Triple Take: Stagg Bowl XXXIX

Seven can be seen almost everywhere. There were seven wonders of the ancient world. There are seven continents on Earth. There are seven colors of the rainbow. There are seven days in a week.

And by the end of Friday, seven will be lucky for either Mount Union or UW-Whitewater, which are meeting in Salem for the seventh time. Each team has won three of those outings, and each team is undefeated so far this year.

For Division III, the whole year builds to this moment. Like it or not, there are two clear kings of small-college football. Our usual crew of Pat, Keith and Ryan — along with several visiting prognosticators — give their opinions of what’s in store.

After you read what we have to say below, check back in Friday night. There’ll be a live blog running here on The Daily Dose, and all tweets with hashtag #d3fb are included.

Pat Coleman, executive editor
You know you’re getting old when you can’t name all of the Mount Union quarterbacks you’ve seen start games. (Sorry, Mike Jorris. And sorry, Keith, whom I borrowed this line from.) I’ve been remarking that whenever one team is a prohibitive favorite in a Stagg Bowl, the underdog usually surprises, such as St. John’s 2000, St. John’s 2003, UW-Whitewater 2007. The conventional wisdom suggests that since Mount Union couldn’t stop Levell Coppage last year, that it won’t stop him now. I’m not sure that’s so true, since the offensive line has changed over quite a bit. I like the chances for success for Matt Blanchard, who has a similar skill set to Wesley’s Shane McSweeny, although not as refined. UW-Whitewater is not likely to be outschemed, especially when Mount Union is on offense, but the talent is more even than most will give credit for, I believe.
UW-Whitewater 28, Mount Union 24

Keith McMillan, managing editor
Whatever one thinks about watching teams play seven times in a row for the national championship, there are no gripes about the competitiveness of the series. It’s tied, all but the second game could’ve gone either way — tight into the fourth quarter — and the average score is about 34-23. Perhaps, then, we’re due for a stinker, a Stagg Bowl that breaks the string of really entertaining ones we’ve had since 2002. I expect UW-Whitewater to do what it does — make few mistakes, run the ball with success, get an early lead and play smothering defense. Mount Union’s season to date plays into this scenario, since playoff teams have been able to keep their offense from going completely crazy. And they’ve been able to pressure the Purple Raiders’ QB, something you almost never see. (I know this because the DVDs I was promised did arrive, and I apologize to UMU and UW-W for last week’s Triple Take). But the Purple Raiders are getting stronger, settling on Matt Piloto at quarterback and getting Jasper Collins and Jeremy Murray back to 100 percent. Only two teams all season have hit the 20-point mark against the Purple Raiders. If there’s a wild card here, it’s a Larry Kehres’ coaching staff having a year to think about how to attack the Warhawks. Pretty likely we’ll see something Friday we haven’t seen all season, and if it works, it will be the best coaching job since Kehres led his 2005 team — the last to lose a regular-season game — to the championship.
strong>UW-Whitewater 34, Mount Union 20

Ryan Tipps, senior editor
By the time midnight Friday rolls around, two particularly notable things will have happened: The winner of the Warhawks-Purple Raiders matchup will score fewer than 30 points (something that hasn’t happened in their previous six Stagg Bowls), and UW-Whitewater will become the third team in Stagg history to win back-to-back-to-back titles. It’s never an easy call with these two teams. Only one championship game between them has been separated by more than 10 points. And almost always, these games come down to the big plays — long bombs to the receivers, a blocked punt, goal-line stands, big runs from star rushers. This year, it will be the defense. Scoring is fun to watch, but when I think about the meat and potatoes of football, I love defense. And we’ve heard often the names of great defenders: Driskill, Ferrara and Dieuseul for Mount; Arnold, Casper and Timm for Whitewater. Think about a Whitewater team that shut down the scoring machines of Salisbury and St. Thomas, and realize that Mount’s defense has forced a nation-leading 41 turnovers this season. This isn’t the offense’s day to shine, it’s the defense’s. And to the bigger D goes the spoils.
UW-Whitewater 24, Mount Union 17

