Twelve years of D3football, Eleven hundred yards for Cecil, Ten Mount title winners, nine linemen clashing, eight Mount All-Regions, seven from Whitewater, six Stagg Bowl meetings, five playoff weeks, four Leipold seasons, three Warhawks rushing, two backup quarterbacks, and one walnut and bronze trophy.
It’s the season of snow and championships, and as of this writing, it seems that Salem is gearing up to welcome both. We’ve heard it said all week, but we are in the midst of the sixth-straight meeting of the Mount Union and UW-Whitewater purple powers. And as in years past, we cap our season of Triple Take predictions with a bevy of guest analysts to give you even more thoughts and insights to pore over — and more predictions to weigh.
Here’s a recap of what we said last season: 2009
And here’s what we have to say today. Come Saturday evening, one of these two teams will be having a much happier holidays than the other.
— Ryan Tipps
Pat Coleman, D3football.com executive editor
In a game filled with such unpredictability, including who will take snaps for either team, it’s hard to make a meaningful, informed prediction. In a game like this, you certainly lean on your defense, and you probably lean on your ground game. But it’s not like either backup quarterback is a pushover, as all Lee Brekke has done is go 4-0 and Matt Piloto certainly has standout skills for Mount Union. If it comes down to the running game, advantage UW-Whitewater. If it comes down to receivers against secondary, advantage Mount Union. If it comes down to pass rush, it’s a push. If it comes down to having faced and survived adversity in the playoffs, advantage UW-Whitewater. If it comes down … well, here’s my thing. I agree, like many, that Mount Union is playing better football right now. I just don’t know if that means much considering the opponents each has faced the past four weeks. And that’s my non-scientific reasoning for picking this score out of the hat.
UW-Whitewater 20, Mount Union 17
Keith McMillan, D3football.com managing editor
No reason to overthink this. A couple of things are going to be true no matter who triumphs. The best two teams in Division III, borne out on the field in five weeks of playoffs, are clashing Saturday. And each will be the best team the other has faced. That’s particularly true defensively when Mount Union is on the field against the Whitewater offense. That’s the unit the Purple Raiders have leaned on all season and it will be the one responsible for this game getting off to a slow start, scoring-wise. The winner over the five previous meetings has always scored in the 30s no matter how good the defenses looked coming in — the average score is 34-23.8 — but I think the Purple Raiders’ D holds the Warhawks in check for long enough to keep the 30s away. In the end, though, Saturday’s game follows the UW-W m.o.: Wear down a defense over the course of a game, and punish it with the running game in the fourth quarter. These Mount Union players will have their day — 28 of the 64 on the Stagg Bowl flipcard are sophomores, and will be back to Salem, undoubtedly — but Saturday will belong to those who win along the offensive and defensive lines most often, and best ‘Pound the Rock.’
UW-Whitewater 24, Mount Union 14
Gordon Mann, D3football.com deputy managing editor
While both teams have playmakers, this game comes down to the Purple powerhouses’ defenses. Both teams are too talented and too well coached for the offenses to light up the scoreboard. UW-Whitewater can generate a pass rush using its front four and has the depth to rotate different guys in for that cause. Keep an eye on freshman defensive end Loussiant Minett who has great speed around the edge. That lets the Warhawks linebackers drop back into coverage and support the secondary. Greg Arnold is a safety trapped in a small defensive end’s body or a very high level D3 linebacker — whichever you prefer. Mount Union is equally impressive up front with Lambert Budzinski. With a name like that, he was born to play defense. Both offensive lines are great, but I think the Warhawks’ line is better at doing what their offense wants to do — pound the ball with Coppage, Stanley and Anderson. The Mount offensive line gives the quarterback good protection, but I’m not sure the Purple Raiders quarterbacks can throw the ball down the field. Maybe Piloto has that ability. Or maybe Seaman does but hasn’t shown it much yet. The Warhawks don’t have anyone fast enough to stay with Shorts so he’ll get a lot of catches. But the Warhawks will tackle well enough to keep themselves from coming out on the Shorts end of the stick. Give the Warhawks the title, divide the game ball between the Warhawks front five, fire the cannon and we’ll go to a deciding seventh game next year.
