UW-Whitewater, 13-0, welcomes the University of Saint Thomas, 13-0, to Perkins Stadium in Whitewater, Wisconsin for a NCAA III playoff semifinal game that will kick off at 2:30.
These two teams met in the first round of the 1990 NCAA III playoffs, with Saint Thomas winning 24-23 at (then) Warhawk Stadium. The schools are much more familiar with each other on the diamond. UST and UW-W met three times last spring, Whitewater winning 7-6 in Florida and Saint Thomas winning 6-4 the next day. The teams also met in the NCAA III regional hosted by UW-W, with the Warhawks winning 3-2 on the first day on the way to advancing to the NCAA III World Series. The schools will meet again in the second game of the season for UW-W, March 8, 2012 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Past NCAA Appearances
UW-Whitewater returns to the postseason for the tenth time in program history, and seventh consecutive year, with an overall record of 31-6. UW-W is the two-time defending Division III champion. Three of Whitewater's playoff losses came in the championship game with the Warhawks finishing as the runners-up in 2005 and 2006 under head coach Bob Berezowitz and in 2008 under Lance Leipold. The Warhawks won the title under Leipold in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
St. Thomas is making its fourth NCAA appearance, with an 8-3 record in that span. The Tommies lost after beating UW-W in 1990, then went 2-1 in 2009 (beating Monmouth and Coe, loss to Linfield) and 2010 (beat Benedictine, Linfield, lost to Bethel).
In the Polls
UW-W is ranked number one in both the AFCA III poll and by D3football.com. Saint Thomas is fourth in the AFCA poll and third in the D3football.com rankings.
The Warhawks have the longest active winning streak in college football, 43 games. That is the fifth longest streak in NCAA football history, with number four on the list the University of Oklahoma's 47 game string under Bud Wilkinson (1953-57). The Warhawks have also built streaks of 18 in a row on the road, 25 in a row at Perkins Stadium, 21 consecutive non-conference games, 24 WIAC games, and 13 in a row in the NCAA III playoffs.
Whitewater's Lance Leipold has compiled a record of 69-3, including 34-1 in the WIAC, in his fifth year as head coach. Leipold has earned National Division III Coach of the Year honors three out of the four years and was named WIAC Coach of the Year the last three. Since his first season in 2008, St.Thomas head coach Glenn Caruso has led the Tommies to the third biggest turn-around in NCAA Division III football. Within two years the Tommies' ranking was brought from 206 to 4. Coach Caruso has an overall record of 43-6 at St. Thomas and has led the team to the NCAA III playoffs the last three years. In 2010, Caruso was voted AFCA Regional Coach of the Year and the MIAC Conference Coach of the Year.
St. Thomas Notes (13-0 overall, 8-0 MIAC)
Saint Thomas opened the NCAA playoffs with a 48-2 win over Saint Scholastica, followed by beating Monmouth College (IL) 38-10, and won their quarterfinal matchup with Saint John Fisher 45-10. All three games were hosted by UST.
If you're into the score comparison game, Saint Thomas defeated UW-River Falls 45-22 September 9 at River Falls, and Whitewater topped the Falcons 42-10 October 18 in River Falls.
The Tommies have the number one rushing defense in Division III, allowing 47.5 yards per game and just 1.6 per carry. Senior linebacker Tony Danna has 17 tackles for a loss this season for 53 yards,, accounting for more yardage himself than UST gives up as a team. Sophomore linebacker Tremayne Williams and junior cornerback Chinni Oji have ten tackles for a loss each. Tyler Maxwell of Augsburg rushed for 118 October 8, and Logan Becker of Gustavus Adolphus gained 102 yards October 29 -- the only times UST has given up 100 yards to an individual. No team has rushed for 200 yards, with the most 167 by Bethel College October 22.
But Saint Thomas doesn't just load up to stop the run, because they also rank third in D3 in total defense (206.1) and scoring defense (9.38).
