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Warhawks Down Defending Champs to Reach NCAA Semifinals for Second Straight Season

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UPDATE: The Warhawks will host their NCAA D-III semifinal vs. St. John's (Minn.) on Saturday, 12/14, at Perkins Stadium at 2pm CT.

The No. 7 ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football team put together one of its most complete performances of the 2019 season Saturday win a 26-7 victory over No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor in a quarterfinal of the NCAA Division III Championship in Belton, Texas.

UW-Whitewater will face St. John's (Minn.), a 34-33 winner at Wheaton (Ill.), in next Saturday's national semifinal on ESPN3. Time and location of the contest will be announced tomorrow.

UW-W will make its 12th appearance in the national semifinals, all since 2005.

The Warhawks (12-1 overall) held the ball for nearly 43 minutes in the contest and piled up 358 yards of total offense, including 239 on the ground.

UW-Whitewater limited Mary Hardin-Baylor (12-1), the defending national champion which entered the game on a 27-game win streak, to 140 total yards, including minus-3 on the ground.

Senior running back Jarrod Ware (Bradley, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) tallied 14 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns to lead the offense. Junior running back Alex Peete (Ringwood, Ill./Johnsburg) posted 76 yards, and junior quarterback Max Meylor (Mt. Horeb, Wis./Mt. Horeb) finished 10-of-12 for 119 yards passing and added one rushing touchdown. Junior wide receiver Ryan Wisniewski (Sparta, Wis./Sparta) caught five passes for 72 yards.

Senior defensive back Garrett Purdy (Naperville, Ill./Central) collected a team-high seven tackles for the defense, which forced three turnovers. Senior defensive lineman Jordan Brand (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) recorded three stops, including one sack, and added one fumbler recovery. Junior linebacker Kaleb Kaminski (Tomahawk, Wis./Tomahawk) and junior defensive back Tommy Matoska (Pleasant Prairie, Wis./Kenosha Tremper) contributed five tackles apiece.

After forcing a punt on the opening drive, the Warhawks ate up nearly 11 minutes of clock with a 17-play, 79-yard drive. UW-W converted three third downs and drove inside the Crusaders' 5-yard line, where they were stopped on third down for the first time in the contest. Junior kicker Wojciech Gasienica (Norridge, Ill./Ridgewood) split the uprights for a 19-yard field goal to make it 3-0 with 2:22 to play in the period.

UW-Whitewater forced a three-and-out to get the ball back quickly and put together a 12-play, 64-yard drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Ware. Meylor completed 3-of-3 passes on the drive before Ware carried the ball for the final three plays, giving the team a 10-0 advantage with 8:23 left in the second quarter.

The two teams exchanged punts before Mary Hardin-Baylor got on the board, scoring a touchdown with under one minute left in the first half.

The Crusaders got the ball back in Warhawk territory following an interception, but the defense registered two sacks to push the ball back toward midfield and maintain the three-point lead.

UW-Whitewater started the second half with the ball, moving 85 yards on nine plays. After a barreling 23-yard run by Ware, Meylor hit Wisniewski for a 36-yard pass up the seam of the field, and Ware capped the drive six plays later with a 5-yard touchdown run. The score gave the Warhawks a 17-7 lead with 9:27 to play in the third.

Senior defensive back Nate Tranel (Lancaster, Wis./Lancaster) kept the momentum in UW-W's favor with an interception on the next drive to stop a UMHB drive near midfield.

The two teams traded punts before Gasienica was good again, this time from 42 yards, to make it 20-7 just under one minute into the fourth quarter. The Warhawks ran eight straight times on the drive for 30 yards.

The Crusaders drove down to the UW-Whitewater 23-yard line on the ensuing drive, but a botched snap recovered by Brand gave the Warhawks the ball back with 10:14 remaining.

The Warhawks drove 67 yards on nine plays as Meylor ran around the left side for a 1-yard score at the 4:34 mark. Ware carried five times on the drive for 58 yards to set up the touchdown.

UW-Whitewater turned Mary Hardin-Baylor over on downs on the next drive, and ran out the clock to punch its ticket to the final four.

--UW-Whitewater Athletic Communications

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