WHITEWATER — University of Wisconsin-Whitewater coach Kevin Bullis may have needed a sanity check in the fourth quarter of his team’s homecoming game with UW-Platteville.
UW-Whitewater had outgained Platteville by nearly 300 yards but also made a series of errors that left the game in doubt.
Fortunately for Bullis, Jarrod Ware’s 10-yard touchdown run in the fourth broke a tie and helped No. 3 UW-Whitewater squeak out a 21-14 victory against No. 19 UW-Platteville in a game best described as a statistical anomaly at Perkins Stadium.
Whitewater owned a 513-237 total yard advantage, had two runners eclipse the 100-yard mark but lost two fumbles and missed two field goals to help keep 12,402 fans on the edge of their seats until the end.
“The reason for being tied is when you put the ball on the ground it’s that simple,” Bullis said. “You can’t put the ball on the ground and can’t miss field goals. I feel like we can get that corrected, but we haven’t gotten it corrected and there has to be a greater sense of urgency to get that fixed.”
Whitewater showed a sense of urgency on a classic smash-mouth 9-play 80-yard go-ahead scoring drive capped by Ware’s 10-yard run with 11 minutes to play.
“I don’t like those situations where we feel down on ourselves,” said Ware, who had 16 carries for 101 yards. “But as coach Bullis says we just got to go back to our basics and go back to the foundation that we set forward.”
The Warhawk defense stuck to the basics in the fourth quarter, keeping UW-Platteville out of scoring range on its final three drives.
“Coach Cortez always says to treat every play like it’s 0-0,” Whitewater defensive tackle Niko Lemke said. “It just comes to our defensive line and the sharks pinning their ears back and just kept on going.”
UW-Whitewater was seemingly in control from the start and grabbed a 7-0 lead on Ronny Ponick’s 2-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left in the first quarter.
Junior quarterback Zach Oles then led his team on an 11-play, 97-yard drive, capped by his 9-yard touchdown slant pass to Josh Ringelberg to make it 14-0 Whitewater with 7:05 to play in the second quarter.
Oles led the Warhawks in rushing with 14 carries for 114 yards, while throwing for 137 passing yards.
“Zach is very good with the zone read,” Bullis said. “He made some people miss today and it’s not like he is just a bull that runs over people.”
UW-Platteville quarterback Colin Schuetz then caught the Warhawk defense on its heels 19 seconds later with a 69-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Wyatt Thompson to cut it to 14-7.
“Platteville lulls you to sleep with the short passes and then they take their shots,” Bullis said. “I told coach (Rob) Erickson to make them earn it in the second half and no big plays.”
UW-Platteville’s defense made a pair of big plays in the third quarter with two fumble recoveries, including recovering an Alex Peete fumble at the UW-Platteville 10-yard line.
The Pioneers then unleashed a 90-yard scoring drive that culminated in Schuetz’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Donald Allender to tie it at 14 with 4:53 to play in the third quarter.
But Platteville was unable to score again, as the Warhawks turned things up in the fourth quarter to come away with the hard-fought victory.
The win also allowed the Warhawks to keep the Miner’s Axe as part of the 25th George Chryst Memorial Bowl. UW-Whitewater has won 23 of the last 25 times the two teams have squared off.
“We talked about it ... one time very seriously (early in the week),” junior captain Quinn Meinerz said. “We talked about how we’ve held it for (14 years) and how it needs to stay here because this is the home of the axe and we need to defend that.”
They did. Now, the Warhawks will travel to take on UW-Stevens Point (2-3, 1-1). The Pointers defeated UW-River Falls, 30-16, in the first week of the WIAC slate and lost to UW-Oskhosh, 20-7, on Saturday.
Pioneers 0 7 7 0 — 14
Warhawks 7 7 0 7 — 21
UW-W — Ponick 2 run (Gasienica kick)
UW-W — Ringelberg 9 pass Oles (Gasienica kick)
UW-P — Thompson 69 pass Schuetz (Schweigert kick)
UW-P — Allender 18 pass Schuetz (Schweigert kick)
UW-W — Ware 10 run (Gasienica kick)
First downs — UW-P 12, UW-W 29. Passing yards — UW-P 218, UW-W 137. Passes (comp.-att.-yds.) — UW-P 19-39-0, UW-W 8-19-0. Fumbles-lost — UW-P 1-0, UW-W 3-2. Penalties-yards — UW-P 2-25, UW-W 5-43.
Rushing — UW-P Schuetz 10-15, UW-W Oles 14-114. Receiving — UW-P Allender 7-72, UW-W Parish 3-72. Passing — UW-P Schuetz 19-38-218, UW-W Oles 8-18-137.