Frank Rossi, broadcaster
As a creature of habit, I’ll stick with my No. 1 team from the entire season. Mount Union faced challenges all season, but I believe the underdog role doesn’t comfortably fit this team — even at this stage. A more experienced defense and a quarterback that learned some valuable lessons from last year’s game will prove to be the difference.
Mount Union 20, UW-Whitewater 17

Mark Grossman, Mount Union radio color analyst
For me, this Stagg is bittersweet as my regular job is keeping me from the annual trip to Salem — and it’s the rubber match! Unfortunately ESPN didn’t come through with a big buck contract so I can’t quit my engineering job. So for only the second time in 15 Stagg Bowl appearances, I’ll be watching my Purple Raiders from home. Of the previous meetings, this is the hardest for me to get my head around because of what I’ve seen from Mount this fall. Given Mount’s inconsistencies this season, which is mainly because of the huge amount of injuries to the skill positions, and the fact that Whitewater brings the better quarterback and tailback, I feel UW-W has to be a clear favorite. The question is by how much? A large part of me says at least a TD, if not more. The few personnel advantages I expect Mount to have are in the overall receiving corps and in the secondary, not at the line of scrimmage. However the other part of me says a VERY motivated Larry Kehres is on the opposite sideline and has spent the last year focusing on how to beat Whitewater. And who am I to doubt the capabilities of the best coach in D-III, if not all of college football? I don’t know what LK has up his sleeve but it’s something. The guys just have to execute it and play within themselves. Each of the six previous games were very competitive and swung on a single play or two in the second half, and I believe this one is the same. A missed tackle, a tipped pass for an INT, a big return, etc., will likely decide it. My two keys for a Mount victory are they have to win the turnover battle and they have to make plays on third down defensively. If Mount turns it over three times like last week against Wesley, it’s over. If they let UW-W convert more than 49 percent of their third downs like they have all season, it’s over. But if Mount plays solid ball for 60 minutes, I have supreme confidence in LK working his magic. My head says UWW wins, but my heart keeps bringing up the following:
Mount Union 41, Oshkosh 17 on 9/10. Whitewater 20, Oshkosh 17 six weeks later. And that was with Nate Wara at less than 100 percent against the Warhawks. End result? My heart has won out and expects an instant Raider classic, a la 1993’s win over a bigger, stronger, faster Rowan.
Mount Union 27, Whitewater 24

Jay Perkins,
One of the beauties of this purple rivalry, created on the largest of stages, is that no one can be sure what’s going to happen. Both teams are that good. Whitewater is peaking at the right time. The Warhawks are healthy, confident, physical, and executing brilliantly. Their conservative game plan of patiently pounding the ball on offense and employing a physical, “prevent the big play” defense has worn out all comers. Mount Union has fought through inconsistency at the QB position at least partially due to injury. The Purple Raiders’ running game is solid, if not spectacular, and they have been relying on big plays from their deep, talented receiving corps. Their defense is fast and physical and, Shane McSweeny’s performance notwithstanding, strong against both the run and the pass. It’s hard to find a statistical category more influential on the outcome of a football game than turnovers. Whitewater has not turned the ball over even once in the past seven games. Mount Union has turned the ball over 12 times in that span. Although the Stagg Bowl stage is conducive to surprises, the reality is that Whitewater appears to be playing better football right now.
UW-Whitewater 31, Mount Union 16

30 thoughts on “Triple Take: Stagg Bowl XXXIX

  1. I picked Mount Union in Kickoff with the expectation that the Purple Raiders defense will have spent 365 days preparing for this challenge. But after seeing Whitewater’s offense in person this year and following them throughout the postseason, I’m not sure any defense can slow both Levell Coppage and Matt Blanchard enough to defeat the Warhawks. If Coppage stays healthy for all four quarters, Whitewater will have its first three-peat.

