay healthy and perform the way I'm supposed to.”

As it was, Coppage wasn’t needed in that game he missed; senior Antwan Anderson had a career day then with 240 yards and three scores. But Coppage emerged from that week showing signs of being a workhorse for the team. In the final weeks of the regular season, he rushed 38, 29 and 23 times. He also had eight receptions.

Coppage and Anderson have shared time this year with Booker Stanley, who transferred to Whitewater from the Warhawks’ big brother program, Wisconsin. Still, it’s clear that Coppage is the go-to guy in the backfield, a role he solidified even further with Saturday’s performance.

“Having two running backs behind, knowing that at anytime they can fulfill the role, that I am helps me out tremendously,” said Coppage, who sports the No. 33 jersey. “They force me to work twice as hard, and I believe they help me become a better football player. It’s also crazy to know that Antwan Anderson and Booker Stanley can go anywhere in this division and be a staring back.”

A career of carries
Levell Coppage has gone over 200 yards or over 30 carries multiple times in his career, but more often later in the season.
Date Opponent Carries Yards TD
Nov. 28, 2010 Trine 38 300 3
Oct. 30, 2010 UW-Stevens Point 38 179 2
Oct. 10, 2009 UW-Eau Claire 42 386 3
Nov. 7, 2009 UW-Oshkosh 27 209 3
Nov. 28, 2009 Illinois Wesleyan 32 188 2
Sept. 13, 2008 UW-Eau Claire 42 220 1

Coach Lance Leipold said making the best use of all three of the rushers has been “a tough balancing act,” but one to which he credits running backs coach Nelson Edmunds.

“We’ve used [Coppage] a little bit in some different ways” this year, Leipold said. “I think the other two guys, especially being seniors, it’s been difficult on them a little bit. But all in all, they’ve been great team players, and they’ve handled their roles.”

Outscoring many of their opponents by 30 or more points has given Whitewater a chance to showcase each of the rushers. While sometimes, the team had to lean heavily on Coppage, the rhythm of the game dictated who would see the field the most. And for much of the first two months, Coppage being on the field late in a game was a rarity.

Coppage “has an uncanny feel for the game,” his coach said. “One thing that’s very unnoticed in him is that he’s good at pass protection and blitz pickup. He understands our concepts, and he’s a physical little player.”

Little? Don’t worry, it’s OK to say that. Coppage knows it.

“I may be 5-foot-8, 180, but I play way bigger than that,” the running back said defiantly.

While Coppage’s stats this year are impressive, it’s tough to mirror those he produced in 2009. That season, he piled on 2,107 yards and 35 touchdowns. It wasn’t until Saturday’s outing against Trine that it became clear that the person behind those gaudy numbers still takes the field with a vengeance.

“Getting ready for the game I knew I had to be mentally prepared because I had been sick earlier in the week,” Coppage said. “As focused as I was, I was not surprised at all; I know the things that I'm capable of.”

And that’s good for Whitewater. The team has had the opportunity to lean more on the run game in the postseason with backup quarterback Lee Brekke, a sophomore, filling in as starter for the injured Matt Blanchard. Leipold declined Monday to discuss the nature of Blanchard’s injury, but DailyUnion.com, the website for a Whitewater, Wis.-area newspaper, has reported that the junior signal-caller injured the thumb on his throwing hand.

Leipold said that Blanchard has dressed for the games that past two Saturdays and that he has practiced more and more each week. But the coach said that the team waits right up until game time to decide whether to put Blanchard or Brekke on the field.

“We’ll take the same approach this week,” Leipold said, “and hopefully Matt will be the guy taking the first snap. But, if not, Lee Brekke has led our football team, and we’re very confident in what he can do.”

So confident, it seems, that when the game against the Thunder was on the line after three quarters last weekend, Brekke played through till the end.

“We have not modified our offensive attack at all,” Leipold said. “Lee Brekke has thrown seven touchdown passes in two ballgames. And I think that’s been outstanding. We’ve scored almost 100 points and had almost 1,000 yards of offense.”               

No matter who is under center, Coppage and the rest of his backfield rank as perhaps the team’s most dominant threats. Coppage’s 300-yard outing against Trine wasn’t even the largest of his career. He has the ability to make opponents miss tackles; he sees the hole in the line; he’s more quick than fast. Great performances from this kind of player aren’t surprises -- they’re expected.

And the team expects to drive that road all the way to Salem.

“I feel every road to success is almost always under construction,” Coppage theorizes. “So with that said, every team that we play on Saturday is a road block, and we just have to get through them.”

