Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Football holds on, headed to quarterfinals

Karstan Koelblinger
Cole Yocum plays very strong defensively against Wheaton during the second round playoff matchup to help lead the Warhawks to a victory

The temperature was just above freezing but the offenses were white hot as No. 5 UW-Whitewater (11-1, 6-1 WIAC) defeated No. 10 Wheaton College (Illinois) (10-2, 8-1 CCIW) 49-42 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Perkins Stadium was witness to a hard-fought back-and-forth game yet again.

Wheaton was held to a punt on the opening drive, that punt was one of just three in the first half. The Warhawks were first to get a score on the board with a 56-yard touchdown run by Tamir Thomas on just their second snap of the game. Thomas finished the game with a blazing hot 224 yards on the ground off 28 carries. He was good for two touchdowns with his legs and another two via hauling in passes from quarterback Alec Ogden. Ogden finished the day with 239 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, not to mention one touchdown on the ground. 

The Wheaton Thunder and the Warhawks kept lighting up the scoreboard in the first half by trading blows. The Thunder defense got the best of the Warhawks when the game was tied at 14 as they put together a few stops, including a blocked field goal attempt near the end of the half. Wheaton was suffocating to the Warhawk offense late in the first half, allowing their offense to take the lead 28-14 headed into halftime.

Giovanni Weeks, one of the nation’s top runners, helped his Wheaton teammates by contributing a touchdown as well as over 120 yards rushing on the day. While he came up about 20 yards short of his season average rushing yardage, his threat was able to open up the passing game for Wheaton as they threw for over 400 yards.

“Whitewater is very stout defensively, breaking tackles today was probably a lot harder than it had been this whole year,” Wheaton’s runner back Giovanni Weeks said. “…We put up 42 points, that’s really good, you can’t ask for a lot more.”

Ogden and Warhawk offense celebrate a touchdown for the Warhawks on Saturday at Perkins Stadium (Karstan Koelblinger)

“Our O-line was dominating the line of scrimmage and Gio was making some great plays with the ball in his hands,” Wheaton quarterback Ben Thorson said. “I think having the Whitewater defense tighten up and pack the box a little more opened up the passing game, that’s what Gio has done all season.” 

During the halftime break the Warhawks made sure not to be distracted by the scoreboard.

“We just probably didn’t execute like we needed to in that first half, the coaches did a great job making some adjustments and cleaning some things up,” head coach Jace Rindahl said. “Obviously the players went out there and made the plays, they deserve the credit for sure.”

When they came back on the field the Whitewater offense and defense had made their adjustments and improved their execution to get right back into the game. An explosive 50-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Coates on just the fourth play of the half gave Whitewater the spark they needed to get the fire roaring.

Coates had a career day with 8 receptions for his personal best 169 yards and 2 touchdowns which matched his scoring receptions from last week’s playoff game. 

“Our connection has been kind of built throughout this whole year,” quarterback Alec Ogden said. “I trust Tommy more than a lot of dudes on this team, that’s not dissing anybody else but I’ve been around Tommy everyday, all day.”

Head coach, Jace Rindahl, coaches the Warhawks to a 49-42 win over Wheaton in the second round playoff game (Karstan Koelblinger)

The Warhawk offense kept on fanning the fire while their defense held their own by getting some big stops against Wheaton. The special teams unit was especially impactful as they forced a few bad punts that gave great field position to Ogden and the Whitewater offensive unit.

The Warhawks found themselves on top 35-28 early in the fourth quarter, but their lead was quickly wiped away by a Ben Bongo touchdown catch that gave the Thunder new life.

When it seemed as though Wheaton might get a massive stop at the goal line the Warhawks pulled through and got a go-ahead touchdown with just over seven minutes to go. Moments later the Warhawks and Perkins Stadium erupted when Egon Hein picked off the Thunder on the first play of the ensuing drive, which was capitalized on with a 20-yard touchdown run by Thomas. 

Wheaton answered back with just three minutes to go, narrowing the margin to a touchdown giving themselves a chance late to extinguish the Whitewater flame. The Warhawks ran down the clock and on fourth down, with 20 seconds left, Ogden ran inside the 5 yard line but did not get the first down. Wheaton showed a flash in the pan as a hook and ladder got them into Warhawk territory, but were stomped out on their hail mary attempt. 

The 49-42 victory propels Whitewater into the national quarterfinals for the 15th time in program history. The Warhawks will travel to Waverly, Iowa, to take on No. 3 Wartburg College at noon.

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About the Contributors
Parker Olsen, Managing Editor
Karstan Koelblinger, Photography Editor

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