Brett Kasper threw for 271 yards and a school record-tying six touchdowns to lead UW-Oshkosh to a 42-21 triumph over North Central College (Ill.) in a battle of nationally ranked teams during the second round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship on Saturday (Nov. 25) at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
North Central College took a 7-0 lead on its opening possession, but UW-Oshkosh answered with touchdowns on five straight drives for a 35-7 halftime advantage.
The Titans extended their lead to 42-7 before the Cardinals trimmed their deficit to 42-21 with 10:46 left in the contest. The final two North Central College possessions concluded with fourth-down incompletions in UW-Oshkosh territory.
UW-Oshkosh (11-0), ranked third in the country by D3football.com, advances to play in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA postseason next Saturday (Dec. 2) against 17th-ranked Wartburg College (Iowa).
The Titans secured a trip to the national quarterfinals for the third consecutive season and the fourth time in four Division III Championship appearances. UW-Oshkosh, which reached last year's national title game, also advanced to the semifinal round in 2012 and to the quarterfinals in 2015.
Wartburg College (12-0) moved to the quarterfinal round with a 49-7 victory at home over Trine University (Ind.) (11-1).
Ninth-ranked North Central College (10-2), making its 10th Division III Championship appearance, was eliminated in the second round for the second straight season.
UW-Oshkosh held a 588-361 advantage in yards, including 298-64 during the second quarter. The Titans, who won their 14th consecutive home game, averaged 12.9 yards per pass attempt while converting 5 of 9 third-down opportunities. North Central College gained 6.4 yards per pass attempt and went 6-for-16 on third down.
Kasper concluded the game 17-for-23 passing while tying the school record of six touchdown passes set by Brian Tomalak against UW-River Falls in 1998. Kasper completed 12 of 13 passes, including 12 in a row to end the first half, for 221 yards with five touchdowns during the first two quarters.
Kasper surpassed a pair of UW-Oshkosh career records Saturday with 9,233 passing yards and 85 touchdown passes. Tomalak held the previous school marks of 8,983 yards and 83 scores from 1995-98.
Mentkowski collected four receptions for a team-leading 117 yards en route to eclipsing the school record with 165 career catches. Mentkowski, also the Titans' all-time leader with 2,831 receiving yards, passed the previous UW-Oshkosh record of 164 receptions set by Zach Kasuboski from 2011-15.
Todarello paced the Titans with 132 scrimmage yards on Saturday. He hauled in a team-high five passes for 78 yards and added 54 rushing yards on just three carries.
Dylan Hecker led the UW-Oshkosh rushing attack with 14 carries for 113 yards. He also completed his lone pass attempt of the game for 47 yards.
The UW-Oshkosh offensive line, led by starters Moon, Tyler Powers, Austin Summers, Ty Summers, Alex Wendorf and Alex Wipperfurth, paved the way for 265 rushing yards on 7.6 yards per carry and limited the disruptive North Central College defense to just two tackles for loss and zero sacks.
The Cardinals entered the contest ranked fourth nationally with 4.18 sacks per game, ninth by allowing 74.1 rushing yards per contest and 16th with 8.5 tackles for loss per game.
UW-Oshkosh punted after three plays on the game's first possession, North Central College marched 73 yards in eight plays, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run by Zane Lodico. The Cardinals' scoring drive included a 38-yard pass and seven rushes for the remaining 35 yards.
The Titans responded with a seven-play, 67-yard drive on the ensuing possession as Kasper ran twice for 15 yards and completed all five of his passes for an additional 47 yards. Kasper ended the drive with a short pass to Todarello, who bowled over a pair of defenders and carried another into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown. Turner Geisthardt's extra point knotted the score at 7 with 5:23 left in the first quarter.
UW-Oshkosh took over at its own 13-yard line following a Cardinal punt. Kasper kept the drive alive with a 29-yard pass to Jacob Grant on third down, and his 22-yard completion to Mitch Gerhartz gave the Titans a first down at the North Central College 17-yard line. On the next snap, Kasper connected with Riley Kallas for a touchdown that capped a nine-play drive and provided UW-Oshkosh the lead for good at the 12:03 mark of the second quarter.
The Cardinals were forced to punt on their next three possessions, and Kasper tossed three more touchdowns to extend the Titans' lead to 35-7.
After Todarello caught a 17-yard pass and ran for 47 yards on back-to-back plays, Gerhartz rushed for another six yards to set up Kasper's 14-yard scoring strike to Mentkowski that extended the UW-Oshkosh advantage to 21-7 with 7:04 to play in the first half.
Kasper then connected with Mentkowski for a 50-yard touchdown pass on third down to punctuate a three-play drive. The scored increased the Titans' lead to 28-7 at the 5:19 mark.
UW-Oshkosh took over at its own 33-yard line with just under two minutes to play in the second quarter. Hecker hit Mentkowski on a 47-yard completion on the first play of the drive before a short pass and Cardinal penalty advanced the ball to the North Central College 25-yard line. Kasper found Todarello for a score on the next play as the Titans' three-play possession lasted just 40 seconds.
North Central College drove deep into UW-Oshkosh territory on the first possession of the second half, but Hall intercepted a pass by Cardinals quarterback Broc Rutter at the Titan 7-yard line.
The teams exchanged punts on the next two possessions before Kasper fired his sixth touchdown pass of the game on a 16-yard strike to Moon that gave the Titans a 42-7 advantage with 7:33 remaining in the third period.
Lodico ran for a 13-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut the North Central College deficit to 42-14.
The Cardinals recovered the ensuing onside kick and scored nine plays later on a 2-yard pass from Rutter to Michael Sfikas that provided the game's final score.
North Central College recovered a fumble on the Titans' second offensive play of the following series, but the Cardinals' resulting possession stalled at the UW-Oshkosh 37-yard line on an incomplete pass on fourth down.
The Cardinals turned the ball over on downs once again at the Titan 21-yard line with 4:04 to play. UW-Oshkosh then ran out the clock behind a pair of third-down conversions on runs by Hecker, including one for a 47-yard gain.
North Central College's Rutter ended the contest 20-for-37 passing for 238 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Lodico had 18 carries for 64 yards and two scores while Sfikas led all players with nine catches for 131 yards and one touchdown for the Cardinals.
Matt Sutherland and Derrek Warkenthien paced North Central College with 10 tackles apiece. Hunter LaDuke recovered a fumble for the Cardinals.
UW-Oshkosh and North Central College were meeting for the second time and first since the Cardinals defeated the Titans, 21-0, in 1930.