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#1 Wisconsin-Whitewater 33   #1 Morningside College 30

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 Beyond the Highlights: 2nd Half

Plays that won’t make most game summaries but crucial to the outcome.

 In every football game, there are plays or even bounces of the ball or key blocks within a play that won’t make any headlines, but were important in the outcome of the game nonetheless. 

 Here are some of the plays “Beyond the Highlights” in the second half of Thursday night’s Warhawk game against Morningside:

 Matt Seitz, Zach Franz, and John Flood each make plays after Morningside drove to a first and ten at the UW-W 40 yard line in the opening drive of the third quarter.

 Trailing by only two, Morningside opened the third quarter clicking offensively, moving from their own 25 to the UW-W 40 in seven plays.  On first and ten from the 40, Morningside executed an inside handoff sweep to the right. They lined up a slot receiver on the right side who was perfectly positioned to block linebacker Matt Seitz on the play. But positioning and blocking are two different things.  Seitz blew up the blocker, meeting him at the line of scrimmage and knocking him back four full yards before sliding off and tackling the ball carrier for a three yard loss. Justin Dischler and Shawn Shillcox arrived on the scene just a step after Seitz. It was a play that exemplifies the speed and physicality of this UW-W defense.

 On second and 13, the Mustangs tried a QB read-option play to the right.  The QB pulled the ball back and countered to the backside of the offensive line who was showing movement to the right.  But, unfooled, Zach Franz held his ground and dumped the quarterback after just a two yard gain.  The play showed superior discipline and the athletic ability of Franz who broke down and tackled the mobile quarterback easily.

 On third and 11, Morningside attempted to pass from the shotgun.  John Flood, riding a forceful spin move, disrupted the quarterback immediately and with Franz also creating pressure, the Mustang QB rushed a throw that fell incomplete.

 Why it Mattered:  For decades coaches have harped on the importance of their teams making a statement with the first drive of the second half.  While the drive looked promising for the Mustangs early, the sequence of plays allowed the Warhawks to claim victory in the “first drive in the second half” game within the game.  

 

Jordan Ratliffe 11 yard run on first and 10 from the Warhawks’ own 9 yard line. 

After getting a defensive stop to start the second half, the Warhawks found themselves pinned in a hole at their own nine yard line. If Morningside didn’t already know it wasn’t going to be easy to wrestle away this victory from Whitewater, they surely did after this play. After talking a handoff and heading straight up the middle, Ratliffe was hit and surrounded by three and then four and then five defenders after what would have been a one yard gain. Ratlliffe, however, refused to go down. Keeping his legs moving and creating a scrum, Ratliffe pushed, pulled, and dragged his way to an 11 yard gain.

 Why it Mattered:  First, it got UW-W important field position while deep in their own territory.  Second, the determination Ratliffe showed is the kind that sparks a team a la Marshawn Lynch.

 

Jordan Ratliffe 20 yard run immediately following the previously described 11 yard run.

There was no scrum this time. Eli Sloneker and  Spencer Shier made sure of that. They mauled the defensive tackles across from them and Ratliffe hit a gaping hole in front of him, galloping 20 yards in all.

 Why it Mattered: This gain neutralized a distinct field position advantage Morningside had when Whitewater started this drive.  It was the longest play of the drive which ended with a 44 yard Lake Bachar field goal.

 

Defensive Tackle Brandon Tamsett sacks the QB for a nine yard loss on second and 11. 

 Tamsett and D-tackle Tim Regan executed an inside stunt to perfection.  Regan got a great jump on the snap and drove hard into the left shoulder of the center, knocking him back a step. With Tamsett intentionally delaying a beat, Morningside’s left guard instinctively slid over into Regan who was crossing over him to get to the center. The inside step by the guard allowed Regan to take him down the line also, leaving Tamsett with his opportunity. Showing tremendous burst for a 274 pound defensive tackle, Tamsett  easily moved past the guard who was trying to recover and hit the QB head on with a full payload. 

Why it mattered:  Tamsett’s sack essentially ensured the Mustangs of a three and out possession.  This series resulted in a punt which delivered the ball to UW-W in Morningside territory.

 

Joe Worth 19 yard reception from Chris Nelson.

