Wisconsin-Whitewater win D-3 title
SALEM, Va. – Levell Coppage was focused on the end zone, rather than last year’s result.
Coppage dashed 31 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown with 1:17 left and Wisconsin-Whitewater beat defending champion Mount Union 38-28 in the NCAA Division III championship game on Saturday.
Coppage ran for 111 yards and three TDs as the Warhawks (15-0) avenged last season’s loss to Mount Union in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. Mount Union (14-1) had won 29 in a row.
“On any play we have, I’m expecting to go all the way,” he said. “That’s just the type of play that I am. Anytime, these plays can happen, and I knew we needed a big play at that moment.”
This was the fifth straight year that the two teams met in the title game. The Purple Raiders had won three of those four previous matchups. The Ohio school lost for just second time in the last 68 games and was 139-5 overall in this decade.
Saturday’s game had its starting time moved back five hours because of a winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on Salem in less than 24 hours. Last year’s title game was played under sunny skies and with temperatures in the 60s.
Jeff Donovan was 26 of 40 for 323 yards and two touchdown passes for the Warhawks. In last year’s title game, he led a rally before throwing a second-half interception that was returned for a touchdown.
“I really didn’t think about that game other than the first couple of days after we lost,” Donovan said. “And this week, it never crossed my mind. This was a new year and new team.”
Donovan completed 17 of 22 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, helping the Warhawks build a 28-14 lead by halftime.
With the score at 28-all, Wisconsin-Whitewater took over on its own 42-yard line with 3:15 to play.
Coppage ran 11 yards, then four plays ran down the left sideline for the go-ahead score, capping the run with a dive into the end zone. Whitewater added a 44-yard field goal by Jeff Schebler with 26 seconds to play.
Mount Union had tied it at 28 on a 5-yard run by quarterback Kurt Rocco. Rocco was 23 of 39 for 383 yards and three touchdowns.
All-American wide receiver Cecil Shorts III had 10 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns for the Purple Raiders. He injured his leg late in the game and arrived at the postgame news conference on crutches.
“He was outstanding,” Mount Union coach Larry Kehres said. “If I had a vote for MVP, I would have voted for Cecil.”