Editor’s note: Attendance was reported to be a very strong 15,236. Last year’s high attendance was 15,406 against UW-Platteville on Oct. 9.
By Angela Kelm
Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
The No. 8 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team defeated No. 4 Saint John’s 56-28 in the Warhawks’ home opener Saturday.
UW-Whitewater registered 500 yards of offense for the second straight game. Tamir Thomas registered four touchdowns in the game for the third time in his career while posting a career-high in rushing yards, 179. Jason Ceniti posted a career-high 175 yards on 11-16 passing with three touchdowns. He added a fourth on the ground.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair with the teams heading into the intermission knotted at 21. UWW took the early lead with quarterback Ceniti punching it in from two yards out to cap a six-play, 63-yard opening drive. Jeff Isotalo-McGuire’s kick made it 7-0 UW-Whitewater just over three minutes into the contest.
Saint John’s responded before the end of the quarter on a seven-yard touchdown through the air to make it 7-7.
The Warhawks posted back-to-back scores in the second quarter. The big play in the next UWW scoring drive was the one that hit pay dirt as Ceniti dropped a dime to Drake Martin who took it all the way into the endzone from 45 yards out for a 14-7 lead.
The next UW-Whitewater drive took just one play as Thomas took the handoff, burst through the middle of the line and ran away from the Johnnie defense for a nearly untouched 59-yard scoring scamper. Isotalo-McGuire’s kick made it 21-7.
Once again SJU responded – the first scoring drive was capped by a one-yard touchdown pass. The Johnnies capitalized on an interception deep in Warhawk territory with a touchdown with just four seconds remaining in the half to make it 21-21.
After the break, SJU took their opening drive 71 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on a 29-yard pass play. After that play the defense stiffened and gave the Warhawks great field position the rest of the way.
In UWW’s first possession of the second half, Ceniti hit Steven Hein in stride from 35 yards out for the tying touchdown with 5:21 left in the third. The Warhawks added another seven before the end of the quarter on Thomas’ 10-yard run off the left side of the line to make it 35-28.
Halfway through the fourth, it was Thomas crossing the goal line again, this time on a reception from Ceniti to cap a 9-play, 61-yard drive. The kick made it 42-28 UW-Whitewater.
Alijah Maher-Parr wrote his name into the scoring column with a 30-yard bull rush through the middle for another rushing touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, Joey Antonietti jumped a passing lane for the pick to hand the ball back to the Warhawks’ surging offense. UWW capitalized with Thomas bouncing it off the right side of the line for a nine-yard touchdown run, his fourth score of the game. Isotalo-McGuire made it 56-28.
Defensively, Hawk Heffner led the Warhawks with nine tackles including partnering with a teammate for a sack. Matt Burba posted three tackles including 1.5 for a loss of 23 yards adding a forced fumble. The defensive backs were stingy with three passes broken up and an interception while the line pressured the Johnnies quarterback with eight hurries.