UW-Whitewater Advances to National Championship Game
BELTON, TX -- This isn't a formula UW-Whitewater would like to continue or anyone would want to copy, but the result is what counts. For the second week in a row in the NCAA III playoffs UW-W fell behind, then came back to win, this time with a 16-15 win over the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in a semifinal game in Belton, Texas to advance to the Division III championship game, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. UW-W, 14-0, will meet the University of Mount Union, 14-0, in Salem, Virginia Friday, December 14 at 7:00 Eastern.
Mary-Hardin-Baylor took Whitewater's punt at their 32 to start their first possession. The Crusaders drove to the Whitewater 10, when a false start penalty put them back five and set up a third and nine. After gaining two yards on a rush Chad Peevey's 30 yard field goal gave UMHB a 3-0 lead with 6:57 left in the first quarter.
Whitewater's second drive ended at its 45 with a sack, and after a short punt into the wind UMHB took over at its own 43 yard line. UW-W made the stop, and got the ball back at their 12 after fair catching a punt. On Whitewater's first play a high snap went through the hands of Steve Morris (Racine /Horlick), who was back to receive the snap, and the ball went into the end zone where Baylor Mullins tackled Morris for the safety to put UMHB in front 5-0 with 2:47 left in the first quarter.
With UW-W kicking the ball away again, and into the wind, Mary Hardin Baylor had good field position again, their own 48. Facing second and eight at the Whitewater 20, Warhawk Brady Grayvold (Norway, MI/Norway) picked off Zach Anderson's pass at the 13, Grayvold's team best eighth interception, tying his for first place, with five others, in the UW-W record book.
The Warhawk offense got some traction after the exchange, moving from the 13 to the 45. On a first and 10 at the 45 the Crusaders' Andy McAtter forced a fumble that Michael Johnson recovered at the Whitewater 45.
Midway through the second quarter the Crusaders offense began at their 30. They pushed the ball, almost literally using eight runs on nine plays in the drive, ending with Elijah Hudson's twenty-seventh rushing touchdown of the season from ten yards out with 5:47 remaining in the half and UMHB in front 12-0. It was just the fifth rushing touchdown given up by UW-W this season. To this point Hudson had 79 yards rushing, more than UW-W had given up to any back in a game this season.
Whitewater's offense responded with its longest drive of the half. Starting at their 30, the Warhawks covered 70 yards in eight plays. Six plays were rushes, two passes. Facing a third and four at the Crusader 45, Matt Behrendt (Westchester, IL/Nazareth Academy) hit Jake Kumerow (Bartlett, IL/South Elgin), the first catch of the day for Whitewater's leading receiver, and Kumerow took it down to the 15. Jordan Ratliffe (Milwaukee/Milwaukee Vincent) ran the last three yards, and Eric Kindler (Germantown/Germantown)'s kick cut Mary Hardin-Baylor's lead to 12-7 with 2:05 on the clock.
After a defensive stop, Justin Howard (West Bend/Homestead)'s 34 yard punt return set up the offense at the Crusader 35. After three plays advanced the ball to the 26 and one second left in the half, Eric Kindler (Germantown/Germantown)'s 42 yard field goal attempt went wide left.
UMHB totaled 182 yards in the half, 132 of those on the ground with Hudson accounting for 79. Whitewater had 132 yards of offense, 102 passing. Ratliffe carried the ball 12 times for 48 yards, 38 of those coming in the second quarter. Behrendt went 11-17, with four of those caught by Tyler Huber (North Prairie/Mukwonago). Zach Anderson completed 4-5 for 28 yards.
Mary Hardin-Baylor opened the second half with the ball, but the Warhawk defense forced a three and out, and the UW-W offense took over on its 40. Three times in the drive that followed the Warhawks converted on third downs. Facing a third and five at the UMHB 43, Behrendt scrambled for nine yards. Later, with third and four at the 28, Behrendt found Logan Solano (Dousman/Kettle Moraine) for twelve yards. Behrendt also hit Howard with a pass to the right sideline when it was third and 6 at the 12. On the next play Ratliffe ran it in for the score, giving Whitewater its first lead of the day, 13-12, with 6:57 remaining in the third quarter. UW-W attempted a pass for a two point conversion but failed. The Whitewater score marked the first time this season that Mary Hardin-Baylor had trailed after the first quarter.
Again, the Warhawk defense stopped UMHB after just three plays, turning the ball over to the offense at the Whitewater 33. Ten plays, and over four minutes, later with the ball on the Cru 14, Eric Kindler (Germantown/Germantown) came on to kick a 31 yard field goal to up the Warhawk lead to 16-12 with 0:48 on the clock in the third quarter.
Mary Hardin-Baylor came back to move the ball from its 16 to the Whitewater 42, but the Warhawk defense short-circuited the drive. Anderson's pass was caught by a Crusader receiver, but UW-W defensive back Marcus McLin (Delavan/Delavan-Darien) hit the receiver and popped the ball into the air where it was picked off by fellow DB Ryan Winske (Omro/Omro) at the Whitewater 28.
With Whitewater pinned at the 11 by a punt, the Crusader defense stopped UW-W on three plays, and the ensuing punt was returned to the Whitewater 20. The Cru moved the ball to the Whitewater three with five runs up the middle, with a false start penalty included. On third and three, at the three, Anderson's pass was dropped by a wide open receiver in the right side of the end zone. The Cru elected to try a field goal, and Peevey put it through from 21 yards out to pull UMHB within 16-15 with 3:29 left in the game.
The Whitewater offense came onto the field with 3:25 left. UW-W's drive to eat up the clock was keyed by a Behrendt hitting an 18 yard pass to Derric Junakin (Cudahy/Cudahy) that enabled the Warhawks to take the clock down to eight seconds. Kindler's punt rolled out at the MHB 36 with one second left. A wild, unsuccessful multi-lateral play ended play.
UW-W limited UMHB to 59 yards in the second half. For the game the Warhawks totaled 294 yards to 241 for Mary Hardin-Baylor. UW-W had 97 yards rushing, 197 passing. Mary Hardin-Baylor compiled 188 on the ground and 53 in the air. Whitewater was not penalized in the game, a first this season. Ratliffe carried the ball 28 times for 100 yards, the rest of the team totaled minus three yards rushing. Behrendt completed 21-29, eight to Justin Howard (West Bend/Homestead). Derric Junakin (Cudahy/Cudahy) caught a career high four passes. Elijah Hudson led the Crusaders with 106 yards on 19 carries, the first 100 yard rusher the Warhawks have allowed this season. Zach Anderson went 6-10 for 47 yards with the two interceptions, and Kamray Runnels caught three passes for UMHB.
The loss ended a sixteen game home field win streak for UMHB.
Last week in a playoff quarterfinal game UW-W fell behind 17-0, then scored the final 28 points of the game to defeat Linfield College.
The game in Belton marked the third time the teams have met in NCAA III playoff action, all in the semifinals. In 2007 Whitewater won 16-7, and in 2008 the Warhawks won 39-13. Whitewater also won the two regular season meetings, 7-3 in 2006 and 41-14 in 2007.
The University of Mount Union edged North Central College 41-40, scoring a touchdown with 1:07 left to earn another trip to Salem. This will mark the eighth time in nine years that the two teams will meet for the Division III championship. Whitewater has won four of the previous seven, earning titles in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
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