Furious Late Rally Gives Wisconsin-Whitewater 37-33 Win
For three quarters the Wartburg Knights were proving that they were the superior team, but one must not forget that this is a game that is four quarters long. A 21-point fourth quarter erased a 33-16 deficit, and turned the game into a 37-33 win, sending the Warhawks onto the semi-finals for the ninth time in the last 10 years.
The Knights came out fired up. Receiving the opening kickoff, they employed a hurry up offense that seemed to have caught the Warhawks off-guard. QB Logan Schrader completed a 13-yard pass to Donald Miller to start the drive, and Brandon Domeyer followed that up with a 20-yard run. Two plays later Schrader passed to Taylor Jacobsmeier for 43-yards that put the ball at the Whitewater 4-yard line. One play later Domeyer scored from 4-yards out to make it 7-0.
UWW’s first possession began with 26-yard pass from Matt Behrendt to Jake Kumerow for a first down and it looked like the Warhawks would respond right away, however the Wartburg defense stiffened forcing a punt three plays later.
From their own 8-yard line, the Knights began a 13-play drive that moved the ball to the Whitewater 12. Schrader’s last two passes of the drive fell incomplete, and the team turned to Michael Bohlke for a 29-yard field goal attempt, which he hit to make it 10-0.
The Warhawks looked a little stunned at what was happening, but a huge return on the ensuing kickoff gave UWW great field position. Justin Howard took the ball at his own 10, and then made some great moves before finally being hauled down at the Wartburg 24. Three plays later Behrendt found Howard in the end zone for the 8-yard touchdown, making it 10-6.
The Knights responded right away. A 37-yard return by Riley Brockway gave Wartburg the ball at their own 39. Schrader passed to Jacobsmeier for 31-yards on the first play, moving the ball into UWW territory. Brandon Richard gained 13-yards on his next two carries, but on the following two he was dropped for a total loss of three yards. Two plays later the Knights settled for a 31-yard field goal and the first quarter ended 13-6.
This began a run of three straight possessions where the Knights got field goals. Bohlke kicked a 24-yard field goal to begin the second quarter. On their next possession the Knights kicker would add another 24-yarder making it 19-6.
The game was quickly getting out of hand, and the Warhawks needed a spark from their offense. Following the third field goal Whitewater started their next drive at their own 3-yard line. They needed their quarterback to come up big, and on the second play of the drive he hit Howard for 24-yards and a first down. On the next play Behrendt connected with Howard again, this time for 14-yards. The QB then passed to Ricky Finco for 38-yards more down to the Wartburg 20. Dennis Moore then took the handoff and ran 15-yards to the 5-yard line. An illegal formation penalty moved the ball back five yards, but Behrendt was unconcerned, passing to Kumerow for 10-yards and a touchdown. That made the score 19-13 heading to the half.
UWW had the ball first in the second half and put together a 10-play, 54-yard drive that made it fourth and 10 at the Wartburg 14. Will Meyer hit a 31-yard field goal and it was a three-point game.
Time for Wartburg to lean on their quarterback. On second and 9 at their own 18, Schrader passed to Jacobsmeier for 46-yards down to the Warhawks 36. Four plays later the Knights QB went 11-yards on a quarterback keeper for the score and the 26-16 lead.
On Wartburg’s next possession it was Domeyer who got the team moving. After a 7-yard pass by Schrader, the running back ran three straight times for 30-yards. Two plays later Jacobsmeier made a 12-yard touchdown catch making it 33-16.
Whitewater was looking shell shocked, trying to figure out what happened, and their shot at back-t0-back titles was vanishing on their own home field.
There was 32 seconds left in the third quarter when the Warhawks got the ball again. If they were going to get back into the game they needed a huge play and running back Dennis Moore delivered. On the third play of the drive Moore burst through the line and raced 57-yards for the score. This seemed to reinvigorate the team.
The defense came onto the field fired up, and on the second play of the Knights next drive Schrader was sacked and fumbled. Zach Nellis recovered the ball at the Wartburg 27. Four plays later Behrendt passed to Derric Junakin for a 16-yard touchdown, making the score 33-30.
The Knights went back on offense, but once again the Warhawks defense came up big. Mykaell Bratchett recorded an 8-yard sack on third and 6, forcing Wartburg to punt. However, a 40-yard punt pinned UWW inside their own 11.
Cooly Behrendt led the team down the field. His first pass was compete for 5-yards. Moore then had back-to-back carries, gaining 12-yards and then 4. The Warhawks QB then passed to Kumerow for 32-yards to the Wartburg 36. It was clear that the Knights simply could not stop the momentum. Two plays later Moore gained 7-yards, setting up a third and 3, but a false start penalty made it third and 8. Would Wisconsin-Whitewater shoot themselves in the foot? Not if Behrendt had anything to do with it. The QB kept the ball on the third down play and rushed for 11-yards to keep the drive alive. On the next play he found Howard for 23-yards and the score. A 21-point fourth quarter had made it 37-33.
With 6:10 left in the game, the Knights offense needed some kind of spark to get going, but they had gone cold. The Warhawks defense held them to a three-n-out on the next possession and a turnover on downs on their final drive.
Behrendt had a big day, completing 21 of 32 passes for 345 yards and 4 TDs. Moore had 122 yards rushing and a touchdown on 12 carries. Jordan Ratliffe added 80 more on the ground. Kukerow made 6 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown, and Justin Howard added 94 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Schrader finished with 358 yards passing and a touchdown for Wartburg. Domeyer had 111 yards on the ground and a score. Jacobsmeier had 181 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Next Saturday Wisconsin-Whitewater will welcome the Linfield Wildcats in a battle of top 10 teams. The Warhawks are No. 1 and Linfield No. 1o. The Minor League Sports Report will preview this game on Thursday.
By Robert Pannier