UW-Oshkosh gave defending national champion UW-Whitewater all it could handle for 60 minutes in a 20-17 football defeat on Saturday (Oct. 22) at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
Eric Kindler drilled a 17-yard field goal with 1:18 remaining for the deciding points. The Titans (5-2/3-1 WIAC), ranked 20th by D3football.com, were in the lead or tied for 56 of the 60 minutes. UW-Whitewater (7-0/4-0 WIAC), ranked first in the NCAA Division III, posted its closest margin of victory since Sept. 13, 2008 – a span of 48 wins. The Warhawks also extended their nation-best winning streak to 37 games.
The game-winning drive started at the UW-Whitewater 20-yard line with 5:51 on the clock. Levell Coppage or Matt Blanchard rushed on each of the drive's 10 plays. From midfield, Coppage busted through the left side and zigzagged his way for 47 yards. The Titan defense then stuffed three runs at the goal line to force a field goal.
UW-Oshkosh made things interesting by moving to the UW-Whitewater 37-yard line with about 20 seconds left. Casey Casper came up with a sack on the next play to force a Hail Mary, which was intercepted by Ryan Wenkman in the end zone with one second remaining.
The Titans rushed for 214 yards against a unit that had been allowing just 67 ground yards per game. On UW-Oshkosh's first possession, Cole Myhra (So. • Menomonee Falls) bolted up the middle for a 53-yard gain. Nate Becker (Jr. • Waukesha) converted that opportunity with a 29-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
That cushion remained into the second quarter before UW-Whitewater started to march. The Warhawks went 89 yards in 13 plays, including consecutive runs of 17 yards by Coppage and 11 by Blanchard. Facing 3rd-and-5, Blanchard ran a quarterback draw and sprinted for the 23-yard touchdown and a 7-3 advantage.
The Titan offense had a response on its ensuing play with Wesley Price's (Sr. • San Mateo, Calif.) 13-yard run. Nate Wara (Jr. • Oshkosh) later found Garrie Fox (Sr. • Madison) to convert a 3rd-and-9 play. Charlie Weissman (Sr. • Colgate) capped the drive with a one-yard scoring run to regain UW-Oshkosh's advantage at the 12:11 mark of the second period.
UW-Whitewater was able to equal the score on a 47-yard field goal from Kindler. The Titans then went to work before intermission. Justin Budiac (Sr. • Mukwonago) got things started with a 21-yard run down the sideline. From the 14-yard line, Jeremy Roach (Sr. • Deerfield) took an option pitch and weaved his way through traffic for the touchdown. UW-Oshkosh held its 17-10 cushion, marking the Warhawks' first halftime deficit in 37 games.
After driving 57 yards in the third quarter, Blanchard got picked off by Charlie Stueck (Sr. • Clintonville) in the end zone. The Titans punted to give the ball back, and that's when UW-Whitewater struck. Tyler Huber got behind the defense and hauled in a rainbow for 62 yards down to the four-yard line. Blanchard found Tyler Huber two plays later to tie the score at 17 with 1:13 left in the third quarter.
UW-Oshkosh, which tallied 17 points on its first five possessions, came up empty on its last seven drives of the contest. The Titans finished the game by going three-and-out, failing on fourth-and-one, punting and tossing a last-second interception. Racking up 362 total yards, UW-Oshkosh booked 22 first downs and 9-of-18 conversions on third down.
The Warhawks compiled 20 first downs and 429 yards of offense. Coppage used 28 carries to obtain his 131 yards, while Blanchard added 91 rushing yards on 14 attempts. Blanchard completed 17-of-25 through the air for 209 yards, with 127 yards and seven catches coming from Huber.
The Titans' balanced attack featured 66 rushing yards (seven carries) by Myhra and 54 yards on 14 tries by Wara. Hitting 17-of-33 passes, Wara marked 148 yards. Caleb Voss (So. • Van Dyne) led the homecoming team with 86 receiving yards, as Fox added 50 yards on seven grabs. UW-Oshkosh drew an attendance of 3,863 for its largest crowd since 1998.
In a battle of the league's top two offenses, the WIAC's top two defenses had their moments. Austin Blashka (So. • Menasha) posted 10 tackles for UW-Oshkosh, while Taylor Goodman (Jr. • South Wayne) notched eight stops and one sack. The Warhawks' effort featured 10 stops from Kyle Wismer and eight tackles (three for loss) by Cole Klotz.
UW-Oshkosh has its only night home game of the season when it faces UW-La Crosse on Saturday (Oct. 29) at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.