The No. 3 ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team used a strong third quarter and an opportunistic defense Saturday afternoon to defeat UW-Eau Claire 24-14 in a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game on a rainy, cool day at Perkins Stadium.
The Warhawks (4-0 overall, 1-0 WIAC) forced three turnovers, all on fumbles, and took advantage with 14 points off the Blugolds’ miscues in the third quarter to turn a three-point lead into a three-score advantage.
Junior running back Alex Peete led the offense with 13 carries for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Junior quarterback Zach Oles passed for 173 yards, and freshman wide receiver Sam DeLany caught two passes for 55 yards.
Senior running back Matt Anderson tallied nine tackles, including three for a loss, to pace the defense. Senior defensive lineman Jordan Brand collected two sacks, and junior defensive back Mark McGrath registered five tackles, including two for a loss, and forced and recovered one fumble.
On UW-Whitewater’s third offensive play from scrimmage, Peete bounced off of three tacklers and sprinted down the right sideline for a 45-yard touchdown just two minutes into the contest.
After a botched punt snap by UW-Eau Claire early in the second quarter, the Warhawks took over at the Blugolds’ 15-yard line and had one play before the contest was suspended due to inclement weather.
Following an approximately 45-minute delay, junior kicker Wojciech Gasienica knocked a 27-yard field goal attempt through the uprights to give UW-Whitewater a 10-0 advantage with 9:27 left in the period.
UW-Eau Claire (2-2, 0-1) took advantage of a botched punt snap later in the quarter and scored with 1:06 remaining before halftime to cut the Warhawks’ advantage to 10-7.
After a three-and-out by UW-Whitewater to start the second half, senior defensive back Garrett Purdy stripped Keshaun Story on a long run into Warhawk territory on the next drive, and senior defensive back Jacob Frey recovered the loose ball.
The Warhawks then embarked on a seven-play, 64-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Peete to make it 16-7 with 8:44 to play in the third.
On the ensuing drive, McGrath forced and recovered a Blugold fumble near midfield, and UW-Whitewater took advantage again. On third-and-16 near midfield, Oles hit senior wide receiver Josh Ringelberg for a 32-yard gain. Three plays later, senior running back Jarrod Ware rushed in from two yards out, and senior running back Ronny Ponick picked up the two-point conversion on a running play to make it 24-7 at the 3:06 mark of the quarter.
UW-Eau Claire scored with 1:25 remaining to cut its deficit to 10, and after a UW-W fumble, had the ball deep in Warhawk territory in the final minute.
UW-Whitewater made a defensive stand at its own 14-yard line, forcing an incompletion with 11 seconds remaining to seal the win.
The Warhawks resume conference play next Saturday, Oct. 12, against unbeaten UW-Platteville. Kickoff on Homecoming Saturday at UW-Whitewater is slated for 2 p.m. at Perkins Stadium.