Warhawks still success

Jan. 27, 2016

Column by Andrea Sidlauskas

It’s both a blessing and a curse to be dominant, and the Warhawk football team has one of the most dominant programs in college football.

Prior to the 2015 season, the ’Hawks had appeared in the NCAA Division-III playoffs 10 times in the last 11 years, won six of the last eight national titles, and nine of the last 10 WIAC championships. So ending a collegiate football season with a 12-2 record, a No. 4 ranking in the D3Football.com and American Football Coaches Association polls, 15 All-WIAC accolades and seven All-America honors doesn’t seem too shabby.

So why is it that the ’Hawks failure to reach the Stagg Bowl (for the first time in three years), means the 2015 season is viewed as a disappointment?

Each team faces adversity, and the most-recent Warhawk squad was no different.  Following the loss of former head coach Lance Leipold to Division-I University of Buffalo and several key players to graduation, questions started swirling before the season even began.

The defensive secondary was relatively inexperienced, the receiving corps was without current member of the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad Jake Kumerow, and there was a young, first-time starter at quarterback.

As the season went on, the team also endured its fair share of injuries – including running back Dennis Moore, (who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2014) and All-American defensive lineman Zach Franz, along with starters such as Brent Campbell, Adam Korpella, and John Flood, to name a few.

Despite the hardships, first-year head coach Kevin Bullis’s team, which returned seven starters on each side of the ball, quickly proved doubters wrong, blowing out the first two opponents by a margin of 128-9 and defeating NAIA No. 1 Morningside College in come-from-behind fashion.

On Oct. 10, the ’Hawks suffered their first loss in almost three years against conference foe UW-Oshkosh, which ended a 36-game win streak, and fans literally lost their minds. They thought the world was coming to an end. But viewing the season as a whole, especially in comparison to other teams around Division-III, one loss is nothing but a blip in the schedule. 

So again, why does that one loss in an otherwise successful season generate such pessimism?

The ’Hawks are accustomed to winning. That’s not a secret, nor has it ever been. They boast a 137-8 record, good for a .945 winning percentage, over the past 10 seasons, so fans are accustomed to watching national titles fill the trophy case year after year. But fans can’t expect a team to win every single game. Such unrealistic expectations create unnecessary pressure for the players, coaches and staff (even if they deny it).

The bottom line is, if this were any other team, the world would keep turning. But since the ’Hawks have been so great for so long, they’re expected to be perfect. I’m sorry to break it to you, but perfection is unattainable. While they didn’t win a national title last year, they still had an extremely productive season – which is what fans seem to forget.

And although 17 seniors will not be returning to next year’s squad, 14 of the 22 starters from last year will be – including the quarterback/wide receiver duo of juniors Chris Nelson and Marcus Hudson and All-West Region linemen Spencer Shier, Austin Jones and Tony Koepnick.

The last time the ’Hawks failed to capture a national title was in 2012, and we all know what happened next: they went on to defeat every opponent for two straight years and added two more national championships to their already stocked trophy case. Following this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar situation is on the way.