Warhawks Earn Sole Possession of WIAC Title
A major theme for the day was set in the opening drive of the game. Eau Claire took the opening kickoff and piled up yards down the field. The drive stopped, abruptly, when UW-W defensive back Noah Timm picked off an Austin Neu pass, Timm's fifth interception of the season, at the Whitewater goal line.
Starting on the two, UW-W went 98 yards on 13 plays to draw first blood with a ten yard pass from Matt Blanchard to Luke Menzel. Levell Coppage provided the big play of the drive, a 45 yard run that put the ball on the Eau Claire 35. Coppage carried the ball nine times for 79 yards on the drive that ended with Eric Kindler's PAT with 4:25 left in the first quarter.
Eau Claire's second possession was much like the first, this time marching from their own 18. And Neu ended the drive again, this time with a 17 yard scoring pass to Joel Sweeney, with Josh Albrecht's kick tying the score at 7-7 with 14:10 left in the second.
Whitewater's next drive was stalled by three penalties.
Neu and Timm hooked up again, in a negative way for the Blugolds, midway through the second quarter as Timm picked up his WIAC leading sixth interception, making the pick at the EC 24 and returning it to the 9. Three plays later Blanchard had his second TD toss of the game, for five yards to Cory Robinson with 7:01 on the clock. Kindler's kick gave the lead back to Whitewater, 14-7.
The Blugold offense again mounted a drive, starting from their 31 and advancing to the WW 26. Halted by a sack, an incompletion and a Neu scramble to avoid a sack that resulted in no gain, Albrecht came on for a field goal attempt. Timm, EC's defensive nemesis, blocked the kick to retain the Whitewater lead at 14-7 as the teams went into the locker room.
Steve Morris took the Eau Claire second half kickoff 65 yards, Whitewater's longest kick return of the season, to the Blugold 11, and a penalty on the play moved the ball to the five. Two Coppage runs got the ball into the end zone, and Kindler's PAT at 14:11 put UW-W up 21-7.
It took just 1:15 for the Blugolds to bounce back, covering 63 yards in three plays, scoring on a Neu to David Goodman pass that covered 49 yards. Albrecht's kick cut the Whitewater lead to 21-14. The points were the first given up by the Warhawk defense in the second half since Stout scored in the third quarter October 14.
Whitewater's next drive stalled at the EC 35, but Kindler came on for Kris Rosholt and punted a ball that was downed at the one yard line.
Facing a fourth and one, EC dropped back to punt, but the snap sailed over the punter's head for a Warhawk safety, making it 23-14 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
Eau Claire's offense again moved the ball, advancing from their 20 to the WW 41. Looking at fourth and one, the Blugolds' fake punt attempt was stopped. It took just four plays for the Warhawks to capitalize, Blanchard hooking up with Tyler Huber for the 32 yard score with 14:51 left in the game. Kindler made it 30-14.
UW-W increased the margin to 37-14 with a 78 yard, eight play drive that took 4:54 and ended with Blanchard's fourth TD toss of the day, to the fourth different receiver, this time a throw and catch of three yards to fullback Bernie Tamsett.
Neu and the Blugolds came back again, covering 79 yards in just four plays and 1:19 off the clock. Neu and Austin Goetsch connected on two long pass plays, the first for 43 yards and the next play for 35. Joel Sweeney went the final yard for the score, and Neu and Mike O'Connell teamed up on the conversion to cut the margin to 37-22 with 6:59 left in the game.
Whitewater missed a field goal on its last possession, and Eau Claire's last gasp ended with a fumble that Whitewater recovered.
Whitewater had 393 yards of offense, 298 on the ground. Eau Claire totaled 399 yards, 330 of those coming via passes. Whitewater controlled the ball 33:57, and EC led in first downs, 18-16. The (more than) equalizer, a plus three in turnovers for the Warhawks.
Blanchard may not have passed for big yards, but he demonstrated why he is the passing efficiency leader in the WIAC, hitting 10-15 for 95 yards and the four touchdowns. The offensive line led Coppage to 236 yards on 36 carries, the seventh 200+ game of his career. Timm added three solo tackles to his two picks and blocked kick.
Neu went 25-33, with the two TD's and two interceptions. Goetsch was on the receiving end of 11 of those for 177 yards, the most yards any receiver has had against UW-W this season. Defensive back Chad Samuelson led both teams with 11 tackles.
UW-W is 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the WIAC. The Warhawks will close the regular season November 12, hosting UW-La Crosse at 1:00 in Perkins Stadium. With the win UW-W is assured of a berth in the NCAA III playoffs that will begin November 19. Tickets for home games are sold at the University Center ticket office on the main campus mall Monday-Friday during normal business hours, and are available at the stadium on game day. Call 262-472-222 for ticket information.
UW-EC is 4-5 on the season, 2-4 in the league.