The undefeated University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks will face their stiffest conference test thus far when the La Crosse Eagles visit Perkins Stadium this Saturday.
Both teams are undefeated. Whitewater (5-0 overall, 3-0 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), is ranked second by D3football.com and most other polls. La Crosse (4-0, 2-0) is ranked sixth by D3football.com.
"Every week is a challenge in our league, and this week is no different," Whitewater coach Bob Berezowitz said recently. "I still believe the pressure is on the people we're playing. They have to bring their 'A' game to beat us, and that's what we expect to get each and every game.”
“This (Whitewater) is a big game for us, but we’re not intimidated at all,” La Crosse quarterback John Schumann said after the Eagles squeaked by Platteville, 28-21, last week. “Obviously, we know we can play better, and we will play better.”
Schumann leads the WIAC in passing with 223 yards per game. He’ll go up against a Whitewater defense that leads the conference in sacks and scoring defense, allowing only 7.4 points per game, and ranks second to his own team in pass defense efficiency.
"Our defense has played fantastic thus far,” Berezowitz said. "It doesn't matter to me or my players how many points we win by. We just want to continue playing ball-control football and let our defense take care of the rest."
On offense, Whitewater is led by running back Justin Beaver, who leads the WIAC in rushing with 122 yards a game and is second in all purpose yards with a 127.8 average. Beaver gained 146 yards in a 31-13 victory last weekend over Stevens Point. His running mate, Travis Reuland, scored three touchdowns in that game.
The Warhawks also can move the ball via the pass. Quarterback Justin Jacobs is third in the WIAC in passing with 192 yards per game. Wide receiver Derek Stanley is fourth among conference receivers with 23 catches. Whitewater scored 75 points in its season opener against Lakeland, so almost anything since has looked like a slowdown. But, the Warhawks are averaging 36.8 points a game in the WIAC.
"People are saying we're not as explosive on offense, but give some credit to the defenses we've played against,” Berezowitz said before the Warhawks racked up the 31 points against Point.
La Crosse’s defense is led by defensive back Steve Teeples, who had his 19th career interception against Platteville and leads the conference with six interceptions this season. The Eagles rank third in WIAC defense going into this Saturday’s game.
The game is both the annual Hall of Fame Game and Homecoming at Whitewater. So, the atmosphere should be electric. You also would think it would give the Warhawks a big home field advantage, but La Crosse coach Steve Terry said his players can handle it.
“We’ve been in a lot of big games,” Terry said. “That’s the beauty of a program like ours. Guys have been in big games and they know how to act. We know how to play on the road and we play well at Whitewater. Our guys are looking forward to the challenge.”
Before losing last season, the Eagles had beaten the Warhawks in five of six games, including two at Whitewater.
The Eagles also should be road warriors by now. Last Saturday was their first home game of the season. They opened at South Dakota State and beat that Division I-AA team, 17-3, and also beat Azusa Pacific in a non-conference game on the West Coast before starting WIAC play.
Whitewater also beat Azusa Pacific on the road earlier in the season. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Perkins Stadium. The game also will be the FSN WIAC game of the week and will be shown on Oct.18.