Defense sparks Warhawks' third straight national title
In a departure from the usual plotline of offensive fireworks, the defenses were the stars as yards and points were hard to come by for both teams.
Whitewater’s only touchdown came on a one-play, one-yard drive when Levell Coppage stepped through the offensive line untouched. The play was set up by a sack and strip of Purple Raider quarterback Matt Piloto by Loussaint Minett. Cole Klotz scooped the ball but lost his footing and fell a yard short of the endzone.
“It was the easiest TD of my life,” Coppage said.
Of the Warhawks 210 yards, that was the only easy one of the game, said Coppage, who found the running harder than usual. The senior running back had 98 yards on 32 carries for a 2.9 yard average, half of his 5.8 yards per carry this season.
“It was hard, but I won’t ever get frustrated with a win,” Coppage said. “I’m not banging my head against a wall now.”
The Raider defense saw Coppage rush for 299 yards a year ago, so they had reason to key on him. For the first time in three seasons, Coppage was not the game’s most outstanding player.
That honor went to Minett, a sophomore from Whitewater, who was a force on the defensive line. While Minett had only three tackles, he led a defensive line that controlled the line of scrimmage and shut out the Raiders through three quarters. Minett applied pressure on Piloto time and again, causing him to rush throws that led to two interceptions.
“I just keep my motor running,” Minett said. “I want to go hard every play.” When the Warhawks needed a defensive stop on Mount Union’s final drive, Minett pressured Piloto on a fourth-and-10 play that forced the passer to dump the ball to Chris Denton just three yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Warhawks linebacker Chris Perdergrass was covering Denton and made the tackle to secure the win.
A field goal by Eric Kindler was the only score of the first half. Shutting out the potent Mount Union offense came as a bit of a surprise for Warhawks coach Lance Leipold, but he said he nkew his team was playing strong defense and expected that trend to continue.
“Before the game people were saying it would be won by the first team to 30. I didn’t really think that would be the case because these defenses are very good,” Leipold said.
And with the Raider defense frustrating the UWW offense, a change in momentum could be trouble.
“With them, I’m never comfortable with any lead. They have too much explosiveness, too much experience,” Leipold said. “I’m never comfortable until the fourth quarter clock is all zeroes.”
After the teams swapped field goals in the fourth quarter, Mount Union’s offense finally came to life for an eight-play, 72-yard drive that culminated in a Piloto touchdown pass to A.J. Claycomb, but the Warhawks did not allow another threat to develop.
WHITEWATER 13, MOUNT UNION 10 MU W First downs 16 15 Rushes-yards 27-49 45-113 Passing 189 97 Comp-Att-Int 22-39-2 9-13-1 Return Yards 77 54 Punts-Avg. 4-35.0 6-39.2 Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0 Penalties-Yards 2-30 4-48 Time of Possession25.41 34.19 SCORING SUMMARY
Mount Union 0 0 0 10—10 UW-Whitewater 0 3 7 3—13
W—Eric Kindler, field goal, 44, 11:19.
W—Levell Coppage, 1 run (Kindler kick), 4:02.
MU—Tyler Almeida, field goal, 19, 11:23. W—Kindler, field goal, 30, 5:34. MU—A.J. Claycomb, 8 pass from Matt Piloto (Almeida kick), 3:20.
RUSHING—Mount Union: Murray 22-64, Seaman 1-8, Alwardt 1-8, Piloto 3-minus 26. Whitewater—Coppage 32-91, Huber 1-12, Blanchard 10-12. PASSING—Mount Union: Piloto 21-38-2-177, Seaman 1-1-0-12. Whitewater—Blanchard 9-13-1-97. RECEIVING—Mount Union: Collins 9-68, Denton 4-43, Brown 4-42, Claycomb 4-25, Murray 1-11. Whitewater—Huber 4-35, Menzel 1-16, Howard 1-15, Coppage 1-14, Ford 1-9, Morris 1-8. Attendance—3,784.