Leipold reaches milestone

 

Oct. 22, 2014 By Justin St. Peter

“Powered by Tradition” is the slogan followed by most athletic teams at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. For the Warhawks football team, the tradition seems to be winning.

Head coach Lance Leipold reached a milestone Oct. 18 after the ’Hawks notched a 52-3 win against the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds.

The victory marked Leipold’s 100th career win in just 106 games, making the five-time Division-III Coach of the Year the fastest coach in NCAA history to accomplish it.

Gil Dobie, Hall of Fame coach at Cornell College, held the previous all-division record, reaching 100 wins in 108 games in 1921.

Leipold’s seven-season .943 winning percentage leads all active NCAA D-II and III coaches, and also boasts a 29-1 playoff record, good for a .967 winning percentage.

A feat this historic would have the grounds to publicize the record-breaking achievement, but assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Brian Borland made the announcement to the team, as Leipold did not intend to talk about it.

“It’s a win during the season, and what it can’t be is a distraction,” Leipold said. “It’s about the team, and these are team victories. It’s about attracting excellent coaches and our players playing at a high level.”

As for the team, Leipold said the players had no knowledge of the upcoming milestone until three days before the game.

“He’s so humble,” senior quarterback Matt Behrendt said of Leipold. “We knew he wasn’t going to say anything. He just takes advantage of what he has and does a great job. We’re so proud of him.”

The first half of Saturday’s contest seemed to be a struggle for the ’Hawks’ offense, as the Blugolds led the first two quarters with 165 total yards, compared to the ’Hawks’ 130, as well as time of possession and first downs.

On the other side of the ball, the ’Hawks’ defense forced four turovers, beginning with the very first play from the line of scrimmage.

Sophomore defensive lineman John Flood forced and recovered a fumble to set up a 26-yard field goal by freshman kicker Will Meyer just 36 seconds into the game.

On the Blugolds ensuing drive, freshman linebacker Kyle Schiedemeyer forced their second fumble in two minutes, but the ’Hawks’ offense was unable to take advantage and was forced to punt.

UW-Eau Claire lost the ball for the third time in three drives, this time to senior defensive  back Zach Nellis as he forced a fumble and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown.

The score gave the ’Hawks a 10-point advantage, although the offense had barely seen the field.

“We just couldn’t get in rhythm,” Leipold said. “Other than the turnovers, we were probably outplayed in the first half even though we had the lead.”

The game’s tempo changed drastically in the second half, as the ’Hawks’ offense exploded with 21 points in the third quarter and seven in the fourth, while their defense allowed just 30 yards.

The ’Hawks scored on all three of their possessions in the third quarter, and Schiedemeyer picked off Blugold quarterback Joel Newman for a 30-yard touchdown to end the quarter.

Freshman running back Dom Garza added a final touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, marking his first score of the season.

Eight different players contributed to the 49-point victory, and despite the slow start to Saturday’s contest, the ’Hawks racked up 403 offensive yards, including 273 in the second half.

“We got the ball coming out the second half, and we started making some things happen,” Leipold said. “It was an excellent test for us under the circumstances of being on the road multiple weeks and playing a team that hasn’t had success, but then all of a sudden starts doing some good things. I’m really proud of the way we responded.”

Behrendt, who threw for 194 yards against the winless Blugolds, leads the WIAC and ranks third in the nation in completion percentage with 75.7 percent. Senior wide receiver Jake Kumerow posted 61 yards and a touchdown in five catches, and leads the WIAC in receiving touchdowns with eight, and scoring, averaging 9.6 points per game.

The ’Hawks’ defense was led by Flood and freshman defensive lineman Trevor Boyle, each tallying seven tackles.

“The defense played really well,” Leipold said. “I know it helped build confidence in our defense to only give up three [points]. It really says a lot about how they’ve been playing.”

With the win, the ’Hawks’ improve to 6-0 on the season, maintain their No. 1 ranking according to d3football.com and the American Football Coaches Association.

They also extend their win streak to 23 games, which is the second-longest active streak in all divisions of the NCAA.

The ’Hawks return to Perkins Stadium for the first time in three weeks for the 2014 Homecoming Game against UW-Oshkosh at 1 p.m. Oct. 25.

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