Triple Take: Stagg Bowl XLI

Salem Stadium stands ready.
City of Salem photo

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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 tradition since 1999.

As always, we welcome your remarks and your own picks in the comments section below!

Pat Coleman, 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, 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, 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, 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

38 thoughts on “Triple Take: Stagg Bowl XLI

  1. I don’t believe that Mount scores less than 28 in this game. It then becomes the question on whether UWW can score 29+. I fear this could be one of those “freaky play” type of games, which I certainly hope doesn’t happen.

    In the end, I will pick with my heart, but also my head.

    Mount – 31
    UWW – 24

  2. I totally agree with you skunkssidekick. With Mount avg. 49/gm, and WW giving up only 8.7/gm, it comes down to Mounts defense. Can they hold WW to less than 22-25? I don’t think, due to recents points given up. I am a died hard Mount fan, and always will be. I afraid they trade scores until mid 4th quarter. Final score,

    Whitewater – 28
    Mount Union 17

  3. im surprised a few selections have UWW scoring around the same pts as W&J! MT’S D gjves up way too many points to repeat. UWW’s D turns in a better performance than Wesley and North Central.

    UWW wins big

    49 – 20

  4. UWW’s defense has been up for every task this season. Enough gas left in the tank? Offense came to life late last week in the second quarter, and so on. Run a good smooth offense.

    UWW 37

    MU 21

  5. Mount 34 Whitewater 27, i think UWW keeps it close like the other times they’ve met, but with how clutch Burke has been late in the game i dont see him failing.

  6. Earlier in the week I posted on the MIAC board UWW 24 UMU 21 – and I can still live with that. There is a good chance that this game will be “boring” because it will be more of a chess match with strategy playing a big role in outcome. Special team play might be the difference in this game because of the field position they can give to their team. I hope there are no turnovers in the game so we cannot at the end of the game point to them as being what determined the outcome.

    May the better team win – go Warhawks!

  7. I’ve been going over the last 7 stagg bowls that these teams have played in, and I have been searching for the one (or 2) stats that have determined the outcome of the game. IE turnovers, tackles for loss, 3rd down% etc… None of it makes sense… UWW consistently out gains Mount on the ground, while Mount does the same through the air. So I might say, if UMU can run the ball successfully, and shut down the run with success they can win this game. On the other side, if UWW can control the ground they will have a shot to win… If the run games end up even, I think it will come down to special teams. North Central did an awesome job on returns against Mount. UWW has done a good job all season returning kicks and punts. If Mount is left with 70-80 yard drives, and UWW has an average 50 yard drives, the Warhawks will get the W.
    As a former Purple raider player…I still can’t bet against them… I call Mount’s D to come up big and triple UWW’s interception total.

    UMU 34 – UWW 10

  8. A lot of the scores submitted for UWW are high. That would lead me to believe that the masses feel that UMHB had a much better defense than MU considering that UWW only mustered 16 pts against UMHB. Haven’t seen MU in action but have watched UWW vs UMHB. I believe that UWW’s strongest point is their defense. Their offense doesn’t appear to be a quick score offense but very effective and methodical. 10 of 18 on third down conversion————-very effective. MU seems to be a quick score offense. If things play out the way I think they will, UWW wins this in a low scoring game———even though UWW has a great defense, an even better defense would be keeping the MU offense off the field with long sustained drives. UWW 21—–MU 17

  9. Mount Union leads the all time series with UWW 5-4. UWW has won the last 3 times they have played.

    Burke is 29-0 as a starter @ Mount Union and will pull one out again vs the Warhawks!

    Mount Union- 35

    Whitewater- 31

  10. I haven’t seen the specific forecast in Salem but I don’t think it will be snowy or rainy. That being said, two of the four playoff games played by UMU were is terrible conditions – snow, wind, and very cold. Of the other two games, UME came up big against Wittenberg (particularly in the 2nd half) and against Wesley, they suffered a letdown due to the huge lead gained in the 1st Qtr.

    The team is not as consistently on as they have been in past years but, if the conditions are average (no rain/snow/extremely cold, etc.) I look for Mount to be on all cylinders on offense. BJ Mitchell, while short in stature, is fast and elusive. If contained, UMU has other larger backs as an option and, of course, Burke has good feet as well.

    Through the air, UMU has many options so keying on one receiver is difficult to do and, again, Burke scrambles well to either find an open receiver or hurt you with his feet.

    This will be a hard fought game but, in the end, I believe Mount squeaks it out.

    UMU – 41 UWW – 39

  11. Reading through all the comments I can’t help but think to the future. 17 new starters for Mount, yet they are still in Salem. Burke will be a senior next year, man the future is BRIGHT.

    But nights like tonight bring out the best in seniors, just ask last year’s UMU class. And UWW has some good ones. Defense does win championships and UWW clearly has the edge. But neither team could play defense in that snow. And that DEF get get UMU out to a 31 pt lead on Wesley, there is no taking the foot off the gas tonight. So just how bad is this DEF?Someone talked earlier about NCC special teams, that was in 6 inches of snow. Meachem has had a few big returns in these playoffs. And Mount has a good kicker. I don’t think that will be an issue. Burke couldn’t run the read option in the snow either which is a big piece of this offense, especially on third down.

    I’ve stated a few times I keep picking against UMU and they keep winning so I want to take UWW outshining a subpar UMU defense, which was my first though and my fear going into the game. But this D is hungry. Joshua Scott told me last night on tweeter they want to make a statement. Burke’s scrambling keeps this team on the field on 3rd downs. This team has been told all year it’s not as good as past teams. Tonight it has a chance to join those teams and I truly think they do it.

