UWO football falls to Whitewater

Nate Proell

The UW Oshkosh football season came to an end on Saturday, Dec. 5 when they were defeated by UW-Whitewater 31-29 in the quarterfinals round of the Division III football playoffs, finishing the season with an 11-2 record. The 12-1 Warhawks will move on to the semifinals round of the playoffs and take on 13-0 Mount Union in a rematch of the past two DIII championships. The Warhawks’ only loss of the season came from UWO in week 5 as the Titans beat the Warhawks 10-7. “They’re an outstanding football team, and we beat them,” head coach Pat Cerroni said. “But this time we just came up short.” The Warhawks got off to a quick start as they scored first with a 2-yard touchdown run from running back Jordan Ratliffe with 9:28 left in the first quarter. Sophomore quarterback Brett Kasper threw an interception, which lead to a 33-yard field goal from Warhawks kicker Will Meyer that put Whitewater up 10-0 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter consisted of heavy defense as neither team scored until the 3:27 mark when the Titans put up a 19-yard field goal from kicker Greg Rand. The Titans following possession lead to a 25-yard touchdown run from running back Devon Linzenmeyer, which tied the game 10-10 at halftime. Titans’ starting running back Dylan Hecker was forced to leave the game because of an injury at the end of the half and Linzenmeyer said he knew he had to step up. “Everyone knows what [Hecker] can do,” Linzenmeyer said. “I needed to make the best of my opportunities and I did.” Linebacker Reese Dziedzic said the team had to respond after getting hit hard in the first half. “One of my personal concerns was don’t let them get up early, but our offense came back really strong in the second quarter,” Dziedzic said. “We just let them get up on us too much.” Cerroni said that it was crucial that the Titans did not let the Warhawks score in the second quarter and the Titans were able to tie the game going into the half. “We made some great stops in the first half,” Cerroni said. “This thing could have been over at halftime.” To begin the second half, Whitewater’s quarterback Chris Nelson threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marcus Hudson to put the Warhawks up 17-10. The Titans struck back with a touchdown via a 30-yard pass from Kasper to tight end Cody Moon. However, a missed extra point from Rand meant the Warhawks kept a 17-16 lead. At the 8:40 mark, Whitewater scored another touchdown after a 5-yard pass from Nelson to Hudson, which put them ahead 24-16. The Warhawks scored one more time in the third quarter with 1:21 left as running back Jordan Ratliffe ran in a 5-yard touchdown to put UWW up 31-16. In the fourth quarter the Titans were able to score two touchdowns and keep the Warhawks from scoring. The first touchdown came at the 13:13 mark after a 21-yard run from Linzenmeyer that put the score at 31-23. At the 3:42 mark, Kasper completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zach Kasuboski. The Titans went for a 2-point conversion to try and tie up the game, but Kasper’s pass attempt failed, and the Titans were down 31-29 with 3:42 left to play. The Titans had one more opportunity to put points on the board with a drive that started at 1:58, but the Titans turned the ball over on downs. The Warhawks were then able to run the clock out and win the game. Cerroni said eventually the game plan was to the win fourth quarter. “We knew we were going to give something up there in the third quarter, but we felt we had the fire power to bring it back,” Cerroni said. “It played out exactly the way we thought, other than not scoring.” The missed field goal would have tied the game in the third quarter, but Cerroni said that wasn’t the only factor in the game. “There’s more to it than that,” Cerroni said. “We’re a good football team.” Coming into the game, the Titans coaching staff said beating the defending national champion Warhawks for a second time in one season would be no easy task. “They have great athletes,” Cerroni said. “We call it candyland… That is a powerhouse program. It [doesn’t] matter who coaches them.” The Titans got off to a slow start in the game, but were eventually able to come back and make it close despite the loss. “When everything is going bad, you just hope you have a team that has the heart to make it right,” Cerroni said. “They did all day and that’s what I’m most proud of.”