Here is a recap of the key moments and a description of when and how the UW-W defense rose the occasion in the 14 most competitive games since the beginning of the 2009 season.
October 10, 2009 UW-Eau Claire at Whitewater
In the 3rd quarter, the Blugolds culminated a 50 yard scoring drive with a 7 yard scoring pass from Kyle Paulson to Brett Schreiner. UW-EC converted the 2 point conversion to close within 17-14 with 11:30 left in the 3rd quarter. However, the Warhawks held the Blugolds scoreless over the final 26:30 of the game forcing two punts and holding on downs on a 4th quarter goal-line stand in a 31-14 UW-W victory.
December 5, 2009 Wittenberg at Whitewater. NCAA Quarterfinal
The Warhawks held a 14-13 lead at the half. However, the UW-W defense held the Tigers scoreless in their 7 second half possessions. The Warhawks forced 5 punts, an interception, and a stop on downs on their way to a 31-13 playoff victory.
December 12, 2009 Linfield at Whitewater. NCAA Semifinal
The Linfield Wildcats, led by QB Aaron Boehme, provided a huge threat to the UW-W title hopes. Boehme led the Wildcats on scoring drives of 78 and 72 yards to turn a 10-7 halftime deficit into a 17-10 Linfield lead early in the fourth quarter. On the second drive, the Wildcats faced a 3rd and 8 on the UW-W 14 yard line, threatening to go ahead by 2 scores. Kyle Supianoski sacked Boehme for an 8 yard loss, forcing the Wildcats to take the field goal and settle for the 7 point lead. On the Wildcats three fourth quarter possessions, the Warhawks defense forced a punt, held on downs, and intercepted a Boehme pass to seal the win and advance to the Stagg Bowl.
December 19, 2009 Mount Union. National Championship in Salem, VA.
The Warhawks held a 28-21 fourth quarter lead when the Purple Raiders' Alex Ferrara intercepted a pass at the UW-W 31. Mount took advantage of the short field when QB Kurt Rocco scored from 5 yards out 5 plays later to tie the score at 28. After an ensuing UW-W 3 and out, momentum was on the Raiders' side. However, 3 plays later Whitewater linebacker Lane Olson hit running back Wes Ryder, forcing a fumble that UW-W's Paul Wick recovered on the Raiders 39 yard line. Once again Mount held UW-W to a 3 and out. However, once again Olson forced a fumble, this time by Terrance Morring. Whitewater's Matt McCulloch recovered at the UW-W 28.
After yet another Whitewater punt, the pressure was again on the defense to come up with a stop. This time Olson sacked Kurt Rocco forcing a Raiders 3 and out. Whitewater finally regained the lead on a 31 yard Levell Coppage TD run. On the next possession, Wesley Hicks sacked Rocco, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Supianoski at the Mount 30. A Jeff Schebler 44 yard field goal sealed the victory and the National Championship for UW-W. Fittingly, on the Raiders' final possession, Rocco was sacked by Whitewater's Anthony White on the last play of the game. All told, not including the final Mount possession, once the Purple Raiders tied the score, their final four offensive possessions ended in a punt and three UW-W takeaways.
October 9, 2010. UW-Stout at Whitewater.
The Warhawks held a 10-7 halftime lead. However, in the second half the UW-W defense held Stout scoreless in the second half. QB Ross Carey was 6 of 18 passing and sacked three times in the second half of the 31-10 Whitewater win.
November 20, 2010. Franklin at Whitewater. NCAA First Round
With UW-W holding a 21-14 lead, the defense held the Grizzlies to 7 second half points in what turned out to be a 52-21 playoff route. The Warhawks forced 3 punts, 2 turnovers, and ended one possession on downs around the lone scoring drive in the second half.
November 27, 2010. Trine at Whitewater. NCAA Second Round
After a wild First half, UW-W led 31-24 at the half. Trine intercepted a Lee Brekke pass and returned it to the UW-W one. Two plays later, Trine scored, tying the game at 31.
The next two possessions, UW-W punted, so defense was critical during this juncture. The Whitewater defense rose to the occasion intercepting a pass, recovering a fumble, and forcing three punts on Trine’s final 5 possessions, propelling UW-W to a 45-31 playoff win.
December 4, 2010. UW-Whitewater at North Central. NCAA Quarterfinal
After playing UW-W to a 7-7 tie in the first half, NCC kicked a field goal on their first second half possession to give the Cardinals a 10-7 lead with 6:30 left in the third quarter. However, the Warhawk defense forced turnovers on the next three NCC possession propelling UW-W to a 20-10 victory.
December 11, 2010. UW-Whitewater at Wesley
The Warhawks held a slim 10-7 lead at halftime of the National Semi-final game at Wesley. However, the UW-W defense intercepted passes on the first three possessions of the second half and pitched a second half leading the Warhawks to a 27-7 victory and a berth in the 2010 Stagg Bowl.
December 18, 2010. Mount Union. National Championship in Salem, VA.
After giving up 21 first half points, the Warhawks defense was called upon to come up big in the 2010 Stagg Bowl. With only a 7 point lead and the first six UW-W second half possessions netting 4 punts and 2 interceptions, it was critical for the Warhawks defense to hold the fort. The Warhawks brought home the National Championship when the defense limited the high powered Raiders to four punts, three turnovers, and no points in their seven second half possessions.
October 1, 2011 UW-Platteville at Whitewater.
The Pioneers tied the score at 14 with 14 seconds left in the fist half when they fooled the Warhawks defense with a halfback pass for a 35 yard TD with 14 seconds left in the first half. However, UW-W pitched a second half shutout, stopping the Pioneers on downs on their first four second half possessions and intercepting a pass on their fifth and final possession as the Warhawks won going away 34-14.
October 14, 2011 UW-Stout at Whitewater.
The Warhawks were cruising, or at least they thought they were when they took a 28-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. However, the Blue Devils made a game of it with two third quarter TD’s to cut the lead to 28-21. However, from that point on, the Warhawks forced a punt and two interceptions on the Blue Devils’ next three possessions, including a pick that set up the offense at the Stout 10 yard line. The Warhawks converted and at the end of the day, UW-W had doubled up the Blue Devils 42-21.
October 22, 2011 UW-Whitewater at UW-Oshkosh
The Titans led 17-10 at halftime in the battle of WIAC unbeatens. However, the UW-W defense went into shut down mode shutting out the Titans in a 20-17 Warhawk win. After giving up more than 200 yards in the first half, the UW-W defense gave up less than 100 in the second half. UW-O’s 5 second half possessions resulted in 0 points, 3 punts, 1 stop on downs, and an interception on a desperation pass in the end zone with one second left in the game to seal the Warhawk victory.
October 29, 2011 UW-Stevens Point at UW-Whitewater
One week after giving up 17 first half points to Oshkosh, the Hawks gave up 16 in the first half to the Pointers. Would they be able to turn things around defensively yet again? For the second consecutive week, UW-W outscored it’s opponent 10-0 in the second half, this time pulling away to a 31-16 win. In seven Pointer second half drives, four ended with punts, two with interceptions, and one ended on downs.
There are likely to be a number of close games still ahead for the Warhawks. That may be nerve wracking for fans, but it is good news for a defense that seems to relish the opportunity to rise up, shut down the opponent, and close out the game.