TAG | Stagg Bowl
Zach Howard, senior backup wide receiver for UW-Whitewater, posted this public note of thanks to his Facebook account on Thursday night. It’s an insight into what Division III football players everywhere could feel on the eve of their final career game. We share it here as part of the run-up to tonight’s Stagg Bowl XLI kickoff.
As I lay here on the eve of what will be the last game of football I will ever play, so many emotions are running through me. I think about where I am today and the long path I’ve traveled down to get here and the many people that have helped me along the way.
There are too many to name everyone so I’d like to point out a few that did a little extra. My YMCA coach and counselor Donnie Davis, you always encouraged me and made me feel that I had greatness in me and have me the confidence to express it.
To my freshmen head coach Dale Craft, you put an athletic discipline I’m me that I’ve always kept with me on the competitive fields. To Al Allen, you were and still are always there for me in anything that comes my way. I trust in you if I ever need someone to turn to and take advice from. To my sprint coach Keven Allen you inspired me to take my work ethic to an entirely different level, and developed my focus on making small things important. I have so much respect for you and will always look up to you!
To Tim Hasso, you pushed me every day you coached me, you saw more in me than I did. No matter the level you always pushed me to take the challenge and step up! I am a better competitor for that! To Jim Zebrowski you gave me a second chance to play football after a year off. You helped me learn how the process of a team works, and took my football IQ to another level. You’re one of the best football minds I’ve ever met!
To Steve Dinkel, you were there for me every step of my development as a Warhawk. You got on me when I was down, and praised me when I earned it! I respect your passion for the game and it has made me love the game that much more! To Coach Nelly, you gave me humility, and kept me humble! No matter what I did you always coached me to do it better. And thank you for everything you did to help me off the field as well!
To Mitchell Moore You have always had my back, you kept my confidence level where it was supposed to be even when I was feeling less than whole, your an outstanding coach and will go far in this world! I look up too you so much! To Lance Leipold my head coach, thank you for giving me the opportunity to play football at the collegiate level. You put up with so much from me through the years and I greatly appreciate the patience and wisdom you’ve given to me.
To every teammate I’ve ever had at any level, I remember so many great times I can’t even begin to recount them. I hope every single one of you are doing well in life today! To my best friend and brother Levell Coppage you single handedly made me as good as I am today. No matter how good I ever thought I was you were better, and that motivated me to work harder to match your ability. You’ve been a great friend to me since we were kids! Few people I’m this world can say they are still as close to their lifelong best friend the way we are, and it won’t ever die! I love you bro!
To my family, I hope I’ve made you all proud and I thank everyone for all the support I’ve received through my childhood and as I’ve matured. Most especially, to my parents! My dad, Tim Howard most fathers who are as far apart as we are don’t have much of a relationship, we talk just about every night. And I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve met whose fathers aren’t in their lives and I thank you for all that you have done for me and to be in my life! And finally to my mom, Robyn Ziegler you are the best mother anyone could ask for, you’ve never missed a single sporting event I’ve been involved in! You’ve given your life to put mine first every single time and no amount of thank-you’s can express my gratitude. I love all of you and appreciate everything!!
It’s a surreal feeling to know that tomorrow night will be my final time putting a helmet on my head! I love this game and have done everything I can to help this team! I will always be a Huskie and always be a Warhawk! This is the end of such a huge chapter I’m my life and I can’t wait to see what’s in my future! Words cannot describe how bitter sweet tomorrow will be for me!
To play my last game for a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP to earn a 4th RING! Nothing will be better than to go out on top!!
- Zach Howard, senior wide receiver, UW-Whitewater
Salem Stadium stands ready.
City of Salem photo
This somehow feels familiar.
After a one-year hiatus of these two teams’ season culmination in Salem, we’re again getting to see Mount Union and UW-Whitewater duke it out for the Walnut and Bronze. Oh, but what an exciting trip is has been to get to this point, as both of these two teams won by just one point last weekend.
Pat Coleman and Frank Rossi also gave their pregame thoughts (kept it under 10 minutes!):
Pat, Keith and Ryan bring you an expanded Triple Take this week, with a few guest prognosticators. And, of course, not only are we doing scores, but we’re also throwing in a bit of analysis. It’s been a D3football.com tradition since 1999.
As always, we welcome your remarks and your own picks in the comments section below!
Pat Coleman, D3football.com publisher and executive editor
I came into this week with a specific result in mind. Whether I could find enough points to make it happen, though, I wasn’t quite sure. Eventually I end up with about the prediction I’d like. Could I see UW-Whitewater scoring enough points on offense to justify the “just barely more than one score” prediction that was on my mind. Mount Union should score enough points to keep this game close and UW-Whitewater needs to really avoid the early-game issues they’ve had the past two weeks. If so, I think the Whitewater defense outperforms the Mount Union offense.
