The Game of the Week lived up to expectations. Well, sort of - Mary Hardin-Baylor was expected to win, but it was Wisconsin-Whitewater’s touchdown with 19 seconds left that sent the Warhawks to a 28-24 win.
The victory is the 43rd consecutive win at Perkins Stadium for UW-Whitewater, and the 14,213 fans in attendance helped spur their team to victory. UMHB is now 2-7 all-time against the Warhawks and has never won two consecutive games in the series.
Neither team led by more than four points in a game that featured five lead changes, while both teams were close in rushing yards, with the Warhawks owning a slight edge (410-336) in total yards.
So, how did UW-Whitewater pull off the upset? Let’s dig into that.
The big Lewandowski
In the GOTW preview, I said the UMHB defense was the X-factor. I was wrong again. The X-factor on Saturday was UW-Whitewater quarterback Evan Lewandowski. The senior from Buffalo Grove, Ill., completed 28 of 35 pass attempts (80 percent) for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
Lewandowski’s first incompletion in the game happened with 7:30 left in the third quarter, and at least three of his seven incompletions were catchable passes dropped by the wide receivers.
The Cru stubbornly and, at times, frustratingly played a two-deep zone for the majority of the game. However, when UMHB started mixing in some man coverage from a two-deep look, Lewandowski scrambled and found an open receiver.
The UMHB defense had no answer for Lewandowski today, and to be honest, I don’t know if anyone would’ve had a response with how brilliantly he played.
Missing the nasty
Granted, Lewandowski was good and did a great job leading his team to victory, but something was missing from the Cru in the first half. UMHB entered last week with a chip on its shoulder to prove the doubters wrong after a plethora of coaching changes and one prognosticator picking them to see their reign atop the American Southwest Conference end this year.
The Cru silenced all but one of the doubters after last week’s dominant victory. Muhlenberg is not UW-Whitewater and is part of only a handful of teams with the talent to defeat UMHB. One of those teams will play the Cru in two weeks, Hardin-Simmons.
I’m not predicting a Cowboys win right now, at least not until I see HSU face real competition. However, UMHB was missing the nasty that has helped them dominate opponents in national championship seasons.
When UMHB showed some chippiness in the second half, it felt more like a team flailing after being hit in the mouth. It’s possible the Cru “ate the cheese” after last week with so many pundits declaring them the national champion.
This loss may provide the motivation the Cru needs to play with a chip on their shoulders and lead to another national title run, but only time will tell. UMHB will be ready for Southwestern next weekend and will likely cruise to a win, but what happens against HSU in two weeks? Will that chip remain throughout the rest of the regular season and the playoffs? Again, only time will tell.
What did they teach at that academy?
I need to take a minute to talk about UMHB quarterback Kyle King. Last year, King was in a quarterback battle during the playoffs following an uninspiring performance against Trinity in the first round.
King responded to the questions by willing his team to a national title by any means necessary. During the offseason, the senior from Milano attended the Manning Passing Academy, and I was curious to see how he would perform after receiving teaching from the legendary family.
Sure, King looked good last week, but this writer is demanding and wanted to see how he played against one of the top teams in the country. I received my answer today, and he was fantastic against the Warhawks.
I’ve spent plenty of time talking about Lewandowski, but King finished with a higher quarterback rating in this game. A big reason for that is his improved accuracy. Last season, King’s accuracy was sometimes off by maybe a yard or two. Not anymore. His accuracy is pinpoint on nearly every pass, and I would rank him as one of the top quarterbacks at any level in the state of Texas.
He also has wheels and is not looking to slide when he leaves the pocket. Instead, he looks to lower his shoulder and discard any would-be tackler. This 52-yard run late in the game set up the Cru for a go-ahead touchdown with 2:55 left in regulation.
I doubt he learned any of his swift-footed ability from Peyton or Eli - maybe the patriarch of the family, Archie, gave him some pointers. But, whatever it was, King will be a joy to watch the rest of the year.
Game Ball: UW-Whitewater quarterback Evan Lewandowski
There are other candidates for this honor, including Tyler Holte, who had ten receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and Tommy Coates, who had a breakout performance in a needed win for the Warhawks. But what Lewandowski did against the reigning national champions in the face of pressure earns him the game ball.
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