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Titans To Host Eagles In Homecoming Skirmish

Titans To Host Eagles In Homecoming Skirmish

The defending WIAC champion and nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh football team hosts UW-La Crosse before a Homecoming crowd on Saturday (Oct. 20). Kickoff for the contest commences at 1:30 p.m. from J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.

UW-Oshkosh (4-2, 2-1 WIAC), ranked 12th in the NCAA Division III by D3football.com, will attempt to extend its winning streak to eight games over UW-La Crosse. The Titans, who have won the past seven meetings with the Eagles by a combined 232-108 score, last lost to UW-La Crosse with a 30-24 overtime setback on Oct. 29, 2011, in Oshkosh.

Despite the current losing streak, UW-La Crosse (4-2, 2-1 WIAC) owns a 49-16-6 record against the Titans, including a 35-0-2 mark between 1973-2009, in a series that began in 1919. UW-Oshkosh defeated the Eagles by a 42-28 score last season in La Crosse. Last year's meeting featured four ties until the Titans capped the scoring with a pair of touchdowns late in the third quarter.

UW-Oshkosh enters the 72nd meeting between the teams with 42 wins during its past 47 WIAC contests and a 15-game regular-season home winning streak. The Titans, who have appeared in each of the last 49 D3football.com weekly top 25 national polls, have claimed three of the last six WIAC titles and 10 overall. UW-Oshkosh went on to reach the 2016 NCAA Division III championship game, the national semifinal round in both 2012 and 2017, and the quarterfinal round in 2015.

Thirty-three-time league champion UW-La Crosse secured its last WIAC title in 2004. The Eagles claimed Division III championships in 1992 and 1995, and NAIA titles in 1985 and 1989.

UW-Oshkosh opened this season with five consecutive road games, including victories by scores of 20-9 over Carthage College, 17-7 over Lincoln University of Missouri and 48-14 during the WIAC opener over UW-River Falls. The win at NCAA Division II Lincoln University of Missouri was the Titans' first over an upper-division foe since 2004.

The Titans also suffered a 7-3 setback at Division II member Davenport University (Mich.) and a 20-0 loss at nationally ranked WIAC rival UW-Whitewater before securing a 31-10 home-opening triumph over UW-Platteville last Saturday (Oct. 13).

UW-La Crosse, which has won its last five road games dating back to last season, began the 2018 campaign with victories by scores of 52-21 at Luther College (Iowa) and 34-31 at nationally ranked Illinois Wesleyan University. The Eagles then lost consecutive home contests to nationally ranked NAIA program Dickinson State University (N.D.) and UW-Whitewater by scores of 35-17 and 30-7, respectively, before winning their two most recent contests at UW-Stout (29-23 in overtime) and at home over UW-Stevens Point (63-27) last Saturday.

UW-Oshkosh is averaging 19.8 points and 281 yards per game while allowing 11.2 points and 309.2 yards per contest. UW-La Crosse averages 33.7 points and 399 yards while surrendering 27.8 points and 413.3 yards per contest.

The Titans lead the WIAC in average turnover margin (+1.50), turnovers gained (16), interceptions thrown (3), interceptions gained (14), red zone defense (.529), penalties per game (5.17) and penalty yards per contest (42.17). UW-Oshkosh's 14 interceptions lead the country while its turnover margin lists ninth nationally.

The Eagles are the conference leaders in red zone offense (.900), tackles for loss allowed per game (3.67) and punt return average (22.20).

Leading the highly rated UW-Oshkosh defense are seniors Derrick Jennings Jr. and Scott Skornicka at linebacker, and Cole Yoder at defensive back.

Yoder, an All-West Region selection a year ago, paces the team with 43 tackles and four interceptions. His 0.7 interceptions per game leads the WIAC.

Jennings Jr., a 2017 First Team All-American, is second on the squad with 35 tackles and three interceptions while sharing the team lead with junior Jake Murphy with 2.5 sacks. Jennings Jr., who leads the Titans with eight tackles for loss, also ranks fourth in the country with a WIAC-high three blocked kicks on the year.

Skornicka is third on the team with 31 tackles, including six for loss and one of the Titans' 13 sacks.

Seven different Titans have collected interceptions this year, including two apiece by junior Calvin Shilling and freshman Tyler Staerkel.

