For the ninth time in the past ten seasons, UW-Whitewater and Mount Union will face off in the Stagg Bowl for the D3 Football Championship. The Warhawks have won the last four Stagg Bowl meetings, with a one-year hiatus when they missed playoffs in 2012-13.
Here’s how each team got here and what to expect in Salem, Virginia, in Stagg Bowl 2014 Friday night.
BR-2 UW-WHITEWATER vs BR-1 MOUNT UNION
Friday, December 19, 7:00 PM ET, ESPNU
The UW-Whitewater Warhawks return to the Stagg Bowl for the ninth time in the last ten seasons and have knocked off five BR top 35 opponents along the way. The team has been impressive on both sides of the ball, outscoring their opposition by an average of 40 to 10.
The offense is powered by the arm of quarterback Matt Behrendt. The signal caller has completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,305 yards, 38 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. His favorite targets on the year are Justin Howard (76 catches, 1,089 yards, 11 TDs) and Jake Kumerow (58 catches, 986 yards, and 13 TDs in just 10 games).
Running back Dennis Moore went over 1,000 yards on the season last week and has punched it into the end zone five times. Not to be outdone, backmate Jordan Ratliffe leads the squad in rushing touchdowns with nine.
On the other side of the ball, the defense is powered by Justin Dischler’s 90 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a whopping six forced fumbles. Brady Grayvold has been an interception machine, hauling in seven on the season to give him the team lead and an AFCA All-American nod.
The Warhawks marched to the Stagg Bowl by knocking off Wartburg in the quarterfinals 37-33 behind a furious, 21-point fourth quarter rally. It then beat BR-1 Linfield 20-14 in last week’s semis to set up the rematch with Mount Union.
This time it’s a little different for Whitewater, since it’s the swan song for head coach Lance Leipold. The man who has guided Whitewater to a 108-6 record in his seven-year tenure will make the jump to the FBS ranks next season. Besides a 7-3, playoff-less season in 2012, Liepold is 101-3 at UW-Whitewater, with two losses to Mount Union in the Championship game. This will be his final game as Warhawk head coach before he takes over at Buffalo next season.
As good as the Warhawks have been, especially on offense, Mount Union’s statistics are just mind-blowing. The offense has put up a Madden-esque 60.3 points per game this year with an average of 595 yards of total offense per game. It’s been balanced too — 281 yards on the ground and 313 through the air on average.
It’s hard to imagine a quarterback at any level playing much better than Kevin Burke has this season. The senior has completed 65 percent of his passes for 4,089 yards and 49 touchdowns (best in any division of college football), compared to just five interceptions. By the end of this contest, the 2014 AFCA All-American will almost certainly have overtaken Wesley quarterback Joe Callahan (4,190) as the 2014 passing yardage leader.
|Strength of Schedule||94||22|
|Opp Adj Offense Rank||1||19|
|Opp Adj Defense Rank||3||4|
As good as the Purple Raiders’ offense has been, they haven’t had to win too many shootouts. That’s because the defense has had one heck of a season as well. They’ve held opposing teams to just 9.3 points and 239 total yards per game.
Defensive back Tre Jones has been a nightmare for opposing QBs, hauling in six picks to go along with 45 tackles. The unit has collected 40 sacks on the year, lead by Mike Furda’s nine and Josh Butler’s six.
Mount Union has had a slightly easier path to the championship. Two bouts with BR-7 John Carroll in the season finale (31-24 win) and in the quarterfinals (36-28 win), they’ve only played two BR Top 50 teams this year. The first was a 58-17 home-win over BR-43 Heidelberg week seven, and the other an absolute demolition of BR-4 Wesley last week 70-21. Even adjusting for opponent HeroSports though, the Purple Raiders have the No. 1 offense and No. 3 defense in the division.
UW-Whitewater has won five of the last nine Stagg Bowls, each at the expense of Mount Union, and the Warhawks would certainly love to send coach Leipold out on top. But the Purple Raiders offense has been just ridiculously hot all season.
It should be an absolutely terrific game in Salem on Friday night.