    UMU 31- UWW 24

  12. My point with the NCC having great returns was the fact that the defense was left with short fields often. If that happens in this game, it will weigh heavily in the end result.

  13. Same as my bracket prediction. I’m sticking with UWW 31 and Mount 24. That was it from the start. No reason to change.

    I think UWW D is best in nation. MT Union O might be best offense, but I think changing from turf to grass may slow down the o just a bit. Not as much as UWW D, but a factor.

    Whitewater is the only team to beat Mt Union since 05 and I think they get another one here. I think the scoring lands right in between Mt Union’s shootout style scores and UWW’s defensive dominance vs very good offenses like MHB. 31-24 sounds right to me still.

    Bethel, Wittenberg, and North Central all had good and capable clubs, but none was as strong on defense as UWW. MT Union finally gets a team that can slow them down. The last 3 teams all were hit for 42, 62, and 52 by Mount. I’m not seeing a total like that vs UWW. If so…Mt will win another one.

  14. Cap – Totally agree with that. Neither team can afford short fields, but especially UMU. Make UWW sustain offense, no big plays. Mount is known for playing bend but dont break defense. I was just saying special teams in that snow game were a lot different. Tackling was so so difficult.

  15. This is going to get ugly. Whitewater looks to be getting whatever they want on both sides of the ball. And here I was hoping for a game. Kumerow is going to victimize Mount’s secondary.

  16. Wow, middlerelief, at first I thought you had to be crazy to pick a score that lopsided. Almost halfway into the game and now I am not sure if you were not being generous to Mount.

  17. Order has been restored. For the 4th time in 5 years Whitewater plays the Harlem Globetrotters to Mt. Union’s Washington Generals.

  18. This is what happens when a team plays in a sissy conference and the NCAA gives them home field for EVERY playoff game, they meet a real team on a neutral field and get routed.

  19. Raise your champagne glasses high in Whitewater, they EARNED their title with a tough semi-final win ON THE ROAD, something Mt. Union has NEVER done!

  20. Ok, geiger, the first comment is fair game. When you get punked by almost 40 points, you have to take your slice of humble pie and like it.

    As for your other comment, the WIAC is no better than the OAC (with one good/great team, and little else of note). As far as seeding, which other team was the defending champs and had a respectable SoS (which Mount’s was by the end of the year). What reason existed _not_ to give them homefield? Next year, when Whitewater tops the charts wire-to-wire, they will be the number 1 overall seed even if their all of their victories are close. They will have earned it.

  21. No team has LOST more Stagg Bowls than Mt. Union, maybe it’s time for the NCAA to take away their “birthright” of playing every playoff game at home!

  22. After watching the game, I think UMHB is deserving of the #2 rank in the polls. Congrats Whitewater. You dominated the game.

  23. No 2 teams combined have won more Stagg Bowls than Mount Union, either, so you argument really does not fly. Besides, there have been a few years when they were not seeded number 1 or 2 overall (because you do not have to be #1 to host every playoff game until the Stagg Bowl), but the teams in front of them lost, and Mount ended up hosting. Do you not listen to the Podcasts throughout the playoffs? Pat and Keith usually explain this pretty well every week.

  24. Agreed, UMHB is a clear #2. That is why I voted, “Ask me after the Stagg Bowl” when that question was posted on D3’s site.

  25. Geiger, you missed the playoffs last year true or false? UMU was the defending champs and went undefeated again, true or false? Act like you been there before, win like a man. We were Mount was Mount this year and that got exposed, but it’s one game. They still beat NCC, another great team. They earned home games. I’d like to see another team lose four guys to NFL camps and start 17 new players and make the stagg bowl. Doesn’t happen on this level. But way to have class while winning.

  26. Congrats to UWW on their National Championship victory over Mount Union.

    Geiger should learn to win with some class.

  27. I will take the troll bait one more time.

    Not counting the Stagg Bowls (which are neutral sites, technically breaking this streak at 4 every year), sure (I do not know off-hand), Mount has hosted 61 straight (and is at worst 57-4 in those games). That will happen when you end up #1 or #2 in the country, because even the years where Whitewater was #1, Mount still hosted all the way to the Stagg Bowl because the were the top seed on the opposite side of the bracket. That is how brackets work. And when the #1 and #2 teams play in the title game, that is effectively the bracket shaking out the way it is supposed to.

    I will take my leave, but not before congratulating the Warhawks on their convincing win today. We seem to have found Mount Union’s kryptonite, and its name is Whitewater.

  28. Congrats to the Warhawks who dominated Mount Union. UMHB is #2 in my books for the season, and I’ll go further than that to say UMU is #3, NCC is #4, Linfield #5 and Bethel is #6 – after that it gets dicey.

  29. Congrats to the Warhawks. I knew if the CRU beat WW they could beat MU. Only if we had not missed the wide open TD late in the game. What if we would have went for the TD on 4th down instead of kicking a FG? I still think our coaches made a bad decision on that play call. What if our all American DT had not been suspended. If, if and if will not get it done though, congrats WW, now go enjoy it, you have earned it.

  30. Has the decline of Mt Union started? i say yes but depends on a point that taa20 was making. Other programs appear to be closing the gap — except for the programs in the OAC who remain doormats until they can show otherwise. A team in the OAC has to mix in a win, in order to send Mt Union on the road in November – then i think the fade begins, until that happens though i will keep.UMU.penciled in the stagg or at worst semis . side note: UMU has a lot returning so perhaps theyll return the favor of a beatdown next season!

  31. Final top 5:
    1. Whitewater
    2. UMHB
    3. Linfield (close with Mt Union)
    4. Mt Union
    5. N. Central

    Opinion based solely on the final three weeks of playoffs.

  32. Pingback: Triple Take: Stagg Bowl XLII predictions | Daily Dose

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