Notables from River Falls and Beyond
Key to the Game
Whitewater’s determination to allow a repeat of last year. While the Warhawks won a last minute victory in 2014, there is a consensus within the program that the game represented an under-achievement and a repeat performance was not acceptable. The Warhawks scored touchdowns the first two times they had the ball and were never seriously threatened.
Freshman Canton Larson showed explosive burst as he returned the opening kickoff 54 yards. Larson also returned a second quarter kickoff 35 yards. As the Warhawk offense continues to peak as the season progresses, a productive kick-off return game could prove deadly to opponents hoping to keep UW-W scoring to manageable levels. Larson also showed his explosiveness in a 29 yard run from scrimmage in the fourth quarter.
With the 14-0 first quarter in River Falls, the Warhawks have now outscored their opponents 122 to 7 in the first quarter in 2015. Over nine games, UW-W’s average lead by quarter progression is:
1st Quarter: 13.6 to 0.8
Halftime: 26.6 to 5.8
3rd Quarter: 33.0 to 8.3
FINAL: 39.4 to 11.2
Red Zone Dominance
Whitewater scored a touchdown in all five red zone opportunities on Saturday. On the season, the Warhawks have now scored on 91% of their Red Zone opportunities (40-44). The Hawks have scored touchdowns on 77% of their Red Zone chances (34-44). Defensively, the Hawks have allowed scores on 63% of the opponent’s trips into the end zone and touchdown.
Things to Work On: Offense
UW-W threw for 340 yards, rushed at a 6.1 yard per carry clip in gaining 184 yards, and scored touchdowns all five times they entered the red zone at River Falls. Since stubbing their toe in Oshkosh, the Warhawks have gained over 500 yards in three of the last four games and outscored their opponents 170-45. The Warhawks have not turned the ball over the past two games. That is important because seven lost fumbles for the year is too many and ball security will be vital to the Hawks chances to extend their season. Otherwise, continue getting healthy and simply continuing the trend upward gives the Warhawks the opportunity to get where they want to go this season.
Things to Work On: Defense
While the Warhawks have been stellar defensively this year, there’s a few improvements that could really help this team take the next step. First, the Hawks have gotten a relatively quiet two takeaways over the past two games. They recovered one fumble and recorded no interceptions against both Eau Claire and River Falls. Becoming a ball hawking unit will be vital to the Warhawks’ aspirations in the post season. Secondly, the Hawks need to limit the big play. River Falls and Stevens Point both put up several big plays against UW-W. Taking care of that issue will make points all the more hard to come by against a defense allowing only 11.2 points per game. River Falls became the second team in three weeks to throw for over 300 yards against the Hawks. In a sense, the yardage was somewhat benign in that the Falcons scored only six points. But tightening up coverages in certain areas of the field could help the Hawks defense be even more dominant.
The Warhawks still have several players sidelined by injury. Getting them healthy and working them into the flow will be an important puzzle piece at the end of the year. The depth developed while the injured players missed time will be crucial to the Hawks going the distance this year. But so will having almost all hands on deck.