Time of Poss.
WHITEWATER, Wis. -- UW-Whitewater finished a huge fourth-quarter drive with a field goal, then intercepted Jackson Erdmann on the first play in the two-minute drill, and the Warhawks secured their first trip to the Stagg Bowl since 2014 with a 35-32 win against St. John's.
The Warhawks will face North Central, which defeated Muhlenberg 45-14 in the other national semifinal, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Stagg Bowl XLVII kicks off shortly after 7 p.m. Central Time, in Shenandoah, Texas.
Quarterback Max Meylor completed just 15 of his 34 passes and was picked off twice, but he kept key drives alive with his legs. Meylor picked up 48 yards on the ground in a drive at the end of the second quarter, which gave Whitewater (13-1) a 22-21 lead at halftime. And in the beginning of the fourth quarter, Meylor broke out on a third-and-4 and ran 38 yards for a touchdown, giving the Warhawks their biggest lead of the game, at 32-24.
|Max Meylor was the unlikely leading rusher for UW-Whitewater, as the quarterback scampered for 85 yards and a touchdown in leading the Warhawks to a 35-32 win.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
St. John's (12-2) got the ball early in the fourth quarter when Brady Buckentin picked off Meylor at the Warhawk 15-yard line, and Erdmann hit Ravi Alston for an 8-yard pass on second-and-goal from the 9. Kai Barber pounded it in one play later, and Erdmann found Alston again on the two-point conversion to tie it all up at 32. But the Warhawks, who had struggled to run the ball earlier against the Johnnies, found a combination which worked. Ronny Ponick chewed up some yards for a first down, Meylor found Derek Kumerow for a 17-yard pass into St. John's territory, and Ponick had a big run down to the 15. The Warhawk drive stalled there, but Wojciech Gasienica drlled a 37-yard field goal with 2:10 left to give UWW a 35-32 lead.
The kick was not Gasienica's longest of the season, but it was into a wind of about 15 mph.
"I always try to say that every kick is supposed to be the same," Gasienica said after the game. "It's a little easier said than done. I tried to kick the ball a little bit lower to not catch the wind all the way on top ... and it went down the middle."
The Johnnies got a great kickoff return out to their own 42-yard line and with Erdmann and one timeout, 2:04 seemed like plenty of time. But Erdmann's checkdown to Barber on the first play of the drive was ripped out of the running back's hands by Whitewater linebacker Matt Anderson, and the Warhawks were able to run out the clock.
"When I saw the ball, I went to hit it down and I was trying to tackle him at the same time," Anderson said. "All of a sudden I felt it near my chest so I just the best of my ability tried to rip it away from him and it ended up in both my hands. I just got down as quick as I good because I knew our offense could finish it from there."
Meylor finished with a game-high 85 yards rushing on six carries and threw for 188 yards and a touchdown. Erdmann was 29-for-50 passing for 342 yards and a touchdown but was sacked seven times. The Johnnies had just 21 rushing yards on 25 carries.