December 18, 2013

Recharged Warhawks ready to return

More news about: UW-Whitewater

Cole Klotz is the leader in the middle of the UWW defense.
Photo by Larry Radloff, d3photography.com 

By Joe Sager
for D3sports.com

Refocused, recharged and ready.

That sums up the UW-Whitewater football team this season.

One year removed from a 2012 campaign that saw the Warhawks’ 46-game winning streak snapped and the team out of the postseason with a 7-3 record, Whitewater is back in a familiar place – the Stagg Bowl. The Warhawks (14-0) meet Mount Union (14-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. in Salem, Va., for the NCAA Division III national championship.

“After a disappointing season last year, it’s good to be back,” Warhawks senior linebacker Cole Klotz said. “There’s a lot going on and it feels great. It’s been a blur. I don’t think it’s set in yet. Once we get down there, it’ll all settle in. The goal of every D-III program is to play this close to Christmas. So, we’re excited.”

It marks the eighth time in nine years the two programs battle for the national championship. Whitewater claimed four of the past seven, including titles in 2007, ’09, ’10 and ’11.

“Mount Union has been there as long as I can remember. We have been there, too, over the years,” Klotz said. “It really feels good to play them again.”

Overall, the Raiders are in the Stagg Bowl for the ninth straight season and 17th time in the last 20 years. They have won a record 11 national championships.

“That really is awesome. You have to give credit to Mount Union. They’ve been there so many years. They always give us a great matchup,” Whitewater junior quarterback Matt Behrendt said. “We love playing them in the championship. Both teams earned it, so it’s awesome we keep coming back together.

“It’s so exciting. We’ve worked so hard in the offseason and during the season. To finally get back is the main goal. We’re excited to play this Friday.”

The Warhawks are eager to make up for an uncharacteristic 2012 season. Injuries, a lack of focus and a grueling schedule spelled disaster for Whitewater last year after an unbeaten run from 2009-11.

“What we found out is that streaks can end if you don’t take care of business,” Whitewater coach Lance Leipold said. “Last year, we showed we didn’t earn our way. This year, we played some more good football programs that gave us everything we could handle.

“I don’t want to say there is just one thing that happened (last year),” he continued. “Teams are going to give you their best shot and you have to match that intensity and desire, whether in the weight room or on the field. I don’t like the word ‘complacency.’ We maybe lost our edge? Maybe, like they say, it’s tougher to stay on top than to get there.”

The Warhawks brought in some new assistant coaches and changed the duties of some others to help reignite a spark.

“It helped us, especially on offense. We have a bunch of new assistant coaches and a new offensive coordinator. They’ve come in and done an amazing job,” Behrendt said. “We still have pretty much the same offense; we just do a couple things differently. Really, we’ve blossomed as a team. I give the coaches the credit for that.”

Whitewater’s players helped make the turnaround possible, too. They used last season as a wakeup call.

“It really was a down year. That’s not how Warhawk football is. We knew we had to come in this offseason with a different attitude. We came in with more energy and excitement and a better attitude. That’s what got us to this point,” Behrendt said. “It doesn’t get handed to you. We didn’t come out last year and play like we needed to. We know that, coming into every year, everyone circles us on their calendar, especially teams in our conference. With the great conference we have, we have to earn the wins and play our best football to come out on top.”

Once again, the Warhawks’ foundation is defense. Whitewater ranks first among D-III teams in scoring defense (8.7 points allowed per game) and third in total defense (237.5 yards allowed per game).

“The defense has been outstanding the entire year. It really is awesome knowing that, when they are out there, we will get great field position,” Behrendt said. “On offense, we know we have to do our job and score points. It’s awesome watching the defense and knowing they will get the job done and we’ll get the job done for them also.”

Klotz knows it works both ways. He’s happy to see the Warhawks’ young offense improve.

“Both offensively and defensively, we do rely on each other. It’s great being able to trust our offense to put us in a position to play our best and we can put them in position to do their best. We’ve been doing a good job all year on both sides of the ball. It’s been great.”

Whitewater’s defense faces another formidable test this week. Mount Union owns D-III’s top scoring offense (49.0 points per game).

“For the past two weeks, we’ve played two of the highest-scoring offenses in the nation (Linfield and Mary Hardin-Baylor),” Klotz said. “They all run similar zone read-type schemes. We just have to focus on doing our jobs. Hopefully, we will be able to pull it off again.”

The Warhawks hope to get off to a better start this week. They trailed at halftime in their last two battles and rallied for victory.

“It’s a spot we don’t like to be in. We know we have to do a lot better job this week,” Behrendt said. “We know what Mount can do on offense. We’ll have to pick it up a notch in the first half and really come out fast and try to put up as many points as we can.”

After sitting out last year’s playoffs, Whitewater is raring to go. 

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
TBA
Muhlenberg at Wilkes
6:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Mount Ida
6:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
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
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
TBA
Endicott at Framingham State
TBA
Wisconsin Lutheran at Trinity Int'l
TBA
UW-Platteville at George Fox
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
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
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
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
La Verne at Puget Sound
Live Stats
4:00 PM
Central at Whitworth
5:00 PM
Hartwick at Western Connecticut
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
6:00 PM
Redlands at Trinity (Texas)
7:00 PM
Marietta at Denison
7:00 PM
Hiram at Westminster (Pa.)
7:00 PM
Thiel at Allegheny
7:00 PM
Capital at Wittenberg
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
Dec. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 49, at St. Thomas 35
@ Salem, Va.
Box Score Recap Recap Photos