A homecoming game to remember

UW-Whitewater defeated UW-Stevens Point on homecoming 31-16. The victory extends the ’Hawks nation-leading consecutive win streak to 38 and they will look to tie the University of Washington for the fifth-longest all-time streak at UW-Eau Claire next week.

Senior running back Levell Coppage entered play needing just 54 yards to become the leading career rusher in school and conference history. He trailed former-Warhawk Justin Beaver, who was the record holder, with 6,584 yards.

Seniors Kyle Wismer (bottom) and Sam Overton (right) go low on a tackle against a UW-Stevens Point running back. The Warhawks defeated the Pointers 31-16 on Homecoming. The last regular season loss for the ‘Hawks was against the Pointers in 2008. Photo by Andrew Smith

Coppage almost broke the record in one attempt as he scored on a 47-yard touchdown run on the ’Hawks opening drive, which was just the third play from scrimmage.

The Pointers responded a few minutes later on their first drive with a one-yard touchdown run by Ben Wetzel, which was set up by 26 and 34-yard completions by quarterback Mitch Beau. The extra-point attempt failed.

History was made on the ’Hawks next possession when Coppage became the all-time leading rusher on a 46-yard run. The drive would end on a six-yard Coppage touchdown run to put his team ahead 14-6 with 8:16 remaining in the first quarter.

“All week people kept telling me get 54 yards and I thought why just get 54?” Coppage said. “This record means everything to me but I’m glad I got it so I can just go back to playing football.”

He would finish the game with 245 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.

Stevens Point tacked on a field goal from 42 yards to make it 14-9, but Whitewater would soon score their third touchdown in three possessions. This time on a 57-yard bomb to receiver Tyler Huber, to make it 21-9 with 3:40 remaining in the first quarter.

At the start of the second quarter, the Pointers recorded their final score in the form of a 29-yard touchdown pass from Beau to Theo Maglio to make it 21-16.

After that, both teams’ defenses stiffened and the game became a punting exhibition for senior Kris Rosholt, who landed three of his eight punts inside the Pointers’ 20 yard line.

The ‘Hawks punted four times before extending their lead with 7:53 left in the third quarter on an Eric Kindler field goal from 23 yards to make it 24-16. They would punt seven times in between touchdowns, until the 2:27 mark in the fourth quarter when Coppage scored his third touchdown of the day on a 40-yard run.

The Pointers failed to score after their third possession. Their last 10 possessions ended with seven punts, two interceptions by Noah Timm and Ryan Cortez and a failed fourth-down conversion.

Whitewater’s offense struggled in between scoring drives going 2-13 on third-down conversions. Quarterback Matt Blanchard tied his season-high number of incompletions with 12, as he finished the day 12-24 with 153 yards and a touchdown.

After the Pointers scored with 14:10 to go in the second, Whitewater’s defense shut them out for the next 44 minutes and 10 seconds of play. The defense also held the Pointers to just 74 rushing yards and came up with a season-high six sacks.

Five of those six sacks came from the ’Hawks young linebacking corps and that same group did it all without senior All-American linebacker Greg Arnold in the lineup.

Head Coach Lance Leipold was pleased with the way his linebackers have responded to the challenge.

“They’ve been a pleasant surprise we needed them to mature quickly and they have,” Leipold said. “Ryan Cortez continues to make plays for us, Cole Klotz led us in tackles today and Kyle Wismer and Jaren Borland did some good things as well.”

“Give credit to Stevens Point they came out with a good game plan on defense,” Leipold said. “This is the second tight game in a row where our defense has had a second-half shutout.”