Friends on and off the gridiron

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Friends on and off the gridiron

Kimberly Wethal photo

Kimberly Wethal photo

Kimberly Wethal photo

Kimberly Wethal photo

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Oct. 8, 2014 By Justin St. Peter

‘Matt Behrendt throws and it is caught by Jake Kumerow!’ ‘Matt Behrendt throws and it is caught, once again, by Jake Kumerow!’

Whenever the UW-Whitewater Warhawks are playing, get used to announcers saying that over and over again. The senior duo is a huge part of the reason why the Warhawks are currently ranked No. 1 overall in the latest NCAA.com poll and favored to win back-to-back championships.

“I think their body of work speaks for themselves,” head coach Lance Leipold said. “They can hold their own in any conversation with people that have played here in the past.”

Behrendt and Kumerow are on pace to have even better numbers than last year’s championship run. For opposing defenses, that is a scary thought.

Berhrendt took over at halftime for senior starting quarterback Lee Brekke in the UW-Oshkosh game on October 2012 and went 18-31 for 271 yards and two touchdowns. He would start two more games that year to finish with a season total of 67-113 for 775 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Coming into last year, Behrendt’s play skyrocketed to the point where he was in the discussion of being one of the top D-3 quarterbacks. He completed 302 of his 460 attempts for 3290 yards, 40 touchdowns and only threw one interception.

“His arm strength is a huge asset,” offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said. “He is able to throw the ball very hard. I think his maturity as a football player has grown immensely.”

On the way to getting their fifth national championship last year, the ’Hawks faced a grueling schedule.

“It was an amazing year,” Behrendt said. “It is unreal how we came together and proved everybody wrong. To beat the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 [ranked] teams to win the national championship, it was a great feeling.”

Behrendt owes a large part of his success to Kumerow. He was a redshirt freshman in Illinois during the 2011 season, playing in seven games. Kumerow caught three passes for 15 yards on the season.

That offseason, his world was flipped upside down.

“They [Illinois] cleared house,” Kumerow said. “The head coach, the assistant coach, the training staff, everyone was gone. I hadn’t gotten a scholarship yet. With the new staff coming in, it was tough to make my way back up there being a walk-on.”

Kumerow had heard of UW-Whitewater and transferred here. In 2012, he caught 15 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

In the final game of the 2012 season, Behrendt threw his final touchdown of the year to Kumerow. It was the first of many touchdown connections between the two. Last year, the 6’4” receiver was Behrendt’s favorite target, catching 77 passes for 1,331 yards. He averaged 88.7 yards a game and had a videogame-like 19 touchdown catches. The 1,331 yards and 19 touchdowns were both UW-Whitewater single season records.

“[For Kumerow] It’s a combination of speed and size first which makes it very difficult for them to cover in a zone matchup or a man on man matchup,” Kotelnicki said. “His growth and understanding on how to create separation versus DB’s [defensive backs] has really grown a lot.”

Combing last year’s season with his physical tools earned Kumerow a spot on the Reese’s Senior Bowl 2015 Watch List. He was the lone D-3 athlete to be selected to the list.

The senior duo are also friends and roommates off the field.

“We became buddies on the field, and that helped us become buddies off the field,” Kumerow said. “It’s nice to have a really good quarterback like Matt out there.”

The roommates stayed here all summer, working on further building their bond on and off the field.

“Having him [Behrendt] be here all summer with me really helped me out a lot coming into the season because we got a lot of timing things down,” Kumerow said.

The offseason work has shown as Behrendt is 66-86 for 843 yards on the season. He has thrown 10 touchdowns, seven of them to Kumerow who has 29 catches for 474 yards.

“Our offense and defense have been on fire so far,” Behrendt said. “I’m so proud of everybody.”

The ’Hawks will have six straight WIAC games to end the regular season before playoffs.

The health and human performance majors are looking to make it a great last year of college football.

“I just love playing ball,” Kumerow said. “My goal is to win the conference championship. I look forward to everything [about football]. I have to soak it in. It’s my last year.”