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Massachusetts Maritime at Framingham State
Video Preview Live stats
12:00 PM
Muhlenberg at Juniata
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Becker at Dean
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Salisbury at TCNJ
Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
MIT at Catholic
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Maine Maritime
Video Preview
12:00 PM
Endicott at Hobart
Video Video Preview Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
Nichols at Morrisville State
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Stevenson at Delaware Valley
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Widener at Albright
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Montclair State
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Bethany at Westminster (Pa.)
Video Preview Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Middlebury at Bowdoin
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Williams at Colby
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Amherst at Hamilton
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Ursinus at Moravian
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Trinity (Conn.) at Bates
Video Preview Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Brevard at LaGrange
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Geneva at Thiel
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Plymouth State
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Kean at Southern Virginia
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Frostburg State at Rowan
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Union at Curry
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Carnegie Mellon
Video Preview Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Lycoming at King's
Video Live stats Audio Audio Tickets
1:00 PM
Husson at Western New England
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Dickinson
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Wooster at DePauw
Video Preview Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Allegheny at Ohio Wesleyan
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Wilkes at Misericordia
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
FDU-Florham at Lebanon Valley
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Rochester at Alfred
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Wesley at William Paterson
Video Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at N.C. Wesleyan
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at Ferrum
Video Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Gettysburg at McDaniel
Video Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
RPI at Buffalo State
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Franklin and Marshall at Susquehanna
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Denison
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at Northwestern (Minn.)
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Crown at Eureka
Video Preview Live stats
1:30 PM
John Carroll at Heidelberg
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Otterbein at Ohio Northern
Video Preview Live stats Audio
1:30 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Mount Union
Video Preview Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Defiance at Rose-Hulman
Video Preview Live stats
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Marietta
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Franklin at Bluffton
Preview Live stats
1:30 PM
Anderson at Hanover
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Manchester
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Worcester State at Westfield State
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Coast Guard at Norwich
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Fitchburg State
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Wittenberg at Kenyon
Video Preview Preview Live stats
2:00 PM
Hiram at Wabash
Video Video Live stats Tickets
2:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Millikin
Video Live stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Sewanee at Millsaps
Video Preview Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at Rhodes
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Austin at Hendrix
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Greenville at Martin Luther
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Chapman at Trinity (Texas)
Live stats Preview Video
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at Loras
Video Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Washington U. at Wartburg
Video Preview Live stats
2:00 PM
Hamline at Gustavus Adolphus
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Augsburg at Carleton
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Bethel
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Dubuque at Luther
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Nebraska Wesleyan at Central
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Simpson at Coe
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Elmhurst
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
North Park at Illinois Wesleyan
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
St. Norbert at Grinnell
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Ripon at Knox
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Iowa Wesleyan at MacMurray
Video
2:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Howard Payne
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Southwestern at Louisiana College
Video
2:00 PM
Monmouth at Macalester
Video Live stats
2:10 PM
St. John's at St. Thomas
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
Video Preview Live stats Audio Audio
2:30 PM
WPI at Springfield
Video Live stats
3:00 PM
Beloit at Cornell
Video Live stats
4:00 PM
Utica at Brockport
Video Live stats
4:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Hartwick
Audio
4:00 PM
Carroll at UW-La Crosse
Video Live stats
4:00 PM
Minnesota-Morris at St. Scholastica
Video Live stats
4:30 PM
UW-Eau Claire at George Fox
Video Preview Preview Preview Live stats Audio
5:00 PM
Salve Regina at Western Connecticut
Video Live stats
5:00 PM
Adrian at UW-Stevens Point
Video Live stats
6:00 PM
Tufts at Wesleyan
Video Preview Live stats
6:00 PM
Methodist at Averett
Video Live stats
6:00 PM
Centre at Berry
Video Preview Live stats Audio Tickets
6:00 PM
Lake Forest at Lawrence
Video Video
7:00 PM
Waynesburg at Case Western Reserve
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
St. Vincent at Grove City
Box Score Live stats Audio
7:00 PM
Texas Lutheran at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live stats Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Lakeland at UW-Platteville
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Carthage at Augustana
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Chicago at Illinois College
Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
McMurry at Sul Ross State
Audio
7:30 PM
Capital at Wilmington
Video Preview Live stats
8:00 PM
Belhaven at East Texas Baptist
8:00 PM
Arizona Christian at Whittier
Video Live stats
Sep. 23: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Stevenson at Delaware Valley
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Wesley at William Paterson
Video Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Rochester at Alfred
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Dickinson
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Frostburg State at Rowan
Video Video Live stats Live stats Audio Audio Audio
1:30 PM
John Carroll at Heidelberg
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Mount Union
Video Preview Preview Live stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Wittenberg at Kenyon
Video Preview Preview Live stats
2:00 PM
Hiram at Wabash
Video Video Live stats Tickets
2:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Howard Payne
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Millikin
Video Live stats Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Elmhurst
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
North Park at Illinois Wesleyan
Video Live stats Audio
2:10 PM
St. John's at St. Thomas
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
Video Preview Live stats Audio Audio
4:00 PM
Utica at Brockport
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Waynesburg at Case Western Reserve
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Lakeland at UW-Platteville
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Texas Lutheran at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live stats Audio Audio