Tommies, Warhawks use similar scripts
WHITEWATER So what will fans see when University of St. Thomas (Minn.) comes calling to Perkins Stadium here Saturday to play UW-Whitewater in a NCAA Division III semifinal playoff game?
About what they see each week out of the home team, says Warhawk head coach Lance Leipold.
“They are a physical, running football team,” Leipold said about the Tommies. “They have a very talented quarterback, and a very gifted running back. They are highly productive.
“They have a big offensive line, and a scheme that incorporates a solid running game.”
Yes, sounds like the Warhawks.
The Tommies and the Warhawks have used that offensive philosophy to run up 13-0 records going into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game at Perkins Stadium. The winner goes to next Friday’s Stagg Bowl at Salem, Va.
The Tommies are ranked No. 3, while the two-time defending champion Warhawks are No. 1.
And both teams have a Gagliardi Trophy candidate. Warhawk quarterback Matt Blanchard and Tommie wide receiver/kick returner Fritz Waldvogel and two of the four finalists for the trophy, which will be awarded next week in Salem.
While St. Thomas has a well-known program and is in a neighboring state, the two schools have met only once. That game came in the 1990 NCAA Division III playoffs, and Leipold was the offensive coordinator for the Warhawks.
Leipold said he couldn’t recall much from the 24-23 defeat the Tommies handed the Warhawks at Whitewater 21 years ago, except for the play that decided the outcome.
“The extra point hit the upright,” Leipold said.
Leipold knows much more about the St. Thomas squad that will be in Perkins Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Waldvogel has 7,154 career all-purpose yards and punt return yards (1,479 on 97 returns), and has 291 career receptions for 4,224 yards. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound two-time Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference MVP has a career punt-return average of 15.2 yards, and kickoff return average of 28.1 yards.
“Our coverage team will have to be operating at a high level,” Leipold said.
Waldvogel also has caught at least one pass in each of his 49 career games.
Quarterback Dakota Tracy has a 28-1 record as a starter. Since mid-October 2009, the Tommies are 31-2, and Tracy has thrown for 47 touchdowns and rushed for 16.
The Tommies defense has limited opponents to an NCAA best 47.8 yards rushing per game, and a 20 percent conversion rate on third downs.
“They are a tough, physical football team,” Leipold said. “They want to stop the run game and make you beat them through the air. And they are solid in special teams.”
The teams are similar. The only major difference is Whitewater has been at this level six straight years, and have went on to play in the Stagg Bowl all six times.
Although St. Thomas has won 38 of its last 41 yards, the Tommies are looking for their first championship game appearance.