The UW-Oshkosh offense is directed by sophomore quarterback Kyle Radavich, who has completed 81 of 138 passes for 913 yards with seven touchdowns and just one interception. Radavich's .587 completion percentage is best in the conference.

The Titans starting offensive line of senior tight end Cody Moon, senior center Tyler Powers, senior guards Alex Wendorf and Jason Wright, senior tackle Austin Summers and junior tackle Alex Wipperfurth have led a unit that has ceded 11 sacks and allowed 12 total ballcarriers to combine for 743 rushing yards and score six touchdowns on the ground. Powers was an All-America first team selection while Wendorf was an All-West Region pick a year ago and Moon garnered All-WIAC recognition in 2016.

UW-Oshkosh junior Mitch Gerhartz has a team-high 106 carries for 377 yards and two touchdowns this season. Senior Dom Todarello has added 35 rushes for 210 yards and one score. Moon and sophomore Max Nowinsky have contributed rushing touchdowns for the Titans.

Junior Riley Kallas has hauled in 25 catches for 308 yards and two touchdowns to lead the UW-Oshkosh receiving corps. Todarello has 23 grabs for 283 yards and a pair of scores while sophomore Mitchell Gerend has chipped in 14 receptions for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

Todarello, the WIAC Special Teams Player of the Year and an All-American as a return specialist a year ago, once again leads UW-Oshkosh's return game, averaging a conference-best 24.6 yards per kickoff return and 9.6 yards per punt return.

Three-time All-WIAC and 2017 All-West Region senior punter Turner Geisthardt is averaging 40.2 yards on his 38 punts this season, which have included a long of 58 yards and 16 inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Geisthardt, who ranks fifth among active Division III players by averaging 39.7 yards per punt during his career, is one of 24 Division III players averaging at least 40 yards per boot this season.

UW-Oshkosh junior placekicker Peyton Peterson has connected on 5 of 7 field goals, including a long of 37 yards, and each of his 14 extra point attempts.

The productive UW-La Crosse offense is led by senior quarterback Ben Schramski, who has completed 94 of 179 passes for 1,292 yards with a WIAC-high 12 touchdowns against four interceptions. A dual threat under center, Schramski has also rushed 39 times for 202 yards and a team-high five touchdowns.

Schramski's top targets this year have been junior tight end Cole Spieker and sophomore wide receivers Dominic Labellarte and Devonte Amos.

Spieker has a team-leading 27 receptions for 552 yards and six touchdowns. Labellarte has added 20 catches for 312 yards and five scores. Amos has contributed 13 grabs for 152 yards and one touchdown.

The UW-La Crosse backfield features three players with more than 200 rushing yards. Senior Austin Mancosky paces the Eagles with 74 rushes for 322 yards and one touchdown while junior Jalen Clark has 42 carries for 223 yards and a pair of scores as UW-La Crosse is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and runs the ball on nearly 49 percent of its offensive plays.

On the defensive side, UW-La Crosse sophomore linebacker Rusty Murphy and senior linebacker Elijah McGeehan lead the unit with 46 and 45 tackles, respectively. McGeehan also has two sacks and one interception.

UW-La Crosse junior defensive lineman Ryan Flathers has a team-high five of the squad's 18 sacks, and sophomore defensive back Max Brower has two of the team's four interceptions. Senior defensive back Alexander Villarreal is tops in the conference with two of the Eagles' six fumble recoveries.

UW-La Crosse junior wide receiver Jake Simuncak leads all of Division III with 775 combined kick return yards. He's averaging 22 yards on 24 kickoff returns and ranks seventh nationally by averaging 18.9 yards on his 13 punt returns.

UW-La Crosse freshman placekicker Ryan Beirne has converted 5 of 8 field goals, including a long of 49 yards, and 21 of 23 extra points. Sophomore punter Sean Parker has averaged 36 yards on his 28 punts, including a long of 69 yards and seven inside opponents' 20-yard line.

UW-Oshkosh has won each of its last six Homecoming contests, including a 30-6 decision over UW-La Crosse in 2013.

Prior to Saturday's game, UW-Oshkosh will recognize members from its 1968 football team that compiled an 8-2 record and shared the WIAC title with UW-Platteville.