December 7, 2011

The men behind the man

More news about: St. Thomas | UW-Whitewater

By Adam Turer
for D3sports.com

Levell Coppage, behind an offensive line with four new starters this season, is 480 yards from Nate Kmic's all-divisions career rushing record.

Levell Coppage, behind an offensive line with four new starters this season, is 480 yards from Nate Kmic's all-divisions career rushing record.
By Daryl Tessmann, d3photography.com

There is no easy way to stop UW-Whitewater’s offense. Some might say that there is no way, period. The legs of Levell Coppage and the arm of Matt Blanchard get most of the attention, but it is the entire unit’s attention to detail that has the Warhawks offense churning through the postseason.

Coaches and players from Whitewater’s two most recent playoff opponents all noted the way the Warhawks seem to operate in unison on each snap. If you are hoping to catch a break due to a Whitewater player missing his assignment, you will likely still be waiting when the game clock strikes all zeroes. The commitment to detail is the key to the Warhawks’ overpowering offensive attack.

“It starts in the offseason with us putting in extra work after practice to make sure we’re all on the same page,” said first team All-West Region tackle Logan Allemand.

Allemand entered the season as the only senior starter on the offensive line. The offensive linemen, led by Allemand, put in extra time in the offseason and throughout the season. The extra work has paid dividends and the unit has been able to overcome inexperience and injury.

“We watch film together, do walk throughs together, and make sure we’re all in the same mind-set,” said Allemand. “The younger guys have gotten enough experience now. They do a really good job of listening.”

Coppage has rushed for 7,594 career yards to date, breaking Justin Beaver’s school and WIAC records. With potentially two games remaining, the NCAA all-divisions career rushing record is 480 yards away -- within striking distance.

“I’ve got to give all the credit to them,” Coppage said of his offensive linemen, past and present. “Those guys work in the trenches and don’t get the recognition that they deserve. All of my appreciation goes to them.”

With Coppage returning in the backfield and Gagliardi Trophy finalist Matt Blanchard back at quarterback, the closest thing to a question mark entering the season was how quickly the Warhawks’ offensive line would come together. Allemand and Ryan Olson were the most experienced linemen returning this year. The younger players have stepped up and protected Blanchard while paving the way for Coppage.

“I’m happy to see how they’ve come along,” said Coppage of his less-experienced blockers. “We have some young guys who are going to do great things for the Whitewater program.”

Coppage came to Whitewater with loads of talent, but has become a complete back over the past four seasons. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards each year and has learned the nuances of the position. Instead of relying solely on his skills, Coppage now knows how to play with patience and harmonize with the other ten members of the offense.

“He’s trying to be aware of what the offensive linemen, tight ends and wide receivers are doing. We teach reads at each level of the defense,” running backs coach Nelson Edmonds said.

“If you can be a great back, you can influence that third level of a defense. I think Levell can influence the corndog vendor in the stands.”

In addition to working with the linemen in practice on the interior running game, the Warhawks backs spend practice time with the offensive line working on blitz pickups. The coaching staff has stressed the importance of picking up the blitz and converting on third down, said Edmonds. Edmonds has a solid grasp of offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steve Dinkel’s philosophy, which allows the backs to understand the grander scheme of the system.

“I’ve worked with Coach Dinkel for nine or ten years now,” said Edmonds. “I think we deliver a consistent message.”

Edmonds has worked with Coppage to get the West Region Co-Offensive Player of the Year to understand the system. Coppage has bought in to the coaching and has developed the kind of patience that makes him not only a dangerous threat to score every time he touches the ball, but a complement to Blanchard and the rest of the offense.

“I’m doing the same things I’ve always done, but now I understand why I’m doing them,” said Coppage. “Patience is the key, letting our linemen do their job and finding the hole.”

“I think he’s become more disciplined. He always has a knack that he wants to score every play in any way possible,” said Edmonds. “Now, he’s buying into discipline and that’s allowed his natural talent to shine through even more.”

Coppage has rushed for over 200 yards in the Warhawks’ past two playoff victories. He will face a stout test this week against St. Thomas’s top-ranked rush defense. The Tommies allow just 47.85 rushing yards per game and are third in the nation allowing just 9.38 points per game. The Tommies may focus on Coppage, but they will do so at their own risk.

“You can’t just worry about stopping Levell. You have to worry about our quarterback who’s playing great, and our wide receivers,” said Edmonds. “Once Levell gets up on you, he’s hard to stop.”

