The Advance-Titan

TO THE FINAL 4

For the second season in a row and for the third time in program history, the UW Oshkosh Titans football team has advanced to the semifinal round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III football championship tournament. The Titans’ road to the Stagg Bowl continues after defeating the Wartburg College Knights by a score of 41-27 Saturday at home in a game that included a career-high five touchdowns for senior running back Dylan Hecker.

With the victory, Oshkosh now advances to the semi-finals of the NCAA DIII football championship playoffs to take on the 12-time Stagg Bowl champions Mount Union Raiders at Titan Stadium Saturday, Dec. 9 at noon. This will be the Titans’ second straight appearance in the semifinals of the tournament while it is the Raiders 23rd straight appearance.

Titans’ head coach Pat Cerroni said the victory over the Knights was hard fought, but overcoming a challenge in the playoffs and advancing to the semifinals is nothing new to the team.

“These guys have been here before and are doing a great job,” Cerroni said. “They have goals, and in this day-and-age, to find a group of guys who actually set goals and go out and do it, that’s very impressive. It shows their character. We’re just climbing that mountain, baby. One day at a time.”

Against the D3.com 17th-ranked Knights, Hecker set a career-high five total touchdowns, including one 43-yard receiving touchdown, to help overcome the Knights in a game where the Titans were down 7-0 early in the first quarter and tied in the third.

Hecker said, although he had a career-high day, the credit should not be given to just him as his fellow teammate, and fellow running back, sophomore Mitch Gerhartz ran for over 100 yards.

“It felt good, but I gotta give credit to the coaching staff, they’re the ones that drew up the plays and we just practiced it during the week and we got a game plan and we went out there and those plays worked,” Hecker said. “I mean Mitch had 128 yards. I think he played a heck of a game too.”

UWO senior quarterback Brett Kasper threw for two touchdowns and 256 yards. The Oshkosh defense held the Knights to 336 total yards of offense compared to the Titans’ 503 total yards, 256 of which came on the ground.

Despite UWO winning by 14 points, the game was significantly close, with the score being tied midway through the third quarter at 20-all. However, three consecutive touchdown rushes from Hecker on the following three UWO possessions put the Titans up 41-20.

Although the Knights were able to score once more in the fourth with four minutes to play in the game, it was not nearly enough before time expired on the next Titans’ drive.

To start the game, the Titans received the opening kickoff and started their drive on their own 22 yard line. The offense managed to go 24 yards before Hecker fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Knights at the UWO 46. Although the Knights had a short field, the UWO defense managed to hold them to a quick three and out to punt.

However, despite preventing a Knights’ score off the fumble, the Titans were still not able to make anything happen on their following drive. The drive ended on a nine-yard rush from kicker Turner Geisthardt as he received pressure on his punt and was forced to attempt a first down rush, but came up a yard short.

The Knights now had another short field starting on the UWO 38, which they were able to work with, this time being able to score a touchdown and take the early lead 7-0. However, the Titans were able to answer on their following drive with Hecker’s first rushing touchdown of the game.

The Titans defense then managed to record a strip-sack on the Knights’ junior quarterback Matt Sacia and managed to get the recovery as well. The Titans now had a short field at the WC 45 which took two plays before a 43-yard touchdown pass from Kasper to Hecker made the score 13-7. After the score, the Titans never trailed in the game again.

Titans’ senior linebacker John Kallas said going up against Sacia, the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference offensive player of the year, was a challenge but the defense knew how to handle the situation.

“That was one of the hardest parts in our game plane, we knew he (Sacia) could run,” Kallas said. “I guess you just have to take your time and be very careful not to overpersue and let him escape. Sit back, let him do his thing and trust our guys in the backfield that they can cover and we just made sure the QB didn’t beat us.”

Kasper said the Titans have a great advantage being at home this Saturday, especially considering the notable opponent they have in the Raiders.

“With a home game we get one more chance to perform in Titan Stadium and we are happy about that,” Kasper said. “Mount Union has a great, historic program. They bring in a very good offense and defense so they are a good overall team. It should be a good battle.”

As the Titans take on the Raiders this Saturday be sure to stay updated on the game with play by play tweeting on Advance-Titan Twitter and game updates on the AT Facebook page. The game will also be covered on T.V. on ESPN3.

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Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
TO THE FINAL 4