PLATTEVILLE — First, there was the matter of a four-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Then, there was the matter of stopping the last-chance drive that featured Tom Kelly’s powerful arm.
The UW-Whitewater football team was able to deal with both problems on Saturday, scoring the game’s final 10 points and getting an interception from Colin Buck with 16 seconds remaining to seal a 30-24 victory over UW-Platteville in both teams’ Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener on Saturday.
Second-ranked Whitewater (4-0, 1-0) took the lead for good over eighth-ranked Platteville when Canton Larson caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Cole Wilber to make it 27-24 with 3 minutes, 58 seconds to play.
“My admiration and respect for them is endless. I know it’s always going to be a fight when we come to play these guys,” Whitewater coach Kevin Bullis said.
The touchdown was the third for Wilber, a sophomore who split time under center with senior Chris Nelson. Wilber hit Manny Jones for 68 yards at the 13:52 mark of the second quarter for a 10-7 lead. He then connected with Marcus Hudson for 25 yards to extend the lead to 17-7 with 6:15 left in the quarter.
“I’ve heard things about how having two quarterbacks, you know, how it’s a bad thing,” said Whitewater guard Austin Jones, a former Madison Memorial athlete.
“It is working, so I don’t know if there’s ever going to be a decision about who is going to be a No. 1 guy, but I don’t think we need one.”
Both of the passes by Wilber were along the sideline in front of the Warhawks’ bench. Those calls impressed Platteville coach Mike Emendorfer.
“It was a credit to their coaching staff,” he said. “I know Craig Smith pretty well, their offensive coordinator. He played for me and worked for me. In a weird way I was kind of happy for him that he was able to see that adjustment and make that call.”
Platteville (3-1, 0-1) turned two turnovers into scores. The first was capped by a 25-yard TD pass from Kelly to Patrick Sheehan for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Following an interception, Kelly scored on a 4-yard run to pull the Pioneers within 17-14 with 1:12 left in the half.
Despite giving up points off turnovers, Bullis said he was happy with the way his team bounced back from mistakes.
“We really pride ourselves on not worrying about the previous snap,” Bullis said. “That mentality is a base-fundamental tenet of our program. It can be for good things, too, whether that’s making a good play or scoring a touchdown.”
One test that Whitewater never was able to find an answer for in the second half was senior wide receiver Dan Arnold. Arnold only caught two passes for 31 yards in the first half, but he finished the game with ten catches for 184 yards and a touchdown.
“Dan is one of the better receivers in Division 3. We knew we were going to have to exploit them,” said Emendorfer. “(In the second half) he caught the hot hand and you look at some of those opportunities where we had some people where we just couldn’t quite connect.”
Arnold was able to take advantage of primarily man coverage to dominate the second half.
“Some of the stuff that (Whitewater) threw at us was stuff that we’ve had success with,” Arnold said.
Arnold caught a 14-yard touchdown pass with 10:41 to play in the game on a drive that he caught a 40-yard pass and a 20-yard pass to convert a third-and-18.
“Mr. Arnold and Mr. Kelly, you want to talk about some kids that, (Wow), great careers here,” Bullis said.
UW-Oshkosh 45, UW-Stout 17
Playing in the first half only, Devon Linzenmeyer rushed five times for 150 yards and three touchdowns while catching two passes for 54 yards and another score to lead the host Titans over the Blue Devils.
UW-Stevens Point 28, UW-Eau Claire 19
Ryan Swigart threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns and the Pointers beat the host Blugolds, holding their fourth straight opponent under 20 points.
UW-La Crosse 35, UW-River Falls 14
Tarek Yaeggi threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to lead the host Eagles past the Falcons.