The defending NCAA Division III football champion University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks and runner up University of Mount Union (formerly known as Mount Union College) Purple Raiders are ranked 1 and 2 in three preseason football polls. Whitewater is ranked first in the D3football.com and Sporting News polls, second in the USA Today poll. Mount Union is number 1 in the USA Today poll, and number 2 in the others.
These poll results are not surprising. Mount Union, based in Alliance, Ohio, has been a Division III powerhouse for years, and has won ten National Championships between 1993 and 2008, all of them under head coach Larry Kehres. Kehres enters his 25th year as head coach of the Purple Raiders with a 289-22-3 record, for a .925 winning percentage. For the last five years, Mount Union has faced Whitewater in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the NCAA Division III football championship game. (Division III actually has a playoff system to determine the National Champion, unlike the convoluted BCS system in place in Division I. Division III schools also do not offer athletic scholarships). Mount Union has a 3-2 edge in these five games, but Whitewater has won two of the last three under head coach Lance Leipold.
It’s amazing that two schools would meet five time in a row for the championship, considering they must win four rounds of playoffs to make it to the Stagg Bowl . Fans of other schools may be tired of seeing Whitewater and Mount Union battle it out in the Stagg Bowl every year, but as a UW-Whitewater graduate, I haven’t gotten bored with it. Here’s a brief look at the previous Whitewater- Mount Union Stagg Bowls. All the games were played in Salem, Virginia.
December 17th, 2005: Mount Union 35, UW-Whitewater 28
Mount Union running back Nate Kmic ran for 185 yards and scored three touchdowns as Mount Union jumped out in front 28-7 and held on for a 35-28 victory. One of Kmic’s touchdown runs was a 95 yarder. Pierre Garcon, now with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, caught two touchdown passes for the Purple Raiders. Whitewater closed to within a touchdown with seconds remaining in the game, but could not recover the onside kick on the subsequent kickoff.
December 16th, 2006: Mount Union 35, UW-Whitewater 16
Mount Union quarterback Greg Micheli threw three touchdown passes, including two to Pierre Garcon, as Mount Union won by 19 points, the largest margin of victory in the five games. Micheli also rushed for a touchdown, and Mount Union’s defense shut down the Warhawks in the second half.
December 15th, 2007: UW-Whitewater 31, Mount Union 21
Whitewater won its first ever Division III championship, and ended Mount Union’s 37 game winning streak. Whitewater running back Justin Beaver rushed for 249 yards and scored a touchdown, and Warhawk quarterback Danny Jones scored two touchdowns. Whitewater’s defense held the Purple Raiders scoreless in the first half, forced three fumbles, and held Pierre Garcon to 4 catches for 30 yards. Nate Kmic scored all three Mount Union touchdowns.
December 20th, 2008: Mount Union 31, UW-Whitewater 26
The Purple Raiders jumped off to an early 14-0 lead and held on to defeat the Warhawks. Strong safety Drew McClain returned an interception 78 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for Mount Union.
December 19th, 2009: UW-Whitewater 38 Mount Union 28
A huge snowstorm delayed the start of the game by five hours and kept many fans from attending. When the game finally started, Whitewater scored touchdowns on all four of it’s first half possessions and held a 28-14 lead at halftime. Mount Union came storming back in the second half. Quarterback Kurt Rocco threw one touchdown pass and rushed for another to tie the score. It stayed even until Whitewater running back Levell Coppage ran 31 yards for a his third touchdown of the game, scoring with 1:17 left in the fourth quarter. Whitewater added a late field goal. Warhawk quarterback Jeff Donavan threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
Winning programs tend to attract good athletes, and keep the momentum going. These two evenly matched teams (they even have the same purple and white school colors) could very well meet again this December in Salem for a sixth consecutive year.
University of Mount Union Football Web Page
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Football Web Page