The nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh football team scored 21 unanswered points during a span of seven minutes in the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 31-10 victory over UW-Platteville in the Titans' home opener Saturday (Oct. 13) at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
Clinging to a 10-3 advantage with 12:39 remaining in the final period, the Titans scored touchdowns on a 54-yard run by Dom Todarello with 12:02 left, a 32-yard fumble return by Taylor Ripplinger with 11:08 to play and a 2-yard run by Mitch Gerhartz at the 5:05 mark to increase their lead to 31-3.
UW-Oshkosh (4-2, 2-1 WIAC), ranked 13th in the NCAA Division III by D3football.com, beat the Pioneers for the fifth straight meeting and the ninth in the past 10 matchups. The Titans' five-game winning streak over UW-Platteville is their longest since an eight-game string of victories from 1923-30.
UW-Platteville (4-2, 2-1 WIAC), which scored its lone touchdown with two seconds left in the game, entered Saturday leading the WIAC with 41.6 points and 369.4 yards per game. The Pioneers were held to their lowest scoring output in the 34 games since a 17-7 loss to UW-Whitewater on Oct. 3, 2015.
UW-Oshkosh, which owned a 10-0 lead at intermission, concluded the contest with a 3-0 advantage in turnovers and a 332-311 edge in scrimmage yards. The Titans, who converted 7 of 14 third-down opportunities, limited the Pioneers to just 72 yards of offense during the first half.
UW-Platteville held advantages in first downs (22-19) and time of possession (33:22 to 26:38) as the Pioneers had the ball for nearly 22 minutes during the second half.
Todarello racked up 176 all-purpose yards (75 rushing, 71 receiving, 30 punt return) on Saturday and scored his first rushing touchdown of the season. He led the Titans with seven catches and averaged 18.8 yards on four carries.
Gerhartz added 78 yards on 19 rushes, including his second ground score of the year and the 12th of his career, as the Titans ran for 158 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Gerhartz chipped in two grabs for 22 yards to finish the game with 100 yards.
UW-Oshkosh's Calvin Shilling and Tyler Staerkel both snared their second interceptions of the season. Jake Murphy tallied two of the Titans' three sacks, and Staerkel accounted for the other quarterback takedown. Murphy is now tied for the team lead with 2.5 sacks on the year. Ripplinger's fumble recovery and touchdown were the firsts of his career.
Turner Geisthardt, who punted four times for 141 yards, became the first Titan to surpass 7,000 punting yards in his career. He now ranks ninth in conference history with 7,035 yards.
The 103rd meeting between the teams began with a punt from both sides before UW-Oshkosh mounted a 19-play, 90-yard drive that took 8:05 off the clock and culminated in Radavich's touchdown pass to Kasuboski on second-and-goal play with 2:19 left in the first period. The catch was the first of Kasuboski's career.
Radavich completed 7 of 10 passes for 63 yards during the Titans' long scoring drive.
UW-Platteville, which gained just 50 yards on 11 plays during the first quarter, reached the UW-Oshkosh 34-yard line early in the second period. A holding penalty on the Pioneers moved the ball back to the Titan 44, and Shilling intercepted a Colin Schuetz pass on the following play.
The Titans' ensuing 13-play drive resulted in a missed 43-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, but UW-Oshkosh placekicker Peyton Peterson, the WIAC leader with an .800 field goal percentage entering Saturday, atoned for the miss by later splitting the uprights from 28 yards out to extend the Titan lead to 10-0 with 1:42 to go in the opening half.
UW-Platteville, which was averaging a WIAC-leading 182.6 rushing yards per game, ran the ball nine times for negative-12 yards during the second quarter and 15 times for 18 yards overall in the first half.
The Pioneers received the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 60 yards in 14 plays, including combined 51 passing and rushing yards by Schuetz, before Samuel Herkert missed a 24-yard field goal wide right.
The teams exchanged punts on the next three possessions until UW-Platteville broke up the shutout on Herkert's 20-yard field goal. The Pioneers had a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line on the drive, but three consecutive rushing attempts gained a total of 1 yard as Ripplinger, Yoder, Nick Boyd and Matt Kahn each provided tackles that kept UW-Platteville out of the end zone.
UW-Oshkosh answered the Pioneers' score quickly as Radavich hit Gerend on an 11-yard pass, and Todarello took a reverse handoff and went 54 yards untouched down the left sideline on the next play to cap the Titans' 65-yard drive that lasted just 37 seconds.
The Titans' Brandon Kolgen then forced Pioneers running back Sean Studer to fumble three plays and 54 seconds later. Ripplinger scooped up the loose ball and raced 32 yards to the end zone, and UW-Oshkosh extended its lead to 24-3 following Peterson's extra point with 11:08 remaining.
Staerkel snuffed out the next Pioneer drive, intercepting a Schuetz pass on a fourth-and-14 play from the Titan 35-yard line with 7:51 to go.
UW-Oshkosh put the game away on the ground as Gerhartz busted free for runs of 15, 14 and 23 yards after the Staerkel interception. Gerhartz's 23-yard run set up a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line, and Gerhartz waltzed into the end zone on the next play. Peterson's fourth extra point in four tries gave UW-Oshkosh a 31-3 cushion with 5:05 remaining.
UW-Platteville avoided matching its lowest scoring effort since 2011 when backup quarterback Brett Geisz ran for a 6-yard touchdown with two seconds to play.
Schuetz ended the contest 20 of 41 passing for 183 yards with a pair of interceptions.
Geisz led the Pioneers with 66 rushing yards on seven carries. Studer, who went into the day leading the WIAC with 110.3 rushing yards per game, contributed 15 carries for 62 yards.
UW-Platteville's Mark Johnson and Tim Jansen led all players with eight receptions apiece. Johnson had a game-high 87 receiving yards and Jansen added 59.
Tyler Reinhardt had a team-high nine tackles for UW-Platteville. Josh Mackie chipped in eight tackles, all solo, while Ben Moglievsky recorded five tackles, forced a fumble and had one of the Pioneers' two sacks.
UW-Oshkosh remains at home to host UW-La Crosse next Saturday (Oct. 20).
Photo courtesy of Steve Frommell, D3Photography.com