The No. 5 ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team posted more than 500 yards of total offense for the fourth time in its last five games and forced three turnovers Saturday in a 54-21 triumph over St. Norbert in the second round of the NCAA Division III Championship at Perkins Stadium.
The Warhawks (11-0), who own the second-longest active winning streak in Division III at 17 games, advance to next Saturday's quarterfinal, where they'll face No. 11 Bethel. The Royals advanced past No. 9 North Central (Ill.) with a 27-24 victory.
Sophomore Alex Peete and junior Ronny Ponick led UW-Whitewater's potent rushing attack, which piled up 397 yards on 55 carries, good for an average of 7.2 yards per rush. Peete totaled 158 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, and Ponick tallied 131 yards on 17 carries.
Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Wisniewski added six carries for 76 yards and one touchdown, and senior quarterback Cole Wilber passed for 84 yards and two scores.
Junior defensive back Nate Tranel led the defense with seven tackles and one interception, and senior defensive back Famus Hasty added two tackles and two interceptions, including a pick-six.
The two teams exchanged three-and-outs to start the game, but senior defensive back Bailey Breunig blocked the Green Knights' punt to give the Warhawks the ball at the St. Norbert 21-yard line.
Four plays later, Peete dashed in from one yard out to make it 7-0 with 10:53 on the clock.
UW-Whitewater struck again later in the first quarter. After a 24-yard run by Ponick pushed the Warhawks near midfield, Wisniewski carried 40 yards around the left side to make it 14-0 at the 1:10 mark.
The Green Knights (10-2) drew to within one possession with a touchdown three minutes into the second quarter, and UW-Whitewater responded with a 14-play, 82-yard drive capped by a 27-yard field goal by sophomore Wojciech Gasienica with 6:37 remaining in the period.
St. Norbert cut its deficit to 17-14 with another touchdown at the 3:30 mark, but the Warhawks responded again as senior wide receiver Mitchell Dess got a foot down in the back corner of the end zone on a throw from Wilber with five seconds to play in the half for a 24-14 advantage.
UW-Whitewater continued its momentum early in the second half as Tranel picked off Drew Rhodes on the third play of the Green Knights' opening drive. Two plays later, Peete raced 28 yards to the end zone to make it 31-14 with 13:15 to play in the quarter.
Following a St. Norbert punt, Gasienica made it a 20-point game with a 30-yard field goal with 4:17 remaining.
The Green Knights drew to within two possessions again early in the fourth quarter, but the Warhawks followed with 20 unanswered points.
Wilber hit sophomore wide receiver Derek Kumerow on a fade for an 18-yard touchdown, and on the first play of the ensuing drive, Hasty intercepted Rhodes and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown.
Hasty ended St. Norbert's next drive on an interception in the end zone, and sophomore quarterback Zach Oles hit junior wide receiver JT Parish for a 39-yard score to complete a 12-play, 80-yard drive with 2:25 to play.
Next Saturday's game against Bethel is the first-ever meeting between the Royals and Warhawks.