The Warhawks were positioned on the right hash with a first and ten on Morningside’s 24 yard line after a 6 yard Nick Patterson run and a 15 yard tack-on facemask penalty.  Marcus Hudson split out to the wide left between the left hash and the numbers. Joe Worth flanked out to the near right. The Hawks employed two tight ends, Brent Campbell to the left and Tony Gumina to the right.

 Nelson lined up under center with Nick Patterson directly behind him seven yards deep.  At the snap, both tight ends stayed in to block.  Patterson executed a play-action fake from Nelson and stayed in to protect Nelson’s right flank.  Hudson ran a deep seam just inside the left hash, clearing out the cornerback.  Worth shuffled a few steps toward the interior pre-snap and then angled directly in front of the Umpire. At the last second, he cut directly behind the umpire, which shook the safety who had deep responsibility.  He then angled toward the pylon and flattened out the route at the 15 and headed for the numbers at the 10. 

 Nelson executed a play-action fake to Patterson while taking a seven step drop. After looking at Hudson in the seam, he dropped a pass into the arms of Worth at the 10, who advanced to the five for a 19 yard gain.

 Why it Mattered:  The three previous UW-W drives stalled once in Mustang territory and resulted in only three Whitewater points.  This play provided the chunk of yardage to give the Warhawks the first and goal at a first and goal at the five situation and  Jordan Ratliffe scored from three yards out two plays later.

 

 Trevor Boyle draws 10 yard holding call against Morningside on 1st and 15 from the Warhawk 21 yard line.

Defensive End Trevor Boyle’s hard first step outside beat the offensive tackle for the Mustang on a play designed to go wide to his side.  The tackle wrapped his arms around Boyle in an effort to keep him from blowing up the play. However, the referees caught the foul and it pushed the Mustangs further back on this kep possession.

 Why it Mattered: The Mustangs, already leading by one, recovered the ball after it slipped out of Chris Nelson’s hand and took over at the Whitewater 17 with 6:11 left in the game. Holding Morninside to a FG would be huge to the outcome.  This play by Boyle was crucial to the turn over costing UW-W only three points and keeping them in striking distance.

 

Chris Nelson 32 yard pass to Adam Korpela on 1st and 10 from the UW-W 25.

 This was the start of “The Drive”. Whitewater takes over at their own 25 with 4:11 left in the game, down 30-26. The situation defines “Crunch Time”.  While every play on a drive like this is obviously crucial, none was more so than the first.

 Lining up on the left hash, Nelson lined up 5 yards deep with Ratliffe two yards behind him.  The Warhawks lined up Marcus Hudson wide right and Adam Korpella in the slot.  Joe Worth lined up on the near left at the numbers.  Korpela went into pre-snap motion.  The ball was snapped just as he was getting outside left tackle Johnny Wiederholt.  On the snap, Worth slanted hard inside and was being played physically by the pressing cornerback. This play was made when Korpela was able to get cleanly between corner, the linebacker, and the safety, who all combined to form a tight triangle around him. Korpela streaked down the sideline with the free safety in close pursuit just off his hip.  The far side safety, who followed Korpela when he went in motion came and helped out over the top. Nelson took the snap and surveyed his options.  The offensive line protected him beautifully. Brent Campbell was open on a hook pass 5 yards downfield. Marcus Hudson ran a post and had a safety four yards behind him and a linebacker 4 yards in front of him. Nelson could have thrown a dart, but it would have been dangerous with the safety closing quickly.  Instead, he chose to throw 30 yards downfield to the double-covered Korpela.  Good decision?  Normally not, but Nelson’s pass was brilliant.  First, he threw it on the back shoulder where only Korpela had a chance to catch it. And he spotted it perfectly. The athletic Korpela went up and got it for a 32 yard gain as the safety flew helplessly by.  The Hawks were in business with a first and ten at the Morningside 43 with just under 4 minutes to play.

 Why it Mattered: 

This first play of the drive accomplished so much.  First, it officially put Morningside on their heels.  From this play on, it appeared Morningside went from “clinch the game” to “hang on” mode.  And it had the opposite effect on the Warhawks. If the Warhawk offense knew they were going to win this game, then after this play they knew that they knew. While the clock may not have been a factor, four minutes isn’t forever either.  This opened up the playbook and allowed for patience offensively.  The Warhawks were so efficient and dominant on this final drive, they never even faced a third down situation.