Wisconsin-Whitewater tops Mary Hardin-Baylor 16-15

One year after failing to qualify for the postseason,

Wisconsin-Whitewater is back in familiar territory.

Jordan Ratliffe ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns and Matt

Behrendt passed for 197 yards to lead UW-Whitewater to a 16-15

victory over Mary Hardin-Baylor in an NCAA Division III semifinal

Saturday afternoon.

The Warhawks (14-0) rallied from a 12-0 first-half deficit to

reach the national championship game for the eighth time in the

last nine years.

Ratliffe’s 3-yard TD run just before halftime cut

UW-Whitewater’s gap to 12-7, and his 5-yard score midway through

the third quarter gave the Warhawks the lead for good and kept

alive their shot at a fifth title. UW-Whitewater won its first

national championship in 2007 and three straight from 2009-11.

The 209-pound sophomore running back continually pounded the

Mary Hardin-Baylor defense and picked up the majority of his yards

after contact.

”It was a really physical game,” said Ratliffe, who carried

the ball 28 times. ”Our coaches told me I would have to run hard

and get the tough yards. I was just doing what I was coached to do

and kept moving my feet and running hard.”

UW-Whitewater held the Crusaders (13-1) to 241 yards and 34

points below their scoring average. The Warhawks converted on 10 of

their 18 third-down attempts and held the ball for more than 34

minutes.

”We had patience and these types of games are always going to

be a field position game, a possession game,” UW-Whitewater coach

Lance Leipold said. ”You can’t panic, and we didn’t panic.”

Mary Hardin-Baylor raced ahead 12-0 midway through the second

quarter but didn’t score again until Chad Peevey’s 21-yard field

goal with 3:29 remaining in the game, when the Crusaders opted for

the three points on fourth-and-goal from the Warhawks 4-yard line

to cut their deficit to 16-15.

”I didn’t want (UW-Whitewater) to gain any momentum,” Mary

Hardin-Baylor coach Pete Fredenburg said of the decision.

”Certainly you want to go for it. That’s your gut reaction, but I

felt like we had time. I don’t know that I would do anything

differently.”

The plan backfired when Behrendt hooked up with tight end Derric

Junakin for an 18-yard completion on third-and-6, giving the

Warhawks the first down they needed to run out the clock.

Behrendt was 21-of-29 passing and has thrown only one

interception in 432 attempts this season.

”We know that if we don’t turn the ball over, there’s a really

good chance that we’re going to win with the defense that we

have,” Behrendt said. ”So I just have to go out there and make

the right reads and make the right decisions and at the end of the

day, we’re going to be winners.”