Warhawks Prepare For Stout, Hope for Much More
The UW-Whitewater Warhawk football team knows it put itself in an unfamiliar position with an untimely loss at UW-Oshkosh on October 10th. The Warhawks lost control of their WIAC destiny on that Saturday afternoon in October. Whitewater, the winner of nine of the last 10 WIAC football championships, wasn’t about to panic. “Our goals remain intact.” Head Coach Kevin Bullis declared the week after the game. Whitewater, which has long adopted a philosophy focusing on getting better every day, kept going about their business. In the four games since the Oshkosh game, the Warhawks are 4-0, having outscored their opponents 170-45. Heading into Saturday’s Senior day clash with UW-Stout, the Warhawks have worked their way into a prime position for one of six at-large bids the NCAA hands out for their 32 team National Championship playoff.
“Since the Oshkosh game, we have been in a mode that we have to win them all, so Saturday is very important if we want a chance to the playoffs” Coach Bullis emphasized. The Warhawks are a far different team than the one that were held to a season low seven points and 226 yards against Oshkosh. “I believe our offensive identity is coming together. You are constantly developing that identity, but I think it is taking on some very good form. We are discovering our true areas of strength. We are also get to know what some of our weaker areas might be” the first year head coach explained.
Offensive Coordinator Craig Smith, who is in his first year at UW-W inherited an offense that lost All-Americans Matt Behrendt and Jake Kumerow. Coach Smith and 2015 starting quarterback Chris Nelson “have such a great rapport with each other. Rapport is not something that happens overnight. You have to go through the battles of the season to have that kind of rapport.” The progress of Nelson was cited as a key component of the transformation of the Warhawk offense. “Chris matures with every game. That is really pleasing in his first year being ‘the guy’. He is improving and gaining confidence with every game” Bullis noted. The Warhawks’ offense continues to be anchored by a veteran offensive line. Over the course of the season, the Warhawks have lost three offensive linemen. Tackle Johnny Wiederholt, All-American guard Conner Peters, and guard Eli Sloneker have all been out with injuries. Sloneker played in a limited role last week against River Falls but Peters and Wiederholt have not played since their injuries. But now Mitchell Schauer, Austin Jones, and Jordan Mueller have developed a rhythm and the offensive line is once again a strength of the team as they move forward into the Stout game and, hopefully, beyond.
Running back Jordan Ratliffe remains one of the stalwarts of the Warhawk attack. Ratliffe leads all WIAC running backs with 883 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. “Jordan Ratliffe has been a pillar frome day one. He is a guy you can hand the ball off to and know he will get the tough yards. And he is a smart back. He is one of the smartest running backs I have ever been around. And he has a great position coach in Coach (Nelson) Edmunds” Bullis emphasized.
On Saturday, the Warhawks face a UW-Stout team coming off of a 34-31 win over UW-Stevens Point. The Blue Devils are 2-4 in the WIAC and 3-6 overall. The game is designated as Senior Day and kickoff at Perkins Stadium is set for 2:00 PM. The NCAA selection show will be aired at 5PM Central time. For a link to the streaming broadcast click here.