Mitch Gerhartz had a career-high 204 of UW-Oshkosh's 410 rushing yards as the Titans defeated Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.), 49-13, during the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship on Saturday (Nov. 19) at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
UW-Oshkosh (10-1), ranked fourth in the country by D3football.com, will host ninth-ranked Saint John's University (Minn.) in the tournament's second round next Saturday (Nov. 26). Saint John's University (10-1) won its first round game at home, 32-31, over 12th-ranked UW-Platteville (8-3) on a last-second touchdown.
UW-Oshkosh, making its second straight and third overall NCAA postseason appearance, reached the quarterfinal round last season and the semifinal round in 2012.
Gerhartz logged 21 carries and notched his third rushing score of the season that gave UW-Oshkosh a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. He gouged the Bears defense for first-half runs of 47, 37 and 24 yards as the Titans racked up seven total plays that went for 24 yards or more. Gerhartz's rushing yardage was the most for a Titan since Andy Moriarty gained 214 yards against UW-River Falls on Nov. 10, 2007.
The Titans went on to score 35 unanswered points for a 49-7 advantage late in the third quarter. UW-Oshkosh, which has trailed for less than 12 minutes the entire year, has outscored opponents, 286-40, during the first half this season.
UW-Oshkosh held a 608-314 advantage in total yards. The Titans also converted 10 of 15 third downs on offense and recorded two interceptions on defense en route to owning a 37:55 to 22:05 lead in time of possession.
UW-Oshkosh quarterback Brett Kasper completed 10 of 18 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns, including scoring strikes of 56 yards to Johnny Eagan and 45 yards to Riley Kallas in three quarters of playing time.
Dom Todarello paced UW-Oshkosh with four receptions for 46 yards and one score while Kallas had two catches for 54 yards and one touchdown as the Titans attempted just 20 passes.
The UW-Oshkosh defense held the potent Washington University passing game in check, limiting the Bears to a season-low 221 yards through the air. Washington University, which had scored at least 28 points in each game this season, entered the contest ranked fifth in the nation with 366.9 passing yards per game.
The Bears' offense was also limited to just two plays of 20 yards or more. UW-Oshkosh now has 71 plays of at least 20 yards this season, including 24 on touchdowns, while the Titan defense has yielded just 17 plays of 20+ yards, including three scores.
Jon Kallas led UW-Oshkosh with six tackles. Steve Forner, Branden Lloyd and Cole Yoder each contributed five tackles, followed by AJ Plewa and Brad Walovitch with four stops apiece. Yoder and Cameron Brown registered interceptions for the Titans.
UW-Oshkosh marched the game's opening drive 70 yards on six plays into a stiff headwind, culminating on a 5-yard touchdown run from Linzenmeyer. The drive was aided by a 28-yard pass from Kasper to Todarello and a 25-yard run by Linzenmeyer after a fumbled snap.
The teams then exchanged five scoreless possessions before Gerhartz took over for the Titans on the sixth possession. Gerhartz ran the ball on each of UW-Oshkosh's six plays of the drive, totaling 80 yards until capping it off with a 2-yard score. He recorded runs of 37, 24 and 14 yards during the possession.
Washington University (8-3) answered with a 10-play, 75-yard drive on the ensuing possession to trim its deficit to 14-7 with 10:41 remaining in the second quarter. Bears running back Austin Smestad had six carries during the drive, including a 1-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal. Washington University quarterback J.J. Tomlin hit Matt Goldberg for 37 yards and completed a pair of passes to Kevin Hammarlund for 14 total yards during the scoring drive.
UW-Oshkosh responded quickly to the Bears' score as Kasper hit a wide-open Johnny Eagan in stride down the middle for a 56-yard touchdown pass just 36 seconds later.
Following a punt by Washington University, the Titans extended their lead to 28-7 on an 8-yard touchdown run by Linzenmeyer with 3:37 to go in the second quarter.
Yoder intercepted a Tomlin pass near midfield, and UW-Oshkosh cashed in the turnover six plays later with a 9-yard scoring pass from Kasper to Todarello. The touchdown was the Titans' fourth in four drives during the second period.
The teams exchanged punts on the first two drives of the third quarter before Tomlin led a drive deep into UW-Oshkosh territory with a pair of first-down passes. However, Brown intercepted a Tomlin pass near the back of the end zone to thwart the scoring chance.
Starting at its own 2-yard line, UW-Oshkosh put the game away with a 17-play scoring drive, including nine carries for 39 yards by Walton, over the next 7:42. Kasper added three rushes for 23 yards and two pass completions for 21 yards on the possession that ended with Cody Moon falling on a Walton fumble in the end zone for a 42-7 lead at the 3:53 mark of the third period.
The Titans forced an incompletion by Tomlin on fourth-and-4 from the UW-Oshkosh 42-yard line on the ensuing possession. The Titans then completed their string of 35 straight points when Riley Kallas took a short pass from Kasper, broke a few tackles and rumbled 45 yards down the sideline for a 49-7 lead with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
Washington University concluded the scoring on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Tomlin to Page with 2:32 remaining. The Titans blocked the extra point to provide the game's final score.
Tomlin ended the contest 23-for-40 passing for 221 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He entered the game ranked fourth in the nation with 35 touchdown passes and fifth with 3,539 passing yards.
Hammarlund led Washington University with 13 receptions for 116 yards while Goldberg added six catches for 81 yards. Hammarlund, who recorded his eighth straight game with more than 100 receiving yards, entered the contest ranked sixth in the country in both catches (87) and receiving yards (1,249).
Smestad finished the game with 25 carries for 73 yards as the Bears averaged just 2.7 yards on 34 rushes.
Washington University's Jake Coon led all players with 14 tackles, including nine solo. Nick Annin and Collin Holte chipped in eight and seven tackles, respectively, for the Bears.
Washington University, the Southern Athletic Association champion, is winless in three NCAA postseason games. The Bears also lost first round contests in 1999 and 2013.
UW-Oshkosh has won 16 of its last 17 home games and outscored opponents by a combined 687-180 score in those contests. The Titans also improved their record to 6-2 in NCAA postseason play.