Uncharted territory. That's what UW-Whitewater head coach called his team's 27-17 win over Linfield College in a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III playoff semifinal Saturday at Perkins Stadium in Whitewater. UW-W will face Mount Union College in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, Virginia December 19 at 10:00 a.m. (Central) for the Division III championship.
It wasn't just the fact that UW-W had not trailed in game this year while rolling up a 14-0 record, the situation occurred in the fourth quarter with the clock becoming a factor.
UW-W opened the scoring, taking advantage of a defensive stop at midfield. Linfield, facing a fourth and three at the Whitewater 45, had their pass attempt broken up by linebacker Kyle Supianoski. The next play sophomore Levell Coppage went up the middle for 55 yards. The run moved Coppage in to fifth place on UW-W's career rushing list, ahead of Eddie McKennie (3,354, 1994-97) and George Rainey (3,385, 1984-87). Coppage had 3,461 at that point. Jeff Schebler's extra point made it 7-0 with 6:22 in the first.
Whitewater's defense also figured in the second score of the game. Linfield QB Aaron Boehme was picked off by senior safety Zack Christopherson and returned to the Linfeld 22. Schebler came on to boot a 34 yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 4:32 in the half.
Boehme ran 67 yards on the first play of the following drive to put Linfield at the door. Facing a third and four from the nine, Boehme connected with Ryan Henderson for the score. Josh Repp kicked the PAT to cut Whitewater's lead to 10-7 with 3:27 left.
Whitewater looked like it would score again before intermission, facing a first and goal at the nine. After advancing the ball to the two, Jeff Donovan was sacked by Jaymin Jackson on the fourth and goal attempt as the half ended
Linfield went 78 yards in seven plays, the biggest chunk of yardage coming on a Boehme to Gunnar Cederburg for 49 yards. Boehme got in the end zone on a four yard run, and Repp put Linfield in front 14-10 with 10:58.
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Linfield stopped UW-W on the next series and took over on their own ten. They used 14 plays to cover 72 yards, and use up 7:10 on the clock, to set up a Repp 35 yard field goal and open up a 17-10 lead with 14:55 left in the game.
Facing third and ten at the Linfield 47, Donovan connected with Adam Brandes for 35 yards to the Linfield 12, moved him in to sixth place on the UW-W season receiving yards list, past Anthony Talton (952 in 1991) with 960. Schebler came on to hit a 26 yard field goal with 12:36 left to cut the Wildcats lead to 17-13.
Whitewater's defense came up with a key stop again on the ensuing Linfield possession, with UW-W taking a punt return to start at their own 28. Donovan completed an eight yard pass to Rusch, than hit Jordan Wells for 68 yards to take the ball to the Linfield one yard line. The reception moved Wells up to ninth on UW-W's single season record list, past Dick Bilda (57, 1972). Antwan Anderson ran it in on the next play, and Schebler's extra point put the Warhawks back in front, 20-17, with 7:34 left.
Later in the fourth UW-W senior defensive back Jeremy Diebert picked off a Boehme pass and gave UW-W the ball at the Linfield 45. Coppage went for five yards, then broke a 40 scoring run which, with Schebler's PAT, ended the scoring with 1:05 left in the game.
Boehme led the Wildcats in passing and rushing. He completed 26-38 for 278 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He also rushed eight times for 73 yards. Trev Patterson led LC with six catches for 86 yards.
The Warhawks were led in rushing by Coppage, who carried 13 times for 109 yards. Donovan completed 17-26 for 276 yards with no interceptions. His tenth completion on the day helped UW-W pass the single season record for completions, passing the 250 in 2005. UW-W has 258 this season. Brandes caught five passes for 123 yards, a career high for the junior. Wells led the team with six receptions for 98 yards. Rusch, with three catches today, is now fifth on the season reception list at UW-W with 64, passing Richard Newton (63, 1995) and Derek Stanley (2006). Supianoski topped the defense with seven tackles, a sack and the interception.
UW-Whitewater is one of three schools to advance to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the Division III championship game, five consecutive years. UW-W and Mount Union College, a 24-7 winner over Wesley College in the other semifinal, will meet in the championship game for the fifth year in a row. Mount Union won the 2005 (35-28), 2006 (35-16) and 2008 (31-26) games, and Whitewater won in 2007 (31-21).