Seven-time defending league winner, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater opened 2012 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play with a 27-26 win over UW-Platteville Saturday at Pioneer Stadium in Platteville. The win is UW-W's 25th in a row in WIAC play dating back to October 25, 2008. Saturday's game was the 18th time UW-Platteville and UW-Whitewater met to play for the Miner's Pick in the George Chryst Memorial Bowl. The memorial game is played in honor of George Chryst, UW-Platteville's head football coach from 1979-1992. The Warhawks have taken the Miner's Pick home to Perkins Stadium the past eight years.
Prior to Saturday's game the Pioneers had outscored their opponents 56-7 in the first quarter, and it didn't look good for UW-W after fifteen minutes of play. After a three and out on the Warhawks' first possession the Pioneers marched 78 yards in eight plays, scoring on a five yard touchdown pass from John Kelly to Trevor Whitehead. The extra point was good and the Pioneers went up 7-0.
After another three and out by the Warhawks, and a punt that landed in the end zone, Platteville took over at their own twenty yard line. The Pioneers struck quickly. On the second play of the drive Kelly threw a 78-yard pass to Aaron Loferski for a touchdown to put UW-Platteville up 13-0, and with the extra point, 14-0.
The Warhawks have not faced a fourteen point deficit since December 20, 2008 in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl when they found themselves down 14-0 to Mount Union halfway through the first quarter. Consequently, the Warhawks lost the game but went on to win 46 in a row over the course of the next three-plus years.
The Warhawks went three and out again on their next two possessions but Platteville was stymied offensively and carried the 14-0 lead into the second quarter.
After a UW-Platteville punt at the end of the first quarter UW-W began a drive at their own 33-yard line to start the second quarter. A pass by Lee Brekke (Sun Prairie/Sun Prairie) to Jake Kumerow (Elgin, IL/South), two rushes by Desmin Ward (Milwaukee/Hamilton), another completion to Aaron Samplawski (Horicon/Horicon), and one more rush by Ward and the Warhawk offense finally seemed to be clicking. But on the next play Ward fumbled and the Pioneers recovered at their own 32.
On the third play of Platteville's ensuing drive Mykaell Bratchett (Milwaukee/Hope) picked off back-up quarterback Bryce Corrigan at the UW-Whitewater 40-yard line. Ten plays later the Warhawks were forced to settle for an Eric Kindler (Germantown/Germantown) field goal to bring the score to 14-3.
The teams traded scoreless drives before Platteville took over at their own twelve after a 41-yard punt by Eric Kindler (Germantown/Germantown). On their second play of the drive Corrigan was picked off again, this time by Andrew Kiester, and the Warhawks found themselves knocking on the doorstep of the end zone at the Platteville six yard line.
Two plays later, with 1:41 remaining in the half, Brekke found Derric Junakin (Cudahy) in the end zone for his first touchdown of the season. Kindler added an extra point and the Warhawks found themselves within four, 14-10, heading into the locker room for halftime.
Platteville started the second half with the ball but was forced to punt after five plays. The Warhawks took over on their own 26 with an opportunity to go ahead for the first time in the game since the opening drive but six plays later Brekke was picked off by Tommy Magna who ran it into the end zone to extend the Platteville lead to 20-10. The Pioneers missed what turned out to be a crucial extra point before giving possession back to the Warhawks.
UW-W started their next drive on their own 24 with 10:34 remaining in the third quarter. The Warhawks marched 76 yards in seven plays to score a touchdown and shrink the Platteville lead to three after another Kindler extra point. Patterson rushed four times in the drive, including a 46-yard scamper and a two yard run for the touchdown.
UW-W stopped the Pioneers on their next drive and then used an Eric Kindler (Germantown/Germantown) 21-yard field goal two minutes into the fourth quarter to tie the game at twenty.
The Pioneers started at their own 17-yard line on their next drive with 12:56 remaining in the game. On third and ten, after two incomplete passes, Warhawk linebacker Cole Klotz (Elm Grove/New Berlin Eisenhower) intercepted a pass by Corrigan at the 20-yard line and returned it to the Pioneer 14. Four plays later Desmin Ward (Milwaukee/Hamilton) scored on a two-yard rush to give the Warhawks their first lead of the game. Kindler tacked on the extra point to make it 27-20 with 10:50 left in the game.
Each team went three out on their next possession and on the next drive the Pioneers covered 42 yards in five plays before coughing up the ball on the Whitewater 16. Ryan Wenkman (Wisconsin Dells/Wisconsin Dells) recovered the fumble with 4:56 remaining in the game. Things seemed to be creeping out of reach for the Pioneers, but the Warhawks were unable to sustain a drive to chew up time on the clock before punting the ball back to the home team.
With 2:35 remaining in the game, down seven, UW-Platteville used nine plays to break the plane of the end zone and bring the score to 27-26, still in favor of UW-W. Had the Pioneers not missed an extra point earlier in the game the score would have been tied. However, the Pioneers lined up to go for the two-point conversion, and the win, immediately after the score, but the Warhawks called a timeout. After the timeout the Pioneers lined up to kick the extra point to tie the game, but UW-W used their second timeout. The third time the Pioneers lined up they decided to go for the win. Corrigan lofted a pass to the back right corner of the end zone but Ryan Wenkman (Wisconsin Dells/Wisconsin Dells) broke up the play to preserve the win for UW-Whitewater.
The Warhawk defense slowed down the Platteville offense, which had been averaging over 500 yards in their first three games, and held them to 354 yards of total offense and just nine yards rushing. The Warhawks totaled 296 yards of offense, 112 in the air and 184 on the ground. Nick Patterson (Sussex/Sussex) was UW-W's leading rusher gaining 106 yards on twenty carries with one touchdown. Ward carried the ball 26 times for 92 yards and a touchdown. Lee Brekke (Sun Prairie/Sun Prairie) was 14-for-23 with one touchdown and one interception.
Defensively Ryan Wenkman (Wisconsin Dells/Wisconsin Dells) led the way with six tackles and one fumble recovery, but more importantly broke up the pass in the end zone on the two-point conversion at the end of the game that would have likely won the game for the Pioneers.
The Warhawks, ranked fourth in the most recent d3football.com poll and fifth in the latest American Football Coaches Association poll, improve to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the WIAC. The Pioneers, ranked 13th and 12th in the same polls, fall to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the WIAC.
UW-W will return home for their next game on October 6 against UW-River Falls. The game is slated to begin at 2:00 at Perkins Stadium on the campus of UW-Whitewater and will feature pregame festivities for Family Fest.