UW-La Crosse and UW-Whitewater Drop NCAA Football First Round Games

MADISON, Wis.–University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and UW-Whitewater dropped first round games of the NCAA Division III Football Championship on Nov. 19.

The Eagles lost 13-6 to Wartburg College (Iowa) in Waverly, Iowa. UW-La Crosse completed the 2022 campaign with a 9-2 record and secured a share of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) title. It was the 34th league championship in program history.

UW-Whitewater dropped a 33-28 decision to Aurora University (Ill.) at Perkins Stadium. The Warhawks finished the 2022 season with an 8-3 mark and shared the WIAC championship with UW-La Crosse. It was the 39th league crown in program archives.

No. 12-ranked Wartburg (11-0) and No. 7-ranked UW-La Crosse traded punts on the first four possessions of the game as neither team recorded a first down. UW-La Crosse took over at its own four-yard line after an Owen Grover 59-yard punt. Joey Stutzman rushed for the initial first down of the game on third-and-three. On the next play, Cade Garcia hit Jack Studer with a completion, but Studer fumbled with Grover recovering at UW-La Crosse’s five-yard line. Parker Rochford forced the fumble. Two plays later, Nile McLaughlin scored on a two-yard run with 7:07 left in the first quarter. Cael O’Neill’s extra point was good. Wartburg (Iowa) maintained its 7-0 lead after the first quarter.

The Knights drove to the Eagles’ 18-yard line in the second quarter, but Ben Bryant was stopped on fourth-and-four by Ryan Daines for a one-yard loss on a completion with UW-La Crosse taking over at the 19- yard line. UW-La Crosse was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, but Wartburg turned the ball over on Hunter Clasen’s fumble with Cade Osborn recovering the ball at UW-La Crosse’s 49-yard line. The Eagles drove to the Knights’ 36-yard line, but Garcia was intercepted by Drew Wyffeis. Wartburg was forced to punt with McLaughlin’s attempt only going nine yards with UW-La Crosse taking over at its own 39-yard line.

UW-La Crosse converted a third-and-four on Garcia’s five-yard completion to Max Stubbendick. Wartburg was later called for a personal foul on Garcia putting the ball at the Knights’ 21-yard line. After an incompletion, Garcia connected with Studer with a 21-yard touchdown pass with :38 left to cut the lead to 7-6. The drive went 61 yards in eight plays and 2:59. A bad snap on the extra point kept it a one-point game.

Wartburg threw a 44-yard completion to Bricen White on the final play of the second quarter, but he was down at UW-La Crosse’s one-yard line as time expired to keep it 7-6 at halftime.

The Knights only needed two plays from scrimmage in the third quarter to take a 14-6 lead. Clasen rushed for four yards on the first play and followed with a 57-yard touchdown run to give Wartburg (Iowa) a 14-6 lead with 14:09 left in the third quarter. UWL responded with a drive to the Wartburg (Iowa) 11-yard line, but Ryan Beirne missed a 28-yard field goal with 9:22 remaining. Wartburg turned the ball over on downs on its next drive, ending at UW-La Crosse’s 29-yard line. Garcia was intercepted by Dylan Steen two plays later at the Knights’ 36-yard line. Wartburg (Iowa) turned the ball over again on downs as McLaughlin’s pass fell incomplete on fourth-and-five at UW-La Crosse’s 32-yard line. The Knights led, 14-6, after three quarters.

UW-La Crosse and Wartburg traded punts to start the fourth quarter. UW-La Crosse took over at its own four-yard line with 9:05 left and went 57 yards in 13 plays to the Wartburg 39-yard line. Garcia’s fourth-down pass was incomplete with the Knights taking over possession with 4:07 remaining. Wartburg was able to run out the clock, recording three first downs, including a pair on third down.

UW-La Crosse finished with 216 yards, including 81 rushing and 135 passing. The Eagles had 14 first downs in the game, while going five-of-15 on third-down and missing their only fourth-down attempt. UW-La Crosse won the time of possession, 31:13 to 28:47.

Garcia went 17-of-29 for 135 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Stutzman had 91 yards rushing on 29 carries, while Studer finished with four receptions for 23 yards and a touchdown. Stubbendick had three catches for 50 yards.

Wartburg totaled 398 yards with 243 rushing and 155 passing. The Knights had 20 first downs and went five-of-13 on third down. Wartburg missed on its three fourth-down conversions. McLaughlin finished 14-of-29 for 155 yards, while Clasen had 222 yards rushing and one touchdown on 31 attempts. Drake George caught seven passes for 56 yards.

Daines led UW-La Crosse with 16 tackles, while Adam Quam finished with 11. Elijah Alt, AJ Spychala, Josh Dorschner and Aaron Schmitz each had six tackles.

In the Aurora (10-1) and UW-Whitewater contest, Aurora marched down the field and took an early 7-0 lead following a six-play, 66-yard scoring drive that took less than three minutes.

Later in the quarter, the Warhawks responded with Evan Lewandowski capping a 91-yard drive with a touchdown up the middle from three yards out.

The teams traded touchdowns in the second with the Spartans reclaiming the lead on a 71-yard drive before UW-Whitewater came back to tie it on a Lewandowski-Drake Martin connection.

Aurora added another score before the half, capitalizing on a 16-play, 91-yard drive to take a 21-14 lead. They held the lead the rest of the way.

The Spartans opened up a 33-21 lead in the fourth, but the Warhawks put the pressure on. Lewandowski drove UW-Whitewater 73-yards on six plays with a 28-yard strike to Tyler Holte hitting paydirt to pull the Warhawks within six, 33-28 with 4:10 remaining.

On the third play of Aurora’s next drive, Kyle Koelblinger jumped a passing lane for an interception at the Spartans’ 32-yard line. The momentum seemed to be in favor of UW-Whitewater. On The Warhawks’ second play of the drive, Lewandowski had an open receiver near the endzone, but his pass was a bit short in the windy conditions and an Aurora defensive back jumped the passing lane for the interception.

With 3:37 left to play, Aurora picked up a first down and was able to run out the clock for the final.

Tamir Thomas led UW-Whitewater’s rushing attack with 81 yards on 10 carries. Lewandowski was 21-36 for 262 yards with three passing and one rushing touchdown in the contest. Steven Hein was the favorite target on the day hauling in seven catches for 119 yards.

Defensively, Ryan Liszka posted a game-high 12 tackles, including five solo and a tackle for a loss. Luke Nelson registered a sack for the Warhawks.

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