Football: Moore powers ‘Hawks to 1-0 start

 

By Kevin Cunningham

In front of a crowd of 4,282 people, the UW-Whitewater football team opened the 2013 season at Perkins Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7 with a 17-7 win over the Washington University-Saint Louis Bears.

The 10-point win wasn’t as comfortable as the score may indicate for the Warhawks, but a 17-point fourth quarter spoke volumes to head coach Lance Leipold about his team.

“It wasn’t overly pretty, but we had a lot of guys out there playing their first games,” Leipold said. “I’m very proud of this team. We found a way to make plays when we needed to. I have no question about anybody’s effort level today.”

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Wide receiver Jake Kumerow

It didn’t take long for the ’Hawks to find themselves trailing in their first game of the season. Bears senior quarterback Eric Daginella found wide receiver Will Smith for a 29-yard touchdown pass not even four minutes into the game.

From that point on, neither team found any offensive momentum, and the first half ended with the Bears leading the ’Hawks, 7-0. It was the first time since Oct. 20, 2012, against UW-Oshkosh that the team was held scoreless in a half at home.

The ’Hawks compiled a net of 33 yards on 19 carries in the first half, but junior running back Ryan Givens totaled 51 yards on eight carries.

Junior quarterback Matt Behrendt threw for 82 yards during the first half, completing seven of 11 passing attempts while getting sacked twice. Junior wide receiver Jake Kumerow said a simple message was conveyed around the team during halftime after a lackluster first half performance.

“There was not much to say other than, ‘You know what guys? We’re not taking this loss.’” Kumerow said.

The third quarter proved to be much of the same for the ’Hawks, as offensively, zero points were scored. Defensively, the team continued its dominance, only allowing 21 passing yards and two first downs in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the tide started to change for the ’Hawks. The defense stifled the Bears’ offense, allowing zero first downs the entire quarter. After numerous opportunities for the ’Hawks’ offense to get going, the running game started to shine as the offensive line began opening up holes.

Despite only carrying the ball two times last season, sophomore running back Dennis Moore provided the spark for the ’Hawks’ offense. Moore carried the ball 12 times in the fourth quarter, totaling 80 yards and scoring a touchdown.

Moore was happy to be a big part of the team’s victory but was quick to shine the light on the five men blocking for him up front.

“It was a great experience,” Moore said. “The whole line really stepped up, and the holes were there. I’m just glad I got the opportunity. After a few carries, you just get into a rhythm. The line was hyped up and we were rolling.”

With 9:19 remaining, the ’Hawks got within the Bears’ 30-yard line for the first time all game and elected to attempt a 32-yard field goal on fourth-and-two. Senior kicker Eric Kindler made the kick, which put the team on the scoreboard for the first time of the season.

After a kick-catching interference penalty by the Bears after their ensuing possession, the ’Hawks took over at the opponent’s 30-yard line. One play later, Behrendt found Kumerow wide open in the end zone on a play action pass.

After the next ’Hawks possession, Kindler was forced to punt, but a fumble forced by sophomore linebacker Justin Dischler gave the team the ball back with 3:20 remaining in the game and a 10-7 lead.

Once again, the team only needed one play to score. This time, it was Moore running 28 yards for the final score of the game. His 81 yards on the day totaled more than the amount of yards he gained on the ground during the entire 2012 season.

Senior linebacker Kyle Wismer, who earned 2012 First Team All-WIAC as a junior, said the team’s defense played great.

“We finished strong,” Wismer said. “We let up the first touchdown on that first drive, but after that, they had one big play. We kept getting three and outs, and we kept our composure. We did what we were supposed to do.”

Despite Behrendt only completing 14 passes for 158 yards on the day, Leipold said he was proud of how his quarterback stayed strong mentally.

“There were probably a few times [Behrendt] got frustrated,” Leipold said. “But he got through it. I thought he handled things well and really led our offense. He may have gotten frustrated, but he never got flustered to the point where he couldn’t make good decisions. He made the big throw when we needed him to.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Wismer led the ’Hawks with seven total tackles and junior cornerback Brady Grayvold had the team’s only interception in the 17-7 victory.

The ’Hawks have a bye week Sept. 14, but play again on Saturday, Sept. 21 against the Buffalo State College Bengals in Buffalo, N.Y. The Bengals defeated the ’Hawks last year, 7-6, in Whitewater, which snapped the team’s 46-game win streak.

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