Five reasons how the Warhawk football team won another WIAC title

Here are my top five reasons on how the UW-Whitewater football team captured its fifth straight conference championship.

Senior kicker Jeff Schebler set a new Division III scoring record this season and is approaching the NCAA All-Division points record. He currently has 409 career points and is just 25 points shy of breaking Louisville’s Art Carmody’s record of 433 points. He has helped the Warhawks win a fifth straight WIAC title. Photo by Tim Gumz.

1. Levell Coppage

There are many reasons the football team is heading back to the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year, but no one has been more instrumental than sophomore running back Levell Coppage.

He leads the WIAC in rushing yards and has scored a touchdown in every game – and often times it has been two or three.

With his speed and ability to constantly break tackles, Coppage broke the single-game rushing mark earlier this season and already has 22 touchdowns this season – one more than his total from last season after 13 games. He is also one touchdown away from tying the UW-Whitewater all-time record of 44 scores.

“I didn’t even know what to expect, honestly, when I came here,” Coppage said. “It would have been nice to get the record at home, but I’ll take it wherever I can get it. My main goal is to just stay hungry and focused.”

In last week’s blowout win, Coppage, who is averaging 6.8 yards per carry this season, had 209 yards on the ground thanks in large part to his 66-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter.

2. Ability to Convert

UW-Whitewater is averaging more than 40 points per game and has not been tested by any of its conference foes as it heads into its regular season finale at UW-La Crosse Saturday.

The offense has been lights out in large part because it converts third downs at a staggering rate.

On Senior Day last Saturday, the ’Hawks were a very efficient 8-of-11 on third down conversions.

Through nine games, the ’Hawks have converted on 56 percent of their tries, first in the WIAC. “We’re getting third and shorts,” Donovan said. “[It’s] great play calling and keeping it manageable.”

3. Team Defense

The ’Hawks defense has no individuals in the top 10 in tackles for a loss, has the second fewest interceptions and has no one in the top 15 in tackles in the WIAC.

But those individual stats mean nothing, because the ’Hawks are ranked No. 6 in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense in the entire country.

They are the only team in the conference who does not allow an opponent to rush for 100 yards and its experienced defensive line has given up only one rushing touchdown all season.

The unit has also not allowed any opponent to score in the first quarter, a prime reason it continues to jump all over teams.

“We don’t go into a game thinking we are going to blow this team out,” senior defensive back Troney Shumpert said. “We learned our lesson last year with Stevens Point. From there, our mentality is knowing what’s in front of us.”

4. Offensive Line

This is possibly the most overlooked part in why the ’Hawks are undefeated at this stage of the season.

Yes, they returned three starters from last season, but they did have to replace Mike Sherman and Rob Gilbreath, two experienced players, as well as tight end Nick Slupski. With only allowing three sacks all season and giving Donovan so much time to throw the ball, it’s safe to say the offensive line has done its part.

The line has also opened up some hefty holes for Coppage to simply walk to the end zone, which he did on Saturday. Donovan said earlier this season regarding his low sack total:

“That’s another credit to the o-line,” he said. “There’s always a pocket.”

5. Preparation

It’s the intangible force in why this team has been so successful once again. They simply come out and dominate from the get-go.

The players buy into head coach Lance Leipold’s one-game-at-a-time system. Players knew they were going to be the target, but the results are the same.

“Our coaches [will] be worried about going to La Crosse and getting a win and that’s what our players will be focused on,” Leipold said.

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