    UW-Whitewater 28, Mount Union 17

  2. Yawn !!!!! Ho-Hum……….What do we have this year…………..a large school(by d-3 standards)enrollment (8857) state funded football factory( Whitewater) versus a small private school (enrollment (2115) mount union………..WW will jump ouy early and never look back…….too much senior power for Mount……….my guess is Whitewater 31 Mount union 10 enrollment numbers taken from D-3 web site….. Bob… (alias Sarcastic Sword)

  3. Not this enrollment issue again. Maybe we should tell Notre Dame to drop football because there enrollment is only 11,733.

  4. Steelerbob,

    Thinking your enrollment reference is either sarcasm or a joke, but in case it isn’t, just thought I’d let you know:

    D3 football has advanced quite a bit in the last 50 years. The players you see on the field are almost all RECRUITED and not selected from the good old student body boys that just happened to enroll in a particular school. Mount Union has approximately twice as many players in it’s program as UW-W. I’m not sure what you think the 8,757 kids not in the football program bring to the table. It’s hard enough even getting them to go to the games!

  5. The Purple Raiders were more decisive against the only common opponent Oshkosh.

    The Raiders get the edge here 24-21.

  6. RAIDERS WIN!!, I firmly believe that the Raiders Defense will shut down coppage early and could potentially put more points on the board than mount’s offense. As for the quarterback of ww he needs to connect down field early. No one can run or throw screens on mount. The defensive tackles and ends are just too good. WW defense is going to force turnovers, no doubt, so mount is going to need to win the special teams battle, match the turnover battle, and make every extra point and field goal. I am thinking 14on 17

  7. This “should” be a great game providing MU doesn’t turn the ball over. I was rather shocked to hear that UWW has not turned the ball over in the last (7) games…are you kidding me. And in that same time frame MU has turned it over (12) times. That’s an amazing stat. The bottom line is UWW doesn’t beat themselves, they run the ball and stop the run on a consistant basis…two areas which generally means “W”. Here’s the ultimate equalizer….Larry Kehres, even though he will not suit up for this game, is tired of losing to Lance the last (2) NC games. He will have a few wrinkles up his sleeve. Good luck to both teams…it “should” be a dandy.

    UMU 21
    UWW 20

  8. Frankly; it feels great to be the underdog for a change and my guess is the MU football team will feel the same way. In my humble opinion, the pressure will be on UWW to execute early. If they don’t and get behind, look out….the last thing UWW needs is for MU to build momentum and confidence. Same goes the other way however…lol.

  9. I’m monitoring the Vegas gaming websites and the point spread for tomorrow nights game has not yet been posted. Once they do, I will post the spread here if that’s ok with Pat.

  10. UWW 31 MUC 17

    UWW Defense, Copppage and Blanchard will be to much for the Raiders. However, I want MUC to win it, UWW and Wesley has beat UMHB and kept them from the Stagg.

  11. UMHB is the last team to beat the Raiders in Alliance and I believe the last team besides UWW to beat them!!!

  12. Close, but Mount lost to Ohio Northern the year after UMHB’s Stagg Bowl appearance.

    Since then (mid-2005), UW-W has been the only team to beat the Purple Raiders.

  13. If I’m not mistaken, I believe that MU lost to Ohio Northern (in Alliance) in 2005. That’s also the same year MU won the National Championship. They lost to UMHB in 2004 (also in Alliance).

  14. 10 and 42 are the numbers. Seems like they always go over. 2003 was the last time someone beat MU by more then 10. D3 playoffs are great to make money. They smartened up though and waited til the triple take was posted and then posted their lines.

  15. Mount Union vs Wisc. Whitewater – Division III Championship – Salem Stadium – Salem, VA
    Fri 12/16 153 Mount Union +10 -120 o42 -120
    7:00PM 154 Wisc. Whitewater -10 -120 u42 -120

    Who you got?

