Nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh will host defending WIAC football champion UW-Whitewater in the league opener for both teams on Saturday (Sept. 30) at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m.
Saturday's contest marks the 110th matchup between UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater. The six-time NCAA Division III champion Warhawks own a 76-28-5 advantage in a series that began in 1897, including a 26-3-1 record since 1988.
Five of the last seven meetings between the Titans and Warhawks have been decided by three points or fewer. UW-Whitewater has won four of the past six games in the series by a combined 109-102 score.
UW-Oshkosh (2-0), ranked third in the country by D3football.com, is seeking to avenge losses in the past two meetings between the teams.
UW-Whitewater (1-2), unranked for the just the second week since 2012, is playing its fourth straight road contest to open the year.
A year ago, the Titans lost a 17-14 decision to the Warhawks on a last-minute touchdown in front of a then-Division-III record 17,535 fans in Whitewater. The Warhawks also eliminated UW-Oshkosh from the quarterfinal round of the 2015 NCAA Championship with a 31-29 victory in Oshkosh as the Titans were stopped shy of the end zone on a potential game-tying two-point conversion with less than four minutes remaining.
UW-Oshkosh, which reached the national title game last season, has won 18 of its last 19 home games while UW-Whitewater has lost just twice in Oshkosh since 1982. The Titans' only home triumphs over the Warhawks in the past 34 years were a 21-20 win in 2002 and a 10-7 victory in 2015. The latest UW-Oshkosh home win over UW-Whitewater snapped the then-two-time defending national champion Warhawks' 36-game winning streak.
Both teams enter Saturday's contest well-rested as UW-Oshkosh had two straight bye weeks while UW-Whitewater was idle a week ago.
UW-Oshkosh began the year with a 23-17 victory at then-eighth-ranked John Carroll University (Ohio) on Sept. 2 and followed with a 74-7 rout over first-time opponent Virginia University of Lynchburg at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium. The win marked Titans' third game with more than 70 points over the last three seasons.
UW-Whitewater lost its first two games of the year for the first time since 1999. The Warhawks suffered setbacks of 17-10 at Illinois Wesleyan University on Sept. 2 and 25-17 at Concordia College (Minn.) on Sept. 9 before defeating Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.), 40-21, on Sept. 16.
UW-Oshkosh is leading the country with a perfect 1.000 red zone efficiency rate while ranking sixth nationally in punt return average (24.33), seventh in scoring (48.5), 11th in both yards allowed per game (227) and kickoff return average (27.33), 12th in sacks allowed per contest (0.50), 13th in penalty yards per game (33.5), 14th in rushing yards per game (287.5), and 15th in both completion percentage (.686) and passing efficiency defense (90.41).
UW-Whitewater lists among the national top 20 in sacks and tackles for loss per game. The Warhawks list fifth with 4.33 sacks per contest and 14th with nine tackles for loss per game. However, UW-Whitewater is among several teams ranked last with a 1.000 red zone efficiency defense.
Hecker, the school's all-time leader with 48 rushing touchdowns, has 32 carries for 217 yards and three scores this season. His 6.8 yards per rush leads the WIAC while his 108.5 yards rushing per contest list second in the league. Hecker tallied 186 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the season-opening win over John Carroll University.
Kasper has completed 18 of 29 passes for 239 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He enters Saturday's game with 7,000 yards passing during his career, making him the third Titan to reach the milestone. In the victory over Virginia University of Lynchburg, Kasper threw for 205 yards and three touchdowns while adding a score on the ground during two quarters of action.
Mentkowski, Grant and Todarello share the team lead with five receptions. Mentkowski paces the squad with 80 yards receiving while Grant has chipped in 47 yards through the air and Todarello 20. Riley Kallas and Chad Redmer have also caught touchdown passes for the Titans this season.
Jon Kallas and Derrick Jennings Jr. are UW-Oshkosh's top tacklers on the year, registering 14 and 12 stops, respectively. Rajon Hall and Jennings Jr. have notched interceptions this season while Trenton LaCombe, who has a team-best 1.5 sacks, and Calvin Shilling have recovered fumbles.
On special teams, Todarello ranks second in the nation with 27.5 yards per punt return while averaging 17.2 yards per kickoff return. Todarello recorded his second career punt return for a touchdown with a 61-yard score against Virginia University of Lynchburg.
UW-Oshkosh punter and placekicker Turner Geisthardt is averaging 41.5 yards per punt, including a long of 52 yards. He has placed five of his six punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Geisthardt has also made his lone field goal attempt and each of his seven extra point tries.
UW-Whitewater's offense is led by quarterback Cole Wilber and a plethora of contributing running backs and receivers.
Wilber has connected on 67 of 110 passes for 808 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. He has passes for at least 241 yards in each of the Warhawks' three games, including a season-best 309 yards with three scores against Washington University.
Ronny Ponick leads UW-Whitewater in rushing this season, but Alex Peete is listed atop the Warhawk depth chart at running back with Josh Ringelberg as the backup.
Ponick rushed for 190 and a touchdown during his lone appearance this season against Washington University. Peete has logged just five carries for 34 yards and a score while Ringelberg has 24 totes for 113 yards. Also seeing extensive action in the UW-Whitewater backfield is Drew Patterson, who has compiled a team-high 33 carries for 87 yards.
The Warhawk receiving unit features five players with at least six catches, including running back Jarrod Ware, who has a team-high 13 grabs for 151 yards and one touchdown.
UW-Whitewater's Mitchell Dess has added 12 receptions for 118 yards and a team-leading two scores while Tony Gumina has 10 catches for 128 yards and Adam Korpela eight receptions for 76 yards and one touchdown. Canton Larson has contributed six catches for 66 yards and a pair of scores.
Eight different Warhawks have registered sacks this year and nine have recorded at least 10 tackles for a defense that has created just one turnover.
Bryce Leszczynski leads UW-Whitewater with 29 tackles, followed by Matt Seitz with 19 and Brett Buehler with 15. Four of Harry Henschler's eight tackles have gone for sacks while Jordan Brand and Latron Kirk-Sprewer Jr. have chipped in two sacks apiece. Brand has accounted for the team's lone takeaway with a fumble recovery against Concordia College.
UW-Whitewater placekicker Wojciech Gasienica has converted 4 of 5 field goals, including a long of 39 yards, and 7 of 8 extra points. UW-Whitewater punter Michael Schwichtenberg averages 36.9 yards per boot, including a long of 41 yards, but has placed just two of his 14 punts inside opponents' 20-yard line.
UW-Oshkosh has not lost its WIAC opener since falling, 32-25, at UW-La Crosse in 2009 while UW-Whitewater has started league play with a 1-0 record each year since 2002. The Titans and Warhawks last met in a WIAC opener during the 2006 campaign, when UW-Whitewater defeated UW-Oshkosh, 17-3, at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
Spectrum Sports in Wisconsin is televising the game on channel 32 and in HD on channel 1332 in Eastern Wisconsin. Titan TV will also televise the game to Spectrum Cable subscribers in the Oshkosh area on channel 57 and in high definition on the UW-Oshkosh campus on channel 71.1. Titan TV's telecast can also be viewed on the Internet.