‘Hawks run away from opponents

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‘Hawks run away from opponents

Sophomore Jarrod Ware had 21 carries for 169 yards and a touchdown. Photo by Kim Gilliland

Sophomore Jarrod Ware had 21 carries for 169 yards and a touchdown. Photo by Kim Gilliland

Sophomore Jarrod Ware had 21 carries for 169 yards and a touchdown. Photo by Kim Gilliland

Sophomore Jarrod Ware had 21 carries for 169 yards and a touchdown. Photo by Kim Gilliland

Justin St. Peter, Sports Editor

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By Justin St. Peter

Sept. 14, 2016

When the No. 2 overall football team in the nation trailed 13-10 in week two of the regular season, with the opponent threatening for more, the UW-Whitewater Warhawks defense stepped up.

Belhaven University (Mississippi) had the ball with a first and goal at the one-yard line and were stuffed twice. On third down, senior defensive back, Colin Buck, forced a fumble and the Warhawks recovered. Belhaven would only score field goal following that play, while the ’Hawks scored 52 unanswered points to win 59-13 on Sept. 10 at home.

The game started sloppy for the Warhawks offense, as they turned the ball over four times in the first half. The ’Hawks then outscored Belhaven 42-0 in the second half, but head coach Kevin Bullis insisted he didn’t give a big halftime speech to his team.

“I didn’t give any big ‘rah rah’ speech, no, it was just, we know our assignments, we know the standard of play we have,” Bullis said. “We know have a half to prove it, and I think that’s what we did. And I think that is the sign of a good team, a mature team.”

The game was the first for starting senior quarterback, Chris Nelson, who missed the first contest of the year with an injury. Nelson went 9-16 for 127 yards but threw two interceptions and fumbled twice.

After leading the ’Hawks to 12-2 record, throwing 20 touchdowns to just four interceptions last year, Nelson had half of his interceptions from last year in the first half.

“Chris is an amazing competitor, but sometimes he puts a little too much pressure on himself and gets too jacked up,” Bullis said. “But credit to him, because he was mature enough to calm himself and have the confidence to keep going through it, to know that he’s had plenty more great games here than bad games.”

Nelson led the ’Hawks down the field on scoring drives twice in the second half, before earning a break once the game was out of reach in the fourth quarter.

“We weren’t playing how we wanted to play,” sophomore running back Drew Patterson said. “We had to get off the line and then we moved the ball.”

Patterson ran the ball 26 times for 227 yards and rushed for three touchdowns for the second game in a row. After losing All-American tailback Jordan Ratliffe to graduation, the ’Hawks ‘pound the rock’ mentality was on full display with the combination of Patterson and fellow sophomore running back Jarrod Ware’s 21 carries for 169 yards and a touchdown.

As a team, the Warhawks rushed for 476 yards, the most in a decade. The 673 total yards posted by the offense were the most since a win against UW-Platteville in 2005.

“We knew we could get what we wanted,” Patterson said. “We just had far too many mistakes.”

The defense was just as crucial, holding Belhaven to 13 points and forcing eight turnovers in the rout. Buck, who forced the crucial fumble, also ran an interception back 79 yards in the fourth quarter for a touchdown.

Belhaven’s quarterback, Hunter McEachern, threw for 454 yards, but threw six interceptions and had the goal-line fumble.

For the ’Hawks, it was the second straight week of stifling the opponent’s offensive attack after beating the College of New Jersey Lions 51-3 in the season opener at Perkins Stadium on Sept. 3.

“We knew they were going to try running a lot, so our scheme worked out well for us,” senior defensive tackle Brandon Tamsett told the Daily Union. “We clicked and everything came together.”

Tamsett, a preseason All-American, led the defense with five tackles in the opener, which included a tackle for loss.

The ’Hawks led 14-0 early before conceding a field goal in the second quarter. Following that, the ’Hawks rallied for four touchdowns in the quarter, giving most the starting offense and defense the rest of the day off.

“It’s good to know that our freshmen are stepping up and learning to play and fitting the role as future Warhawks,” Tamsett said, as the freshmen tacked on to the lead and did not allow a point in the second half.

The Warhawks toughest stretch of the schedule begins Sept. 24 with a home contest against Morningside College, a NAIA Division II powerhouse who the ’Hawks beat on the road last year in a 33-30 game on the road.

The Morningside game is followed by the WIAC opener against UW-Platteville on Oct. 1, on the road, before facing the defending WIAC champion UW-Oshkosh Titans on Oct. 8. The Titans were the only team to defeat the ’Hawks in the regular season last year before UW-W enacted revenge with a postseason victory on the road.

After facing pass-heavy Belhaven University and run-heavy College of New Jersey, Bullis has his work cut out for him to make it through the tough games ahead, but says he is excited about it.

“This game and the New Jersey game really gave us two ends of the spectrum, both passing and running, and now we will face balanced attacks,” Bullis said. “Morningside will give us great preparation for conference play, they are very well coached and talented. And if we eliminate those big errors, I think we know what we can do.”

The Warhawks entered the season ranked No. 3 in the nation before moving up to number two following the 51-3 drubbing handed out in week one. For the Warhawks to be No. 1 in the nation, like many have predicted with a Stagg Bowl victory in December, this upcoming three week stretch of games will have a large impact.