UW-Whitewater marches on
Whitewater, however, took all the flavor out of the Sea Gulls triple-option offense.
The Warhawks held the Salisbury (11-2) to just 14 points, while senior running back Levell Coppage racked up 213 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns to lead the top ranked Warhawks to a 34-14 victory in an NCAA Division 3 third round playoff battle.
Whitewater (13-0), which extends its NCAA all-division leading 43-game winning streak, hosts St. Thomas next Saturday. The Tommies advanced after thumping St. John Fisher, 45-10.
The Warhawks will need the same defensive effort next week as they delivered against the Sea Gulls, whose 14 points was 30 below its season average.
“I’m very pleased with the way we came out and defended the option in the first half,” UW-Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold said. “We were able to take that lead (17-0) into halftime and we the fact that we never punted in the first half was a huge part of the flow of the game.”
Leipold’s ball-control offense complemented his defense to perfection with scoring drives of 9, 10, and 11 plays to help the defending champions open up a 17-point halftime lead.
Matt Blanchard led the efficiency completing all eight of his passing attempts for 116 yards in the first half. Coppage took care of the rest with touchdown runs of 10 and 1 yards to build the advantage to 14-0 in the second quarter.
Eric Kindler later tacked on a 26-yard field goal late in the second quarter to make a three-score game.
“We knew we needed to open up the game through our passing game to make sure that Levell (Coppage) could get going,” Blanchard said. “And we did that and we executed early on.”
Whitewater’s text-book first half didn’t have an immediate encore performance in the third quarter.
The Sea Gulls, behind quarterback Dan Griffin’s 9-yard touchdown run, made 17-7 Whitewater with 8:24 left in the third.
Coppage finally answered later in the third with a career-high 80-yard touchdown run through the heart of the run-blitzing Sea Gull defense to rebuild the 17-point advantage, 24-7.
“From a coaching standpoint, Matt Blanchard is a great quarterback, but it’s all about Coppage,” Sea Gull coach Sherman Wood said. “One of the reasons we were not as aggressive blitzing and all was because it was about making sure we stayed home and maintained Coppage. Obviously the time we put a little pressure and stunted aggressively, he (Coppage) ran for 80 yards.”
The Sea Gulls never regained momentum after the Coppage run and eventually fell behind 34-7 behind an Eric Kindler 37-yard field goal and a Coppage 6-yard touchdown run.
Tyler Curley added a 6-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to trim the lead to 34-14, but it was too little too late for the Sea Gulls.
“It was a great battle,” Leipold said. “Probably a little closer than the score would indicate.”
Now the Warhawks are one step closer to their seventh straight appearance in the Stagg Bowl.