Titans Win Nationally Ranked Debate With Pioneers

Cole Yoder's second-quarter interception helped UW-Oshkosh take a 14-7 lead to intermission.
Cole Yoder's second-quarter interception helped UW-Oshkosh take a 14-7 lead to intermission.

Dylan Hecker rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns to lead UW-Oshkosh to a 28-14 victory over UW-Platteville in a clash of top-10 nationally ranked football teams on Saturday (Oct. 14) in Platteville.

The Titans, who have not trailed this season, held a 21-7 lead on Hecker's third touchdown of the game at the 7:51 mark of the third quarter. UW-Platteville cut its deficit to 21-14, but UW-Oshkosh extended its advantage to 28-14 late in the third period.

UW-Oshkosh (5-0, 3-0 WIAC), ranked third in the NCAA Division III by D3football.com, sits atop the league standings as the lone unbeaten team while ninth-ranked UW-Platteville (5-1, 2-1 WIAC) falls into a three-way tie for second.

Hecker, who registered his sixth career three-touchdown game, scored on runs of 2, 8 and 31 yards, extending his school career records to 54 rushing scores and 330 points. Hecker logged 30 carries and added one catch for three yards on Saturday.

UW-Oshkosh has won four straight games over UW-Platteville and eight of the last nine meetings in the series. The Titans improve their record to 50-48-4 against UW-Platteville.

The Titans, who advanced to the national title game a year ago, have won 19 of their last 20 WIAC contests.

UW-Oshkosh concluded Saturday's battle with a 421-256 advantage in total yards, including 225-56 rushing to mark the Titans' fifth straight game with at least 225 yards on the ground.

The Titans, who converted 10 of 16 third-down opportunities, also intercepted three passes while committing two turnovers. UW-Oshkosh, which possessed the ball for nearly 35 minutes (34:58), entered the contest ranked third in the division by converting 55.8 percent of its third-down chances.

UW-Oshkosh's Brett Kasper completed 13 of 23 passes for 196 yards and one touchdown.

Sam Mentkowski led the Titans with four receptions for 70 yards, and Dom Todarello chipped in a pair of catches for 34 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown that concluded the scoring with 1:26 left in the third quarter.

The UW-Oshkosh defense received seven tackles each from Chris Bednarski, Jon Kallas and Jamier Szymanski. Scott Skornicka added six tackles, including a sack, while Kallas, Kollyn Beyer and Cole Yoder had interceptions.

After forcing a UW-Platteville punt on the game's opening possession, UW-Oshkosh marched 87 yards in 15 plays, capping the drive on a 2-yard run by Hecker. Kasper passed for 46 yards and Hecker ran for 23 on the possession that consumed 7:44 off the clock. The Titans' drive was aided by a defensive holding penalty on third-and-10 from midfield and a defensive pass interference penalty on third-and-6 from the Pioneer 21-yard line.

UW-Platteville began its second possession from its own 43-yard line following a personal foul on the Titans. The Pioneers drove for a first-and-10 at the UW-Oshkosh 18-yard line, but the Titan defense forced an incomplete pass on fourth-and-3 from the 11.

The Pioneers recovered a fumble at the UW-Oshkosh 24-yard line early in the second quarter, but Skornicka sacked UW-Platteville quarterback Jack Eddy for a 13-yard loss on third down deep in Titan territory. Facing a fourth-and-27 from the UW-Oshkosh 30-yard line, UW-Platteville once again turned the ball over on downs following an incomplete pass as the Pioneers lost a total of six yards during a seven-play drive.

On the ensuing UW-Oshkosh possession, UW-Platteville's Luke Johnson intercepted a Kasper pass and raced 48 yards for a touchdown that tied the score at 7 with 9:55 left in the second quarter.

UW-Oshkosh answered with a touchdown of its own 72 seconds later as Hecker broke multiple tackles and rumbled 31 yards for a score to give the Titans the lead for good at 14-7. Hecker's touchdown run was set by first downs via a personal foul on UW-Platteville and a 28-yard pass from Kasper to Jacob Grant.

The teams exchanged punts on the next two possessions before Yoder intercepted a deep pass from Eddy at the UW-Oshkosh 5-yard line. The interception was Yoder's team-leading third of the year.

The Pioneers forced a three-play drive by UW-Oshkosh and received the ball at the UW-Oshkosh 38-yard line following a 24-yard punt by the Titans. UW-Platteville had a first down at the Titan 25-yard line, but Kallas snared his first career interception to thwart the drive and preserve UW-Oshkosh's 14-7 lead with 79 seconds before intermission.

Both teams punted to open the second half before Hecker provided the Titans a 21-7 lead with an 8-yard touchdown run that punctuated a six-play, 55-yard drive at the 7:51 mark of the third quarter. Hecker's scoring run was preceded by a 38-yard pass from Kasper to Riley Kallas.

UW-Platteville responded with a 12-play, 70-yard drive as Eddy went 7-for-8 passing for 68 yards during the possession. The drive was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by Mark Johnson that cut the Pioneer deficit to 21-14 with 2:39 left in the third period. The touchdown run was Johnson's lone carry of the game.

UW-Oshkosh answered quickly, marching 68 yards in just three plays to extend its lead to 28-14. Kasper hit Mentkowski with a 45-yard pass on the first play of the possession. Mitch Gerhartz, who concluded the contest with 54 yards rushing on nine carries, ran for two yards ahead of Kasper's 21-yard scoring strike to Todarello, which was followed by Turner Geisthardt's fourth extra point of the contest. The touchdown pass was Kasper's 11th of the year and the 66th of his career.

UW-Platteville turned the ball over on downs for the third time of the game on the next possession, and Beyer collected his first career interception on a pass from Pioneers wide receiver Aaron Kaiser with 4:39 left in the contest.

The Titans then ran out the clock by gaining three first downs on the final possession.

UW-Platteville's Eddy went 20-for-37 passing for 200 yards with two interceptions.

Wyatt Thompson led the Pioneers with 13 rushes for 37 yards while Mark Johnson and Tyler Knigge both caught five passes for 49 and 43 yards, respectively.

Chandler Crary registered a game-high 17 tackles, including one sack, for the Pioneers, who also received 10 tackles from Ben Mogilevsky.

UW-Oshkosh and UW-Platteville have both been ranked in the top 16 in the country during four of the last five meetings. The Titans own a 2-0 record on the road against top-10 teams this season. UW-Oshkosh also defeated then-eighth-ranked John Carroll University, 23-17, during the season opener on Sept. 2.

The Titans travel to UW-La Crosse next Saturday (Oct. 21).

Photo courtesy of Andrew McNeill