Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 12/17/11
SALEM, Virginia What had been a driving rain slowed about the time the final drive ended, about the time a dominating Wisconsin-Whitewater defense got its final stop, just a few minutes before players from both teams stood on the field and cried. What was left was staying on the field. Hugs were exchanged, a few helmets were thrown some in joy, some in pain and disgust -- and Whitewater's players were presented hats and t-shirts commemorating their third straight national title and 45th straight victory. When Mount Union finally got to its locker room after coach Larry Kehres accepted the school's third straight runner-up trophy, there was silence. "I couldn't think of anything to say," Kehres said. Friday night's unprecedented Stagg Bowl was unlike the previous six in that points yards, really were at a premium. Every first down was well-earned, and in a surprise to no one who knows the programs involved, it came down to a wild final few minutes. Mount Union climbed out of the kind of hole it's not accustomed to climbing out of, just not far enough to overcome a crippling turnover that handed the Warhawks their only touchdown. Wisconsin-Whitewater is the better team, and its performance Friday night and its win streak prove it. Friday night, it was Whitewater 13, Mount Union 10. Over the last seven years, all here in the Stagg Bowl, it's Whitewater 4, Mount Union 3. Part of what made this unprecedented Game Seven so special is that it came with the added subplot that only a program as accomplished as Mount Union's could make a Whitewater team riding such a win streak and playing in its seventh straight national title game seem like the New Kids. For the third straight year, it will be quiet, miserable seven-hour bus ride back to Alliance, Ohio for the Former Kings. Only in the galaxy Kehres and Mount Union have created is 14-1 judged as a failure. "When we were winning I worried about almost every game," Kehres said. "When we were on that streak of maybe three in a row Stagg Bowls, I would have hated to have our team think we were untouchable. "(Is Whitewater) extremely good? Certainly. We're really good too. They're just a little bit better. To give you a quote, until somebody beats them they're untouchable." It's the first time since 1995 that Mount Union has gone three years without winning a national title. This was Mount Union's 15th appearance in the Stagg Bowl; the Purple Raiders were looking for their 11th title. Mount Union has been the gold standard. Because it turned the ball over three times and got stopped on the goal line early in the fourth quarter Friday night, it had to stand silently and watch Whitewater celebrate. Again. The 45-game win streak stands as the fourth-longest in college football history. The best-known is 47 by Oklahoma, which is the Div. I record and stands behind Mount Union, with separate streaks of 54 (in the late 1990's) and 55 (from 2000-2003). Whitewater coach Lance Liepold, who's lost all of one game in five years to a team not named Mount Union, now has his team 11 from history. Liepold would never talk about it, and throughout the week here was nothing but complimentary of Mount Union. But it's out there. And with the way a defense full of underclassmen dominated Friday night's game, it's reachable. "We know about Mount and 55 (wins)," Whitewater defensive tackle Anthony Dowery said. "We know it, we respect it. Coach really keeps us focused on one game at a time, and when we get back to work it will be about one game 46, I guess." With Mount Union trailing 10-0 and facing a third and goal at the 1 in the fourth quarter, Dowery's penetration took a Mount Union stretch play and stretched it backwards. The Raiders settled for a field goal. The defining play was made by another Whitewater defensive lineman, Stagg Bowl MVP Louissant Minett, whose strip of Mount Union quarterback Matt Pilloto led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Levell Coppage and that 10-0 lead in the third quarter. The way both defenses played, that lead seemed insurmountable. It turned out it was. "As I was falling, I just (reached) out," Minett said. "He didn't have good ball security, and I was falling I just got it. I don't know what I was thinking. The ball came out." Said Liepold: "You can never be comfortable against Mount Union. There's too much experience, too much explosiveness on their side. You see how quickly they got back in the game. It's only comfortable when those zeroes are on the clock." Coppage, who moves on as the second-leading rusher in Div. III history behind a Mount Union player, of course fought for every one of his 98 yards but was untouched on the 1-yard touchdown. Minett, Dowery and Company made sure Pilloto never got comfortable. Mount changed quarterbacks, but Neal Seaman aggravated a knee injury. Pilloto finally made a couple big plays, but not enough. Whitewater won it with defense. And underclassmen. Whitewater's charter flight will take the champions home Saturday morning. Coppage and quarterback Matt Blanchard, among others, will move on. A lot of the defense is back. Mount Union as usual brings back a bunch of talent, too. See everybody here again next December? "I'm ready," Minnet said. If it happens, there will be a new favorite. And by then, an undisputed new king.
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