WHITEWATER, Wis. – The deepest run in the NCAA tournament for the No. 13 Salisbury University football team in 25 years came to an end Saturday at the hands of two-time defending champion and No. 1-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 34-14, at Perkins Stadium on Saturday.
UW-W running back Levell Coppage had 31 carries for 213 yards and four touchdowns to help the Warhawks extend the longest current winning streak at all levels of college football to 43 games; UW-W ran for 273 yards on the ground as a team. Whitewater (13-0) outgained SU (11-2), 407-293, overall.
The Warhawks jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead and held on and will face fourth-ranked University of St. Thomas (Minn.) in the national semifinals next Saturday.
Salisbury senior Tyler Curley paced the Salisbury rushing attack with 60 yards on seven attempts and a touchdown while classmate Jonathan Briscoe ran for 49 yards on 11 rushes and junior Dan Griffin was held to just 39 yards on 15 chances.
UW-W opened the scoring with a nine-play, 70-yard drive. With the ball on the Warhawks' 29-yard line and facing a third-and-11, Whitewater quarterback Matt Blanchard found Cory Robinson for 19 yards to the UW-W 48. Six plays later, Coppage ran it in from 10 yards to give the hosts the lead with 5:54 left in the first quarter.
Coppage added his second touchdown of the day on a 1-yard plunge to make it 14-0 three minutes into the second quarter. The key play of the drive came when Blanchard hit Tyler Huber with a 41-yard pass to the SU 4-yard line.
After gaining one first down on the ensuring drive, SU's Kyle Hamby bombed a 51-yard punt into the end zone. The Warhawks followed with an 11-play 71-yard drive, resulting in a 26-yard Eric Kindler field goal before the break.
Salisbury cut the deficit to 10 with 8:27 left in the third as Griffin capped a five-play, 76-yard possession with a 9-yard run. Juma Richards got things moving with a 64-yard rush to the UW-W 10-yard line.
That was as close as the Sea Gulls got, though, as following a Warhawks three-and-out, SU gave the ball back after just four plays and Coppage made SU pay with an 80-yard scamper to the end zone to push it to a 24-7 advantage with 3:46 left in the third quarter.
Then, UW-W's Chris Pendergast picked off Griffin to give at the Warhawks' 12 to thwart a solid SU drive. The interception was Griffin's first of the season.
The Sea Gulls started the fourth quarter with the ball but Griffin fumbled on the UW-W 29 to setup a 37-yard Kindler field goal for a 27-7 advantage.
Noah Timm intercepted Griffin again, returning it 35 yards to the Salisbury 16 before Coppage punched it in from 6 yards with 6:19 left.
Curley closed the gap with a 6-yard touchdown of his own for the final margin. He also had runs on 12, 13 and 19 yards on the drive.
Gagliardi Trophy finalist Blanchard led the Warhawks' passing game, going 11-for-17 for 134 yards while Huber finished with a game-high 67 yards on five receptions.
Greg Arnold led UW-W with eight tackles. Ryan Cortez had a game-best two tackles for loss and one of the Warhawks' two sacks.