UW-Whitewater 30, Mount Union 21
Keith McMillan, D3football.com managing editor and Around the Nation columnist
I usually try to watch as much of both teams as I can and give a serious pick based on expected on-field factors. But I have a couple of problems this year. While I’ve seen all or part of five Mount Union games, I haven’t seen enough UW-Whitewater to comfortably form a really good opinion. (I do plan to watch the Thursday 3 p.m. ESPNU re-air of the UMHB semifinal on DVR before game time, so I’ll be sharp for our annual Web cast). My second problem is that UW-W fans have specifically requested that I pick against them as I have the past two weeks, when they’ve beaten the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in our poll to advance; Now they’re facing No. 1. So, because I really have no idea who’ll win Round 8 (Isn’t that the way it should be?) and because it will make both sides happy, even our picks at 3-3 and the series at 4-4, I’ll take the Purple Raiders. (I’m not as terrible at this as I thought; I’ve picked the past five Stagg Bowl winners correctly in Triple Take, including UW-W in ’09, ’10 and ’11). I just mentioned myself 10 — make that 11 — times and haven’t mentioned a single player. Yuck. Anyway, it’s scary to think what it means for the rest of D-III if Mount Union replaces 17 starters and its legendary coach and still wins the Stagg Bowl, but they’ve got Kevin Burke, taking his place alongside the great D-III quarterbacks, playmakers around him (look for a big play from Luc Meacham) and a defense that can be gashed but is opportunistic as well. The Warhawks’ front seven will cause problems for the Purple Raiders’ O-line, but in the fourth-quarter play that defines the game, I can’t envision Burke failing. You had your chances, D-III sub-elite class. Here goes nothin’. Mount Union 21, UW-Whitewater 20.
Ryan Tipps, D3football.com senior editor and former Mid-Atlantic columnist
Year after year when these teams meet, winning seems to wind up being about defense — and most signs point to the Warhawks ultimately being more dominant than the Purple Raiders on that side of the ball. The scores and the stars through the regular and postseasons have shown us a team that can hold the likes of UW-Platteville, Franklin, Linfield and Mary Hardin-Baylor each to 17 points or less. (For comparison, UMHB’s worst game before last week was a 34-point offensive effort in Week 2.) I have no doubt that Burke and his UMU compatriots will push UW-W to the absolute limit, and Whitewater could get into trouble if Mount’s passing game really takes off (remember 2008?). But Whitewater has beaten the pass, as well as beaten the run, this season, and they’ve made me a believer in the process. Mount Union started the season No. 1 on my ballot and has lived there sporadically since. Since September, I’ve chosen four teams to spend time in the top spot, and Whitewater has beaten two of them in the postseason. Because they’ve done that, there’s little reason to think they couldn’t do it a third time. UW-Whitewater 21, Mount Union 17
Adam Turer, Around the Mid-Atlantic columnist
This is as much a matchup of weaknesses as it is strengths. Casual fans may think this is just another Purple Power coronation, but each of these teams has been exposed, probably moreso than in any other season during this eight-game, nine-year series. The Warhawks have struggled to score early. Falling behind to Mount Union is not a recipe for success. The Purple Raiders have been vulnerable in the secondary, allowing 99 points in the past two games. Matt Behrendt should be salivating. Who do you believe in more: Cole Klotz and the Whitewater defense, or Burke and the Mount Union offense? The past two Stagg Bowls have been defensive struggles. That trend ends this year. Burke and the Purple Raiders will get their points. I expect the Warhawks to try and keep Burke & Co. on the sideline, which means Jordan Ratliffe will be counted on to grind out yards on the ground. This game will hinge on third down — can the Purple Raiders defense get off the field and get the ball back in the hands of the nation’s second-most prolific offense? Mount Union safety Alex Kocheff had the game of his freshman season in last year’s Stagg Bowl. Now, the sophomore starter will need to lead the defense to a bounce-back performance after it was humbled over the past seven quarters. Whitewater has a great defense, but I don’t think the Warhawks have the offense to keep up with the Purple Raiders. Burke will win his third championship in the past four years and the Purple Raiders will be dynastic once more. Mount Union 38, UW-Whitewater 24
Frank Rossi, D3football.com broadcaster
Anyone who saw the playoff games of these two knows there’s great balance between opposite sides of the ball for these teams. The Mount Union offense looks unstoppable at times, while the UW-Whitewater defense becomes stifling as games wear on. Because of this, we’ll see overtime, or perhaps two, with Burke making a believer out of everyone who doubts the Mount Union mantra, “The guy just wins.” Watch the two-point conversion from last weekend for more information. Mount Union 37, UW-Whitewater 31 (2 OT)
Josh Smith, Around the West columnist
It’s the No. 1 offense versus the No. 1 defense. The adage is “defense wins championships,” but not every defense plays against Mount Union. The job Burke has done leading this brand new cast of players on offense is incredible, and the Purple Raiders’ ability to score points when the game is the line has truly impressive. But the UW-Whitewater defense is stingy. Thanks to their ability to adjust on the fly, the defense has been able to shut teams down in the second half, giving Behrendt and company opportunities to put points on the board. I don’t anticipate a shootout, which leads me to think the “defensive” team has the edge over the “offensive” team. A key turnover is likely to shift the game in one direction or another, and the Warhawks seem to come up with big stops when they are needed. UW-Whitewater 20, Mount Union 17
These notes have been on Pat’s desk most of the season and they’ll still come in handy this week.
We know there are people who don’t want to hear it but Saturday really is a bright point for the rest of Division III football. You know, the 99% of us who can’t lay claim to the term Purple Powers. But with Mount Union and UW-Whitewater needing two one-point games to reach their eighth Stagg Bowl meeting, it should be clear that the two are very close to the pack, and that the “six-pack” of teams at the top we were talking about earlier this season who were all capable of winning the title were in fact capable of doing so.
Keith McMillan and Pat Coleman tell about the facts, though, not just the theory. Keith was in Alliance and can speak to the snow and the momentum and the great plays and great (more…)