2009 Football Individual Awards

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Team MVP – Jeff Donovan

The senior picked apart defensive secondaries all season and simply overwhelmed the opposition, including Mount Union in the Stagg Bowl last month.

Senior quarterback Jeff Donovan was perfect in the first half of the Stagg Bowl and captured WIAC Player of the Year honors. Photo by Joy Kowald.

Additionally, his efficiency was second to none especially in the national championship game when he put the ball in the perfect spots for his receivers helping the team go 9-of-9 on third downs in the first half.

But something that shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle was his poise and composure, which shows in his 29:6 touchdown to interception ratio.

The former all-state player from Wauwatosa East High School also improved in every statistical category from his junior to senior season, because of his dedication and work in the offseason with offensive coordinator Jim Zebrowksi.

Jeff had an outstanding year,” head coach Lance Leipold said. “First year going through spring ball was critical, a huge advantage. But what Jeff did this year was truly amazing how he cut back on the interceptions. He clearly made great throws.”

The stats, however, simply don’t tell what Donovan meant to this team. He was the leader both on and off the field – something he prides himself on. And just like leaders do, he delivered when his team needed him most (see the Wittenberg and the Linfield games).

So without Donovan’s growth and maturation, the Warhawks wouldn’t have been one of the nation’s top-ranked offenses and might not have been the team that hoisted up the Walnut and Bronze Trophy on Dec. 19.

Sophomore running back Levell Coppage was the Stagg Bowl MVP after scoring three touchdowns, including the game winner. Photo by Joy Kowald.

Offensive MVP – Levell Coppage

It was going to be hard for Levell Coppage to duplicate what he did during his freshman season when he earned third-team All-American honors.

But he did exactly that and then some. The sophomore shattered the Warhawk record books in 2009 and is on pace for more than 100 touchdowns before his career is all said and done.

His 35 touchdowns this season ranks No. 1 on the single season charts and after sitting out much of the 2008 postseason with an ankle injury, he made sure his presence was felt in last month’s national championship game.

He scored two first half touchdowns in helping the ’Hawks build a 28-14 halftime lead. And Coppage, who captured first-team All-American honors, scored the game-winning touchdown after he broke loose for a 31-yard burst.

Coppage also reached the 2,000-yard plateau, a feat that has only been done twice in UW-Whitewater history. He also scored two or more touchdowns in 12 of 15 contests. “I want to score anytime I get the ball. That’s the type of player I am,” Coppage said. 

Linebacker Lane Olson provided the Warhawk defense with the hardest hits all year and he had one of the biggest sacks in the title game. Photo by Joy Kowald.

Defensive MVP – Lane Olson

This was not an easy selection, since this season was truly a team effort in the defensive department. But one player did stand out – Lane Olson.

He was not a captain, but the junior linebacker sure played like one displaying the toughness and killer instinct a championship defense needs. Like Donovan, he answered the call in the most important games.

He delivered the biggest hits and had one of the game-changing plays in the Stagg Bowl. Mount Union had the ball with the score tied at 28 in the fourth quarter.

But on a third down, Olson sacked quarterback Kurt Rocco, giving the ball back to the ’Hawks, who ultimately scored the winning touchdown on the next drive. “I think my mind went blank. I was just so happy,” Olson said of the sack.

Olson also forced two fumbles in the fourth quarter of the title game. And though he was injured during the early part of the season, Olson returned for the conference opener against UW-Platteville and recorded a game-high three sacks.

Brandes

Breakout Player of the Year – Adam Brandes

There were many players who improved from the 2008 season to the 2009 campaign, but none had a transformation quite like Adam Brandes.

He went from having 226 receiving yards in 2008 to 1,014 in 2009 and his yards per game increased from 18.8 during his sophomore season to 72.4 this season, both team highs. For a “back-up” those numbers aren’t too shabby, to say the least.

Moreover, in 2008 he had only two games where he posted more than 50 receiving yards. In 2009, Brandes’ numbers skyrocketed with 12 games of more than 50 receiving yards. While he posted solid numbers during the regular season, he shined in the postseason.

The junior from Burlington Catholic Central High School recorded the touchdown against Wittenberg that propelled the Warhawks to the national semifinals. Then, he notched a career-high 123 yards against Linfield to help send UW-Whitewater to the Stagg Bowl.

The 6-foot-3 Brandes, who led the team in yards per catch with 17.5, even bailed out Donovan on a few occasions when a pass was underthrown.

Some of the catches he made were just outstanding,” Leipold said. “When you watch a player gain confidence with maturity was outstanding. But yeah, I would say a guy who was a breakout [player] would definitely be Adam.”

He will likely be a preseason all-WIAC pick when next season begins, and along with Aaron Rusch and Cory Robinson, the ’Hawks will have the best receiving trio in the country.