Fans shouldn’t panic: Saturday’s loss doesn’t hurt ’Hawks chances

By Zach Hicks

Nobody saw it coming.

The Warhawk football team’s loss to Buffalo State College on Saturday has sparked conversation campus-wide.

The surprise is understandable. After all, an NCAA-best 46 game winning streak came to an end Saturday. Some of the whispers on campus are filled with doubt.

“Did we lose too much on offense?”

That’s what I was asked by a casual fan of the football team, who was trying to comprehend how and why our beloved Warhawks would lose.

It seems we have been spoiled by the dominance that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from our football team and athletic department as a whole.

Traditional seniors who were in attendance at Perkins Stadium witnessed the first loss in their time at UW-Whitewater.

So, when I was asked “why we lost?” by one of my friends, I simply answered that the ’Hawks had been outplayed.

The Bengals hung around long enough that at the end of the game, senior quarterback Casey Kacz led the team down the field to score the game winning touchdown.

But the ’Hawks failed to score a touchdown the entire game. The offense has played better but the Bengals’ defense, who intercepted quarterback Lee Brekke twice, deserves credit.

Although the winning streak has been snapped, hope is not lost for the season. Not even close. Luckily for fans, this game offers a very thick silver lining.

Even though the ’Hawks suffered their first loss to a non-conference opponent in the regular season under head coach Lance Leipold, it won’t play a factor in the race for the ’Hawks’ eighth consecutive WIAC championship.

In fact, the ’Hawks still have a chance at being ranked first in their region when playoff time begins, because Buffalo State isn’t in the same region.

Going forward, adjustments will be made. Here are three things to look for from the ’Hawks going forward this year:

1.    Offensive fluidity
The offense didn’t perform up to its standards on Friday but did score 34 points in week one.

Lee Brekke has thrown an interception in both games and hasn’t looked as sharp as he was when filling in for Matt Blanchard two years ago. Turnovers are something the ’Hawks will look to limit (as every team does), but look for Brekke to improve as the season goes on. He has experience and the skills and weapons to not only succeed but flourish.

In addition to Brekke’s skills, under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Steve Dinkel and Leipold (a former quarterback), Brekke will be coached to improve on the mistakes he’s making.

It’s important to not underestimate coaching and the program’s overall success in getting players to perform at the level that the team requires.

Tailback remains a timeshare between Illinois State transfer Ryan Givens and senior back Desmin Ward. Givens’ speed and elusiveness provide a stark change of pace opposite Ward’s bruising style of play.

While one back might emerge, don’t be surprised if Leipold continues to split carries between the two backs.

2.    Continued defensive         improvement

This season the defense has been almost as dominant as a coach can ask for.

Unfortunately, the Bengals scored in the waning seconds of the game—the first score the defense has given up this season. Seven quarters of shutout football is phenomenal but as Leipold mentioned

after the game, the defense was unable to make a key stop at the end to seal the victory.

Overall, the defense has been suffocating. The experience and talent is what the ’Hawks will rely on throughout the year when the offense is scuffling.

Next time, look for the ’Hawks to buckle down when a key stop is needed. They won’t forget this loss.

3.    Resiliency

It might not be something to “improve on,” but if fans are expecting to see a dejected team hit the field Saturday vs. UW-Stevens Point, then they need to understand how Leipold’s team operates.

A crisp and intense performance can be expected by the ’Hawks who will be eager to begin another winning streak Saturday.

Although losing is an unfamiliar event for this program, players and coaches alike expect to have a crisper week of practice to improve and work towards going 1-0 against UW-Stevens Point.

Fans might be looking forward to Salem, Va. and the prospect of another Stagg Bowl, however, the ’Hawks’ sights are fixed firmly on their current opponent and, eventually, another WIAC championship.

With Leipold and his 73-4 record roaming the sidelines, fans should like the ’Hawks’ chances. Losses don’t crumple a champion’s will to achieve greatness.

 

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