UW-Whitewater enters 2014 at number 2 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 14-0 (5-0) Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
Things are back to normal in Division 3 now that Wisconsin-Whitewater is back on top. A disappointing 2012 season saw the end of the Warhawks’ 45-game winning streak and an extremely uncharacteristic second-place finish in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. It was the first time since 2004 Whitewater missed the National Title game, so their return to the 2013 National Championship was that much more satisfying.
The Warhawks returned to form last season and made the teams that beat them in 2012 pay. First on the revenge-tour was Buffalo State College, who ended Whitewater’s historic winning streak on their home field week two of the season prior. It was a very different result when the Warhawks visited Buffalo this time. They left with a 55-14 win. The Warhawks plowed through the rest of the season undefeated as well, with two more cold-served dishes to UW-Oshkosh (final score: 17-14), and at UW-Stevens Point (final score: 17-7). No team scored more than 17 on the Warhawks during the regular season, and the playoffs told the same story.
Wisconsin-Whitewater rode their #1 scoring defense (9.1 ppg) all the way to their fifth D3 title in seven years. They really only had one scare in the playoffs – the National Semifinals at Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Warhawks let the Crusaders jump out to a 12-point lead in the second quarter before scoring 13-straight to win 16-15. The National Title game wasn’t nearly as stressful; Whitewater was clearly the best team on the field in Salem when they beat Mount Union 52-14. It was the eighth time in the last nine seasons the two teams faced off for the D3 Championship, and the Warhawks’ win elevated their record in those games to 5-3. Champs again, has to feel great.
– Tyler Huber WR – 41 receptions, 543 yards, 8 TDs
– Loussaint Minett DL – First team All-WIAC, 38 tackles, 8 TFL, 6 sacks, 1 FF, 3 blocked kicks
– Marshall Rutherford DL – First team All-WIAC, 32 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 FR, 3 FFs
– Cole Klotz LB – WIAC Player of the Year, first team All-WIAC, 103 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 pass defences, 1 INT, 1 FR
– Josh Williams LB – First team All-WIAC, 80 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT, 5 pass defences, 2 FRs
– Kyle Wismer LB – Second team All-WIAC, 78 tackles, 14 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 pass defences, 1 INT, 2 FFs, 1 FR
– Ryan Cortez LB – Second team All-WIAC, 62 tackles, 9 TFL, 1 sack, 2 pass defences, 1 INT, 1 FR
– Eric Kindler K – First team All-WIAC, 18/24 FGs (75%), long of 50, 81 KOs, 34.6-yard average, 24 punts, 59.4-yard average
What to Watch For
Linebackers Gone – The heart of the Warhawks’ #1 defense from last season was their group of rangey linebackers. Cole Klotz, Josh Williams, Kyle Wismer, and Ryan Cortez were the top four tacklers on the team from the core of the defense; the four All-WIAC seniors combined for 323 of the Warhawks’ 988 tackles last season. They’re gone now. Also gone are All-WIAC first-teamers Loussaint Minett and Marshal Rutherford from the defensive line and second-teamer Andrew Keister from the defensive backfield. They will all be tough to replace, and as such the Warhawks’ dominant performance from last season will be tough to repeat.
Before we get into expectations and projections, I think it’s important we talk about why the Warhawks aren’t number one on our preseason top 25. Here at HeroSports, we are all about data, and when we create our preseason rankings we don’t have much of it. So our rankings aren’t nearly as predictive before the season as they will be by the end. Our preseason rankings are based on conference strength (as an indicator of strength of schedule), historical performance within that conference, and finally – overall historical success. The Warhawks aren’t number one because, while they are the best team in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, we believe the Empire 8 is superior as a whole. So St. John Fisher earns our top spot to start the season as the best team in the best conference, but don’t be surprised to see a new team take the top spot sooner than later.
The entire Whitewater offensive line, their quarterback, their running backs, and top two receivers will be back. These are positives but as UW-W knows: defense wins championships. The Whitewater defense just won’t be the same in 2014. If they want to play for their sixth D3 title this season, it’ll have to be a more balanced attack that gets them there.
Dynasties like UW-Whitewater football don’t rely on a single player or even a single class of players – these coaches know what they’re doing. Making playoffs is almost a guarantee, considering they’re the only WIAC team in our top 25 to retain their starting QB, but without the best scoring defense in the division (9.1 ppg) it’ll take the best coaching job in recent memory for Whitewater to defend their title. The expectation should be another deep playoff run, but with the losses on defense it’s going to be a new kind of difficult. We’ll see if Matt Behrendt and his team are up to the task.