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Defense Leads Titans To Tough Victory Over Eagles

LB Jared Nehls was one of many Titans to pressure the Eagles' offense.
LB Jared Nehls was one of many Titans to pressure the Eagles' offense.

The UW-Oshkosh defense allowed just 102 yards during its 16-7 victory over UW-La Crosse on Saturday (Sept. 15) at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.

The Titans (2-0) gave up only 33 yards in the second half while holding the Eagles without a first down for 26 minutes. UW-La Crosse ran the ball 35 times and earned 0.5 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Nate Ray (So. • Verona) connected on three field goals to give UW-Oshkosh the lead.

During the first quarter, the Titans marched to the UW-La Crosse 20-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. The next four possessions resulted in punts before the Eagles (1-2) got on the board. UW-La Crosse's 64-yard drive featured a 25-yard reception by Zachary Schmidt. Ben Hertrampf then ran in from two yards to take a 7-0 lead.

UW-Oshkosh responded when it got the ball back. Nate Wara (Sr. • Oshkosh) weaved through numerous defenders with a 30-yard run to reach enemy territory. Ray knocked through his 28-yard field goal to make it 7-3 with 7:58 remaining in the second quarter.

Each team punted four times in the opening half. The squads had some productive drives, but sacks prevented them from putting points on the board. UW-La Crosse recorded a pair of first-half sacks for a total loss of 23 yards, while the Titans' two sacks sent the Eagles back 18 yards.

The Titans, who forced nine punts in 12 possessions, got a defensive stop to begin the third period. Wara then ran for a pickup of 17 yards. On the next snap, he scrambled to his right and floated the ball over a defender to Caleb Voss (Jr. • Van Dyne) for 32 yards. Voss came up clutch moments later with a 23-yard sideline catch on 3rd-and-16. Midway through the third quarter, Ray drilled the 27-yard field goal that pulled UW-Oshkosh within 7-6.

Another punt put the Titans on the Eagles' half of the field. UW-La Crosse brought an all-out blitz on third down, but UW-Oshkosh had the perfect play called with a 22-yard middle screen to Cole Myhra (Jr. • Menomonee Falls). That set up Ray's 39-yarder, which cleared the crossbar to put the Titans ahead, 9-7, with 1:09 on the third-quarter clock.

Christian Hallingstad booted a 61-yard punt early in the fourth quarter, pinning UW-Oshkosh deep. The Titans methodically moved down the field, using 14 plays to cover 70 yards. Matt Blackwell (Jr. • Sussex) hauled in a 15-yard catch for the longest play of the drive. UW-La Crosse, however, intercepted a tipped pass at the two-yard line to prevent any scoring.

UW-Oshkosh got into a groove on its next offensive trip, gaining 17 on a throw to Nick Olla (Jr. • Kewaskum). Voss then caught a short pass, spun out of a tackle and sprinted down the sideline for 41 yards. Myhra bulled his way up the middle for a seven-yard touchdown run that made it 16-7 with 5:58 left.

The Titans recorded six sacks in the contest, including three on UW-La Crosse's final possession. Frank Martin (Sr. • Greenleaf) led the defensive effort with 10 tackles, while Andrew Thompson (Sr. • Greendale) posted 1.5 sacks. The Eagles' top defenders were Max Nicholson (12 tackles) and Jacob Flegner (one interception).

For the game, UW-Oshkosh booked advantages of 169-17 in rushing yards and 238-85 in passing yards for its total of 407. The Titans also converted 6-of-9 third downs in the final half to win the time of possession category, 34:19 to 25:41. UW-La Crosse finished with 4-of-14 success on third down.

Myhra paced the run game with 84 yards on his 21 carries, while Wara added 82 on his 17 attempts. Wara completed 20-of-30 through the air for 238 yards. Voss delivered his second big game in a row, grabbing seven passes for 129 yards.

UW-La Crosse's offense was highlighted by 48 rushing yards from Hertrampf on 14 carries. Jared Stan ran the ball 12 times for just eight yards. Zachary Mestelle finished with 10-of-19 passing for 85 yards, while Jeff Haffemann notched five receptions for 45 yards.

The Titans take the field again at Alma College (Mich.) next Saturday (Sept. 22).