No matter how the Warhawks beat you offensively, there is always one constant: the play of the offensive line. It would be hard enough to stop a one-man show led by Coppage, but trying to stop a unit of eleven consistent performers is something no opposing defense has figured out in nearly three years. The running back and the linemen feed off of one another.

“He’s the best athlete I’ve ever seen,” said Allemand. “With Levell rushing for all these yards, it’s something that we take pride in.”

When asked who is more tired at the end of a game, Coppage after rushing for all those yards, or his linemen for paving the way for him, the All-American running back once again deferred.

“Probably them,” he answered with a humble laugh.  “They usually stay in for more plays than I do.”

Sep. 1: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Coast Guard at Anna Maria
7:00 PM
Defiance at Baldwin Wallace
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Johns Hopkins
7:30 PM
Trine at Manchester
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
Sep. 2: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Mount Ida
6:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
7:00 PM
Muhlenberg at Wilkes
7:00 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Stevenson
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Becker
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Albright at Salisbury
7:00 PM
WPI at MIT
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Salve Regina at Worcester State
7:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Curry
7:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
10:00 PM
Adrian at Pacific
Sep. 3: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Endicott at Framingham State
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Washington U. at Carnegie Mellon
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Chicago at Case Western Reserve
12:00 PM
Husson at Alfred
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Cortland at Heidelberg
12:00 PM
Otterbein at Buffalo State
12:00 PM
Ursinus at Bethany
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Kenyon
1:00 PM
King's at Moravian
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Kean at Christopher Newport
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Catholic
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton
Live Stats
1:00 PM
RPI at Norwich
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Dickinson
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Kalamazoo
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
1:00 PM
Wooster at Washington and Jefferson
1:00 PM
Alfred State at William Paterson
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Alma
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Olivet at St. John Fisher
1:00 PM
Rowan at Widener
1:00 PM
Hobart at Brockport
1:00 PM
Union at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Utica at Misericordia
1:00 PM
The Apprentice School at Methodist
1:00 PM
TCNJ at UW-Whitewater
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Bluffton
1:30 PM
Monmouth at Hope
1:30 PM
Bridgewater at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
2:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Trinity Int'l
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Austin at Hendrix
2:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Martin Luther
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Millikin at Greenville
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
Live Stats
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Rockford
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Westminster (Mo.)
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Luther
2:00 PM
Beloit at Lake Forest
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Jamestown
2:00 PM
Crown at Hamline
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
2:00 PM
Bethel at Dubuque
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at St. John's
Live Stats
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Grinnell
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at Mayville St.
2:00 PM
Simpson at UW-Stout
2:00 PM
Aurora at Carthage
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at Coe
2:00 PM
Ripon at Concordia-Chicago
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Loras
2:00 PM
Huntingdon at Louisiana College
2:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Robert Morris-Chicago
2:00 PM
Benedictine at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
John Carroll at UW-Oshkosh
2:30 PM
Southern Virginia at Earlham
Live Stats
2:30 PM
Lawrence at Presentation
4:00 PM
UW-Platteville at George Fox
4:00 PM
La Verne at Puget Sound
Video Live Stats
4:00 PM
Central at Whitworth
5:00 PM
Hartwick at Western Connecticut
Live Stats
6:00 PM
Wabash at Albion
6:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Berry
6:00 PM
Augustana at Mount St. Joseph
6:00 PM
Thomas More at Franklin
Live Stats
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Averett
7:00 PM
Denison at Marietta
7:00 PM
Hiram at Westminster (Pa.)
7:00 PM
Thiel at Allegheny
7:00 PM
Capital at Wittenberg
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Shenandoah at Gallaudet
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Illinois College at Rose-Hulman
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Geneva at Frostburg State
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Guilford
Live Stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Southwestern
7:00 PM
Anderson at North Park
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Mary Hardin-Baylor
7:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Texas Lutheran
7:10 PM
St. Thomas at UW-Eau Claire
Video Live Stats
7:30 PM
Hanover at Centre
8:00 PM
Willamette at Rhodes
8:00 PM
Cornell at Iowa Wesleyan
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Augsburg at Northwestern (Minn.)
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Howard Payne
8:00 PM
Sul Ross State at UT-Permian Basin
8:30 PM
Redlands at Trinity (Texas)
Dec. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 49, at St. Thomas 35
@ Salem, Va.
Box Score Recap Recap Photos