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Division II Panthers Win Defensive Battle With Titans

Mitch Gerhartz has led the Titans in rushing both games this season.
Mitch Gerhartz has led the Titans in rushing both games this season.

The nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh football team had its bid for a go-ahead score thwarted by an interception on the final play of the game as NCAA Division II member Davenport University (Mich.) held on for a 7-3 win Saturday (Sept. 8) in Caledonia, Mich.

Davenport University (2-0) scored a touchdown late in the first half and limited UW-Oshkosh to a field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Titans reached their own 41-yard line with seconds remaining, but Davenport University's Chad Hill intercepted a Steven Makinen pass at the Panther 25-yard line as time expired.

UW-Oshkosh (1-1), ranked fourth in the NCAA Division III by D3football.com, suffered its first road loss in the 10 games since a 17-14 setback at UW-Whitewater on Oct. 8, 2016. The 10 total points in Saturday's contest were the fewest for the Titans and their opponent since UW-Oshkosh defeated UW-Superior, 3-0, on Sept. 15, 1990 (286 games).

Davenport University outgained the Titans, 284-127, including 154-40 rushing. The Panthers, who held Robert Morris University (Ill.) to 95 yards in their season opener, possessed the ball for more than 37 minutes against UW-Oshkosh despite committing 17 penalties for 184 yards.

Panthers backup quarterback Haiden Majewski scored the game's lone touchdown on a 7-yard keeper with 2:51 remaining in the second quarter. Titans placekicker Peyton Peterson connected on a 37-yard field goal to cap the scoring with 14:10 to play.

Saturday's defensive battle featured 13 punts, six sacks and four turnovers as the teams combined for just 3.2 yards per play. UW-Oshkosh went 1-for-13 on third downs while Davenport University was 5-for-15.

UW-Oshkosh's Cole Yoder tied his career high with a team-leading 10 tackles. Tory Jandrin added six tackles for the Titans, who also received 1.5 sacks from Justin Kasuboski and interceptions from both Nick Noethe and Connor Zirpel.

The Davenport University defense was led by Kyle Black's eight tackles. Austin Summers had two of the Panthers' four sacks as Davenport University registered 11 tackles for loss. The Panthers entered the game ranked third in Division II in yards allowed, interceptions gained and passing efficiency rating defense. They also listed fourth in their division in rushing yards (-6) and first downs (8) allowed.

Titans starting quarterback Kyle Radavich completed 10 of 23 passes for 87 yards.

Mitch Gerhartz paced UW-Oshkosh with 15 carries for 29 yards while Dom Todarello caught a team-high three passes for 45 yards.

Majewski went 12-for-22 passing for 120 yards and two interceptions. He also had 14 rushes for a team-best 54 yards and a score after entering for Deondre Ford, a transfer from Division I University of Kansas, who suffered an injury on the second play from scrimmage.

Nate Couturier led the Panthers with four receptions for 39 yards. Daronte Powers chipped in three grabs for a game-high 50 yards.

UW-Oshkosh was the first team to cross midfield, reaching the Panthers' 27-yard line with just under six minutes remaining in the opening quarter. However, Davenport University's Rob Simmons sacked Radavich and forced a fumble that was recovered by Black on a first-down play.

Davenport University ran just three plays in UW-Oshkosh territory during the first quarter. After Noethe intercepted a Majewski pass early in the second period, the Titans' ensuing seven-play drive stalled as Radavich's pass to Todarello was 3 yards shy of a first down on a fourth-and-17 play from the Panther 29-yard line.

The Panthers then answered with a nine-play, 85-yard scoring drive that proved to be the difference. Davenport University opened the possession with seven consecutive carries for a total of 39 yards to reach the UW-Oshkosh 49-yard line. A well-covered Powers then snared a 39-yard pass from Majewski with one hand down the right sideline ahead of Majewski's decisive touchdown run.

Davenport University had a chance to extend its lead late in the first half, but Chris Ahmed's 44-yard field goal attempt came up short with two seconds before intermission.

Todarello returned a punt 31 yards to the Davenport University 44-yard line early in the third quarter. A subsequent facemask penalty advanced the ball to the Panther 29, but Simmons recorded a sack that pushed the Titans back to the 30-yard line, and Peterson's 47-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right two plays later.

UW-Oshkosh began its final possession of the third period at midfield. Todarello rushed for 13 yards, and a personal foul on the Panthers advanced the ball to the Davenport University 22-yard line. The Titans then had a second down from the 19-yard line following an 8-yard run by Todarello, but an incomplete pass and a 1-yard loss preceded Peterson's 37-yard field goal with 14:10 left.

Facing a fourth-and-12 from its own 42-yard line with just under 11 minutes to play, UW-Oshkosh punter Turner Geisthardt lofted a pass on fake, but the potential first-down toss went through the hands of Mark Nellen.

A pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties following the fake punt cost the Panthers 30 yards as Davenport University began its next possession at its own 28-yard line. Zirpel recorded his first career interception three plays later, setting the Titans up at their own 38-yard line with 8:04 remaining.

UW-Oshkosh's Riley Kallas ran 13 yards to reach midfield before Radavich completed a 16-yard pass to Ryan Hayes at the Panther 34-yard line. However, the drive stalled following a run for no gain and three straight incompletions.

The next Titan drive also resulted in a turnover on downs, this time at their own 27-yard line with just 2:44 left. Davenport University had a chance to run out the clock on a fourth-and-1 play from the Titan 18-yard line with 20 second to play, but Majewski recovered his own fumble after being stopped for no gain by Matt Kahn.

Radavich found Todarello for a 23-yard pass on the first play of the final drive, but an incomplete pass preceded Hill's interception that preserved the Panther victory.

UW-Oshkosh, which opens the season with five straight road games, travels to play NCAA Division II member Lincoln University next Saturday (Sept. 15) in Jefferson City, Mo.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Triemstra