It doesn't take a CSI to follow this pattern. UW-Whitewater's defense intercepted five Wesley College passes, cashing those in for two third quarter touchdowns, in a 27-7 win in a NCAA Division III semifinal game in Dover, Delaware Saturday. The win puts the Warhawks, 14-0, in the NCAA Division III championship game, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, Saturday, December 13 at 2:30 (Central) against the University of Mount Union --- for the sixth consecutive year.
Whitewater took its first possession at its 30 yard line. Eight plays later the Warhawks had a second and goal on the Wesley one. A false start penalty pushed it back to the six, a rush and an incomplete pass brought on Eric Kindler, who connected on a 19 yard field goal, which got tipped at the line but still had enough to make it through the uprights, to put UW-W on the board with 8:01 left in the first.
Taking advantage of field position, Wesley began a drive later in the quarter on their own 45. On the third play of the mini-drive, Wesley quarterback Justin Sottilare found Matt Barile with a 38 yard scoring toss. Barile's first touchdown of the season, and his fifth catch of the season, put Wesley in front 7-3 with 1:08 on the clock.
UW-W answered on the next drive, traveling 72 yards on six plays, with Lee Brekke connecting with Adam Brandes for a 35 yard score, making it 10-7 Whitewater with 13:24 left in the half.
The Warhawk defense forced a three and out, and the offense began marching again. Wesley ended the drive with a Jeff Morgan interception at the Wesley 22. The UW-W defense responded in kind, with defensive back Jared Kiesow picking off a Wesley pass at the 16, and he returned it to the Whitewater 34. UW-W moved the ball 24 yards on three plays, but Morgan picked off his second Warhawk pass of the day at Wesley's 32.
The teams went in to the locker room with a halftime score of 10-7 Whitewater.
Wesley's first possession of the second half was interrupted by an interception, this time by defensive back Steve McCollom at the Whitewater 36, where he returned the ball to the Wesley 44.
More of the same for Wesley on its second drive of the second half, as DB Matt McCulloch picked off Wesley's Sottilare for the third time in the game, giving Whitewater the ball deep in Wesley territory, at the 24.
UW-W turned to its offensive line and the Coppage offense, much like the second half in the win over North Central last week, handing the ball off to the junior running back eight consecutive plays, ending with a one yard touchdown run to put the Warhawks in front 17-7 with 3:25 left in the third.
Deja vu for Wesley, because Sottilare was picked off on its first play after the kickoff, this time by linebacker Greg Arnold who made it from the Whitewater 36 to the one yard line. Sottilare had thrown four passes in this span, with three of them picked off by the Warhawks. Coppage walked in on the next play to make it 24-7 with 3:01 left in the third, giving UW-W 14 points in 24 seconds.
The next time they had the ball the Wolverines drove to the Whitewater 26, but lost yardage to the 33 and failed on a fourth and nine attempt.
Whitewater's final score ended a seven play, 56 yard drive, highlighted by a 32 yard run by Coppage. Kindler booted his second field goal of the day, this time from 28 yards with 10:01 left in the game and UW-W leading 27-7.
Wesley continued to come back, advancing to the Whitewater 8, but a Wesley Hicks sack pushed the Wolverines back to the 19, where Sottilare threw his fifth interception of the day with Kiesow picking off his second in the end zone.
The five interceptions are the most by UW-W since the Warhawks picked off eight UW-Superior passes in 1982.
The Warhawk defense limited Wesley to minus seven yards rushing, the fourth time this season that UW-W has held an opponent to negative yards rushing. Whitewater, behind 146 yards by Coppage, rushed for 172 yards. Wesley made up some of the difference passing, throwing the ball 44 times for 256 yards.
Brekke went 13-19 for 144 yards, one TD and two interceptions. Senior wide receiver Aaron Rusch led both teams with six catches for 64 yards. Sottilare was 24-43 for 256 yards, one TD and the five picks. Sophomore tailback Brandon Wright was on the receiving end of five of those passes for 62 yards.
Linebacker Lane Olson topped the Warhawks with four solo tackles, five assists and one tackle for a loss. Wolverine senior safety Aaron Benson had a game ten tackles, eight of them solo.