WHITEWATER — Jacob Frey trusted his coverage and made the interception as the University of Wisconsin-Platteville was driving and closing in on erasing a 17-point second-half deficit.
That was two years ago on Homecoming against the Pioneers.
Frey, currently a senior cornerback for UW-Whitewater, was tested in similar fashion on Saturday when UW-Eau Claire was looking for deep passes against man coverage down the sideline.
Though Frey drew three defensive pass interference calls, the Blugolds didn’t complete any of the passes. Frey has drawn the tall task of taking over for first-team all-WIAC cornerback Famus Hasty, who made his mark as one of the most neglected cornerbacks in the league.
As the season progresses, Frey and the other cornerbacks’ ability to fill the void will be critical when UW-Whitewater and UW-Platteville play in the 25th edition of the George Chryst Memorial Bowl on Saturday at Perkins Stadium.
UW-Platteville is notoriously the most unbalanced team in the WIAC. The Pioneers perennially will throw the ball more than any other team in the league.
The responsibility of replacing Hasty won’t fall on one player. The Warhawks rely on their Cover 4 defensive scheme which has built in adjustments to aide those players.
“One of the beauties of Cover 4 is that you can tweak it each week,” UW-W head coach Kevin Bullis said. “There are built in adjustments in our Cover 4 that will really help us adjust to longer routes and shorter routes. ... (Adjustments) are naturally built into our Cover 4.”
The Blugolds appeared to believe they identified a vulnerability in the way the Warhawks would leave Frey on an island with a single wide receiver. Frey didn’t have help over top from senior safety Nate Tranel or sophomore safety Tyler Evans.
Regardless of the flags being thrown on Frey or the repeated tendency from UW-Eau Claire, the Warhawks didn’t rotate help over to support the senior. While Bullis and defensive coordinator Rob Erickson did substitute junior Tommy Matoska in for senior Garrett Purdy and Evans for Tranel as a development opportunities in the fourth quarter, Frey stayed in down the stretch.
“We just have to let him play it out. He’s a great player and he’s going to make those plays,” said Tranel, one of four UW-Whitewater captains. “We just let him play it out and he’s going to make the stops. He showed it (Saturday against UW-Eau Claire) that he was stopping it. I trust him with everything. He’s a great player, I have all faith in him.”
The Pioneers have thrown for 301 yards per game this season while rushing for 114 yards en route to a 4-0 record. UW-Platteville, which was picked to finish fourth in the WIAC, moved up to No. 19 in the nation in the most recent D3football.com Top 25 poll.
The UW-Platteville offense has three receivers averaging more than 70 yards per game. Junior Donald Allender enters the game averaging 3.5 catches per game for 24.1 yards. Senior Tyler Knigge averages 89.5 yards per game and Sophomore David Urke averages 71.3 yards per game.
Knigge and Allender have five touchdown catches apiece from junior quarterback Colin Schuetz.
The depth of the Warhawks in the secondary will be crucial to pull off a win on Saturday.
“(Balance) is one of their big strengths,” Bullis said. “They have (Allender) on their roster who is their top guy, he’s not an NFL guy like Dan Arnold, but when I look at their corp, they’re more balanced. They don’t have a Dan Arnold, but they’re very balanced with their talent level of wide receivers.”
To account for that balance, the Warhawks will need to avoid the home run and execute their scheme. Both tasks are rooted in trusting their principles.