UW-Whitewater opens NCAA playoffs with rout
The Warhawks preyed on the Britons, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association champions, for five turnovers, which they turned into five touchdowns en route to a 59-0 victory.
Whitewater (11-0), the two-time defending national champs, advance to a second-round game against Franklin next Saturday. Albion, which made its first playoff appearance since 2005, finished 6-5 overall.
The Warhawks settled the issue, turning three straight turnovers in the first eight minutes into a 21-0 first-quarter lead. Interceptions by Noah Timm and Greg Arnold, and Chris Pendergast’s fumble recovery set up Warhawks’ first three scoring drives.
“It’s such a huge factor to be able to jump out to such a early lead and the way the field position was, I think it was tough for (Albion) to get untracked,” Whitewater coach Lance Leipold said. “We just took advantage of that and just kind of kept it rolling.’’
The only flaw in Whitewater’s shutout was a pair of blocked field-goal attempts.
The Warhawks gained 475 yards total offense to the Britons’ 246. The Warhawks held Albion’s 1,000-yard rusher Clinton Orr to 63 yards on 22 carries.
Whitewater quarterback Matt Blanchard completed 12 of 18 passes for 168 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Huber. Lee Brekke finished with two pass completions for 38 yards and a 25-yard touchdown pass to Zach Howard in the third quarter.
Senior running back Levell Coppage scored the first three touchdowns on runs of two yards each. With the windfall, Coppage increased his career touchdowns to a national-record 101.
Coppage gained 80 yards on 20 carries and sat out the second half. Coppage has a national-record 1,205 rushing attempts for 7,160 yards.
“I usually average about 25 carries a game,” said the 5-foot, 9-inch 190-pound Coppage. “My vision helps me a lot with the guys I see around me, and I always try to take on one guy at a time because I’m not that big. You just got to be smart about what you do with the ball.’’
Whitewater’s first-quarter scoring drives began at the Albion 11-, 13- and 15-yard lines.
“It’s easy to find the end zone when you work from a short field,” said Coppage, who had five carries on the three drives. “It’s probably the three easiest touchdowns we’ve had all season.’’
Eric Kindler added a 38-yard field goal as time expired in the first quarter to give Whitewater a 24-0 lead.
Jaren Borland took a blocked punt 56 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to give the Warhawks a 31-0 lead. The junior out of Fort Atkinson High School added a 54-yard touchdown fumble recovery in the third quarter to give Whitewater a 52-0 lead.
Byron Stanford scored on a 57-yard run for the Warhawks’ eighth and final touchdown.
Borland was thrilled with his heroics.
“It’s exciting,” Borland said. “It’s something you don’t expect to do and it’s probably going to be really hard to come by again.”
As Leipold lauded the achievements of Borland and other Warhawks, he threw up a caution.
“It’s win and move on,” Leipold said. “It’s was not a 10-0 team against a 6-4 team today. It was 0-0. Team records really don’t matter. It’s win and move on.’’