UW-Oshkosh made a 15-point fourth-quarter comeback before topping Linfield College (Ore.), 31-24 in overtime, on Saturday (Dec. 1) in McMinnville, Ore. The Titans (13-0) now face the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) next Saturday (Dec. 8) for a spot in the NCAA Division III title game.
The Wildcats (11-1) lost at home for the first time in 26 games. Josh Kay tried a 39-yard field goal as time expired, but Nathan Smith (Sr. • Oakfield) blocked it to force overtime.
During the extra session, Wara connected with Caleb Voss (Jr. • Van Dyne) for a 21-yard touchdown on the Titans' second play. Voss reached high for the catch and then sprinted down the sideline. Linfield drove to the 12-yard line before fumbling on a reverse in the backfield. Andrew Thompson (Sr. • Greendale) recovered the ball to send UW-Oshkosh to the Final Four.
The Titans faced a double-digit deficit for the third straight playoff game. Linfield forced a three-and-out on the opening drive and then completed a 41-yard pass to Charlie Poppen on its first play. Chad Coburn got into the end zone from one yard to take a 7-0 lead after two minutes.
UW-Oshkosh dared the Wildcats to run, sometimes dropping nine defenders into coverage. Linfield took advantage on its third series with carries of 15 by Coburn and 13 by John Shaffer. Mickey Inns then fired seven yards to Deidre Wiersma, who got one foot down in the corner of the end zone for a 14-0 advantage.
After totaling 50 yards on its first 16 plays, the Titan offense finally broke through. UW-Oshkosh faced 4th-and-1 on its own half of the field, and Cole Myhra (Jr. • Menomonee Falls) made the risk pay off with a 26-yard burst up the middle. On the next play, Myhra raced down the sideline and cut back to the middle of the field for a 29-yard score that made it 14-6 late in the first quarter.
The only points of the second period came on a draw play that Stephen Nasca took eight yards for a touchdown. The 10-play, 80-yard drive provided Linfield with a 21-6 halftime cushion.
UW-Oshkosh, which shut out its other two playoff foes during the second half, gave up just three points the rest of the contest. The Titans used a Beau Steffens (So. • Waterford) interception to set up Nate Ray's (So. • Verona) 28-yard field goal. Linfield responded with Kay's 18-yard field goal midway through the third quarter to go up, 24-9.
After a 19-yard pass from Wara to Craig Schommer (Fr. • Freedom), the Titans threatened early in the fourth. Wara ran a stellar bootleg to the left pylon for a two-yard touchdown that cut the margin to 24-16.
The next seven minutes were crazy, as Kyle Heller (Sr. • Appleton) grabbed an interception for the Titans. Three snaps later, Myhra fumbled and the Wildcats took the ball back. Linfield then lined up a 33-yard field goal and had it blocked by Ryan Stefaniak (Jr. • Milwaukee).
UW-Oshkosh had to go 80 yards to tie the game, and the offense was up to the task. Wara found Voss for 12 yards on 3rd-and-11. Zach Kasuboski (So. • Wautoma) took another pass for 17 yards. On second-and-goal, Wara scored from one yard out. It was the 100th total touchdown of Wara's career.
The next four possessions resulted in punts before Linfield had its field goal attempt blocked in the closing seconds of regulation.
The Titans stuck to their ground attack, rushing 48 times. Myhra totaled 110 yards on his 21 carries. Wara was precise through the air (77 percent), completing 23-of-30 throws for 237 yards. Voss booked 127 yards on seven catches, while Myhra topped all receivers with eight grabs.
Linfield totaled 247 yards passing and 121 rushing. Inns finished 20-of-33 with one touchdown and two interceptions. Poppen compiled 108 yards on his six receptions, while Wiersma marked 93 yards on seven. Shaffer ran 16 times for 61 yards.
Taylor Goodman (Sr. • South Wayne) led the Titans with nine tackles, as Kyle Wright posted 12 for the Wildcats. Brian Dundas (11 stops) also blocked a UW-Oshkosh field goal during the second quarter.
By Jon Feyen