  16. I love all the content on the website!!. Great commentary as well as great analysis. Keeps me updated when I am far away from my east coast roots. Out here in Vegas the line is going to be UW -10. Seems like a lot of points but they seem to be the best team this year!! Keep up the good work!!!

  17. UWW 31 MU 21. As a proud UWW grad (1980) I can’t begin to express how proud I am of what the football team has achieved in the past seven years. Kudos to Mount Union too – they’ve got an even longer and more storied past and should be proud of all their accomplishments. But Whitewater has proven to be the stronger program of late. Go Warhawks!

  18. As a warhawk alum I’m glad both teams were able to make it for 7 in row. That’s a nice rivalry and tradition they have built over the years. Obviously I’m rooting for the hawks, but both teams are deserving.

    Good luck guys.

  19. I’ll throw my two pennies into the fray (and with the way I picked things last week that’s about all my predictions seem to be worth these days.) Actually, because I underestimated both of these Purple Powers it makes me wonder “what’s under the hood”, so to speak. Anybody that’s done any street racing knows that the fast looking cars aren’t necessarily the fastest cars. The fastest cars tend to be the ones that have owners that are savvy at putting power to the pavement. Stick with me on the analogy – it has already been alluded to that the coaches for both of these teams have prepared their teams for this contest. On both sides of the ball you have talent galore. But what makes these teams tick? What is it that gives them the edge year in and year out? So I’ll ask again, what’s under the hood? And of course, many of the 237 teams that are not in the Stagg Bowl this year are probably wondering that very same thing. I have a feeling it’s not all that intangible. I suspect that it has something to do with how the overall program is run – rules to live by, if you will. My hat is off to both squads for the way they have beaten all comers. It’s going to be a fun night for D3 Football tonight.

    As for that prediction of mine, UWW beats UMU 27 to 21.


  20. good analogy art 76

    I’m thinking UWW is the home team

    wins the toss

    elects to receive

    and wins by at least 2 td’s

  21. WOW! Nobody expects Mount Union to win, let alone have a smittens chance. I love being the underdog and I wonder what Larry Kehres will say about this very same subject to his team, if at all.

  22. Interpret it as you will muc85, but I see two of the six people picking Mount to win straight up, and two more people thinking the game will be separated by just one score.

    Sure would like to know your definition of “a smittens chance.”

  23. Yeah, maybe I was being a little too dramatic while making that comment. But none of you ( experts) chose Mount Union to win. That’s got to be a first, RIGHT?

    PS: Other than Frank, of course

  24. I’m going to pick UWW by more than ten, but something tells me that a blocked punt or a missed extra point will win this game. Coppage will need to be a focus, but I think St. Thomas may have shown something in how to “contain” him.

    UWW 34
    UMU 23

    P.S. Stop calling this the rubber match, it might happen again, and again, and again…

  25. Friday Night Lights?
    No matter who wins “Mount Union or UW-Whitewater, which are meeting in Salem for the seventh STRAIGHT time.” Division III looks puny by not having a Saturday TV game.

  26. Puny…I’d much rather play on Friday night in prime time on ESPN rather than on Sat morning @ 11am like the D2 Championship game. If I were D2 players, I would feel slighted or weak.

  27. I am with Marc Grossman in that my head tells me UWW will win based on the stats but UMU (MUC in 2007) had the stats and favorite tag and lost in 2007.

    There may be a couple of tricks up Kehres sleeve but, ultimately, it will be the team that plays the most mistake free (including penalties) that takes it.

    UMU – 21
    UWW – 20

  28. Wow!! Woke up this morning and saw that UWW went up to a -13 favorite…waited around hoping for 14 and the steam came in on Mt Union. The number is now 8. I wonder if this action is alumni or true players. Sounds like rain is in the forecast the whole game….maybe a crack at under 44 with two great defenses.

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