UW-Whitewater 21, Mount Union 17
Ryan Tipps, D3football.com senior editor
This has been the hardest of the recent Stagg Bowls for me to come to a conclusion. But I keep coming back to the three-headed rushing beast that Whitewater has in the backfield. That notion bucks the trend of the past couple of meetings, when the games were won through big aerial performances. Yet with the Warhawks having such consistency on the ground (1,000 more yards rushing than passing this year) and Mount Union perhaps with a question under center, this will be one Stagg Bowl where we’ll see trench warfare unlike any other this season. I give the edge to Whitewater, which has a lot of power from Ustruck, Weber and Gawronski up front and may be a little of a lopsided matchup for the Mount defensive linemen not named Budzinski. That will define the game, but to be sure, we can expect a smattering of impressive and acrobatic downfield plays from Mount’s receiving corps and tight end (Shorts, Collins and Miller). They’ll play to Whitewater’s weaknesses in the secondary, but they won’t have enough for the win.
UW-Whitewater 27, Mount Union 20
Frank Rossi, D3football.com broadcaster
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a team in purple will win. Hardy har, I know. However, this year, more than ever, it looks like we have two evenly matched finalists with potentially two backup quarterbacks leading their teams down the field. Mount Union seemed to be playing better football in the playoffs, but most agree that Whitewater’s opposition was slightly tougher with two games on the road. This one will be razor thin all game, with Mount Union coming out on top (and having to rely on a leg to create the difference).
Mount Union 24, UW-Whitewater 21
Tom Pattison, Warhawkfootball.com
So here we go again. Mount-Whitewater VI in a rivalry that has had more sequels than Rocky. This year’s meeting in Salem has a subplot dealing with who the heck will be starting a quarterback for BOTH teams on Saturday. The subtitle for Stagg Bowl XXXVIII should be Game Time Decision Bowl I. The winner of each game in this rivalry has scored at least 30 points. That streak will be broken Saturday.
UW-Whitewater 24, Mount Union 21
Dan Buckel, Mount Union public address announcer
I think this the most curious game of any of the previous UMU/UW-W match-ups. Purple Bowl VI comes down to defense, and in that area, I think Mount Union has the slightest edge. Mount Union’s run defense has been nearly impossible to penetrate, and Coppage with his great O-line will be their biggest challenge to date. I believe No. 33 will get some yards and maybe break a few good runs, however, will it be enough to keep from putting the game into the hands of Brekke? Blanchard, if available, changes everything. I think the MTU defense keeps Coppage under his average, and their pass D is very good. Which quarterback plays for Mount Union? Seaman has shown patience and ability to forget mistakes and get the job done, but will his ankle injury even allow him on the field or hold up if he starts? Piloto has a howitzer for an arm, but that does no good if he misses receivers. Shorts at QB out of a wildcat formation may offer some wrinkles. Mount has struggled at times to move the ball on the ground against good run defenses. They must get enough to keep UW-W defense honest. Both kicking games are very good. UW-W has shown some chinks in the pass defense, and if the Warhawks do not pressure the quarterback consistently with the front four, Mount will be very successful with two All-America-caliber receivers (Shorts and Miller) and three others that have very good speed and hands. Mount must keep their quarterback clean and he must be “on.” The Raiders must limit Warhawk ball control in order to win. I think this game is the closest of the Stagg Bowl contests.
Mount Union 24, UW-Whitewater 21
Jay Perkins, Uwwfootball.com
Purple Bowl VI represents an intriguing matchup, simply because there are dynamic contrasts between these two teams. Mount Union has blown away its opponents for nine straight weeks. The Raiders are young, fast, deep, athletic, and they execute brilliantly. Their defense has been dominant and their offense pretty close to it. UW-Whitewater has been challenged deep into games since the playoffs began. They have relied on a physical, punishing style to wear down their opponents and dominate at the end of the game. UW-Whitewater has experienced an elite defense in North Central and they have been road tested beating both the No. 5 Cardinals and No. 3 Wesley away from home. Cecil Shorts will most certainly make plays, but it will be a huge challenge for the young Raiders to hold up for 60 minutes against the senior laden Warhawk offensive line and defensive front seven. Team speed may well be Whitewater’s most underrated attribute. Four years in the UW-W program brings rare strength and speed for the D-III level. And this team loves to finish. A late turnover is the difference and UW-Whitewater wins another Stagg Bowl classic.
UW-Whitewater 34, Mount Union 27