The Tommie offense is similar to what Warhawk fans have seen all year, a run-pass balance that can go to four wide receivers or double tight ends. Senior QB Dakota Tracy averages 170.2 yards passing a game, completing 56.6% of his throws for 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Tracy isn't a stationary target, second on the team in rushing with 437 yards and a 4.6 per attempt average. Tracy's first option is senior wide receiver Fritz Waldvogel, a Gagliardi Trophy finalist. Waldvogel has 72 receptions for 13 touchdowns, and a 16.6 per catch average. He has a streak of 47 consecutive games with a reception. Senior tailback Colin Tobin has rushed for 1,584 yards, 121.8 per game and 5.7 per carry.
UW-Whitewater Notes (13-0 overall, 7-0 WIAC)
If you believe the stats then this should be a low scoring affair, with the Warhawk defense fifth in Division III, allowing 11.7 points per game. UW-W is +18 in turnovers. Senior linebacker Greg Arnold has been making up for the three-plus games he missed with an injury, leading the team with 61 tackles. His wing men, sophomores Kyle Wismer and Ryan Cortez have developed into the number two and three tacklers on the team. The linebacking crew is an example of a basic tenet of Warhawk football, that someone could go down at any moment and nothing replaces game experience. Sophomore linebackers Cole Klotz and junior Jaren Borland are both among UW-W's top ten in tackles.
Whitewater's offensive line, considered a question mark at the beginning of the year and hurt by the loss of Grant Poenitsch early in the season, has erased any doubts. Whitewater quarterbacks have been sacked just seven times this season, and both Matt Blanchard's completion percentage (69%) and Levell Coppage's rushing yardage (1,919) are exhibits A and B.
Coppage keeps finding new mountains to climb. His career total of 7,602 yards rushing is the third highest total in the history of NCAA football, not just Division III football, but any level. Only Mount Union's Nate Kmic (8,074, 2005-208) and Danny Woodhead of Chadron State (7,962, 2004-2007) are ahead of him.
Warhawk senior defensive back Jared Kiesow and senior punter were named Capitol One/College Sports Information Directors Division III Academic All-Americans this week. Kiesow is an elementary education major with a 3.89 GPA, and Rosholt is a physical education major with an emphasis in health education and special education and a 3.77 GPA.
Warhawk QB Matt Blanchard joins UST's Waldvogel in the final four for the Gagliardi Trophy. Blanchard has passed for 198.2 yards per game, completing 68.6%, with 22 TD's and three interceptions. Both will be at the Stagg Bowl next week, one of them with his team, the other compliments of Josten's and the Saint John's J Club.
Follow the Leaders
Passing: Matt Blanchard 197-287, .686, 198.15/game, 22 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Levell Coppage 1,919, 147.62/game, 6.0/att, 27 TD
Receiving: Tyler Huber 69-1,1100, 84.6/game, 15.94/att, 10 TD
Field Goals: Eric Kindler 18-26
Punting: Kris Rosholt 47-1772, 37.7, long 65
Defense: Linebacker Greg Arnold 61 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions;
linebacker Kyle Wismer 57 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 5 passes broken up.
University of St. Thomas
Passing: Dakota Tracy 249-141, .566, 170.2/game, 20 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Colin Tobin1614, 121.8/game, 5.7/att, 22 TD
Receiving: Fritz Waldvogel 72/1193, 91.8/game, 16.6/att, 13TD
Field Goals: Tim Albright 7-11
Punting: Garrett Maloney 31-1272, 41, long 59
Defense: Tony Danna 68 total tackles, 4 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, 5 passes
broken up; Chinni Oji 45.5 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 interception, and 9
passes broken up.
Offensive Line (5 players) averages 292 pounds
Defensive Line (4 players) averages 252 pounds
Offense, Class Breakdown: six seniors, five juniors
Defense, Class Breakdown: five seniors, three juniors, three sophomores
University of St. Thomas
Offensive Line (5 players) averages 287 pounds
Defensive Line (3 players) averages 250 pounds
Offense, Class Breakdown: five seniors, two juniors, three sophomores, and one freshman
Defense, Class Breakdown: four seniors, five juniors, and two sophomores
What's Coming Up
The winner of Saturday's game will advance to the Division III championship game, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, and will either play University of Mount Union or Wesley College. The Stagg Bowl will be held in Salem, Virginia Friday December 16.