Titans headed to their first-ever National Championship

Nate Proell

Christian Bettin records his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter against John Carroll University.
[/media-credit] Christian Bettin records his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter against John Carroll University.
 Brett Kasper starts the bootleg for the only touchdown of the game. Kasper's three-yard touchdown run put UWO up 7-0 in the third quarter.
[/media-credit] Brett Kasper starts the bootleg for the only touchdown of the game. Kasper’s three-yard touchdown run put UWO up 7-0 in the third quarter.

The UW Oshkosh football team will advance to the NCAA DIII College Football National Championship Stagg Bowl for the first time in program history after defeating the John Carroll University Blu

e Streaks 10-3 on Saturday, Dec. 10.

The first half of Saturday’s game went scoreless and was slow for both teams, each punting five times.

Titans quarterback Brett Kasper said, although the game was slow, they managed to get the victory and feel good about it.

“Anytime you’re playing behind our defense obviously we think that we just need to put one score on the board and they’ll do the rest,” Kasper said. “It’s not the prettiest win, not the flashiest win, but the biggest thing is for the offense just to manage a game like that and not turn the ball over. I think that has been key to our success.”

By the end of the second quarter the Titans had a mere 78 yards of total offense with Kasper going 8-11 for 58 yards. John Carroll had 121 yards of total offense with their freshman quarterback Anthony Moeglin going 7-15 for 54 yards.

Despite the slow first half, the Titans were quick to get things going at the start of the third quarter.

After getting the ball on their own 29 yard line, the Titans were able to go 71 yards for a touchdown.

In a drive that included a 28-yard Hecker rush, Kasper took the ball into the endzone himself for a three-yard touchdown rush. After the extra point was good from kicker Eli Wettstein, the Titans were ahead 7-0 at 10:58 in the third.

The following drive for John Carroll went 17 yards before Titans’ sophomore defensive back Cole Yoder intercepted Moeglin’s pass on the UWO 30 yard line.

The Titans were able to start their drive on their own 30 yard line and had rushes from wide receiver CJ Blackburn of six yards, running back Devon Linzenmeyer for 17 yards and a Kasper rush for seven yards that brought them to the JCU 47.

Despite being in Blue Streaks territory, they failed to come away with any points and were forced to punt after having a rush for a loss from Linzenmeyer that brought them back to the JCU 44 and an incomplete pass from Kasper.

John Carroll started their next drive on their own 19, one that resulted in another interception from the Titans via defensive lineman Justin Watson who intercepted Moeglin’s pass on the JCU 45 yard line.

With 2:03 remaining in the third quarter the Titans started their drive on the JCU 45 but failed again to come away with points. Wettstein attempted a 34 yard field goal that was no good after the offense drove the ball to the JCU 17.

The Titans drive went into the fourth quarter. With 12:31 remaining in the game, the Blue Streaks started their drive on their own 17 and ran two plays before Moeglin threw his third interception of the game for the third straight drive.

Sophomore defensive back Christian Bettin got the interception on the JCU 34 and had a 12-yard return that brought that ball to the JCU 12 yard line.

After running three plays for negative two yards, the Titans were forced to attempt a 32-yard field goal which was good for Wettstein.

With 10:12 remaining in the game, the Titans were up 10-0.

The Blue Streaks managed to put points on the board during their following drive after going 61 yards in 13 plays. They attempted a 24-yard field goal that was good from John Carroll kicker Matt Danko.

With 5:00 remaining in the game, the Blue Streaks were on the board but still down 10-3.

The Titans had one more drive that went 13-yards in six plays and resulted in a punt.

With 1:48 remaining in the game, John Carroll started its drive on its own 20-yard line and with no timeouts.

They managed to take the ball to the UWO 35, but after Moeglin was sacked for a loss of 11 yards, time expired and the Titans came away with the victory.

Titans head coach Pat Cerroni said, although things were slow to get going for the Titans, he is pleased with the victory and not concerned.

“That doesn’t concern me,” Cerroni said. “At this level the teams are too good. You’re just trying to figure it out going one series to the next trying to make something happen. However you win it, it doesn’t really matter. These teams are really good and we’re playing another good one, that’s how some games play out.”

The fourth-ranked Titans will face the number-one ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders for the national championship.

Titans’ defensive back Cameron Brown said the experience of going to the championship for the first time in program history is exciting for the whole team.

“That’s something we’ve made sure to talk about, like just embracing the moment and taking it all in too and not just letting it all fly past,” Brown said. “No team knows if they’ll make it back here every single year. So when you get this opportunity you definitely want to make sure you remember the good parts about it and then once game time comes that’s when it’s time to lock it in.”

The Crusaders are undefeated, winning their first three games of the tournament by margins greater than 15 points, and beat the reigning national champions Mount Union in the semifinal round 14-12.

Meanwhile, the Titans won their first two games of the tournament by margins greater than 15 and beat third-ranked St. Thomas in Minnesota 34-31 to take them to this past weekend’s game.

Over the weekend, Titans senior linebacker Reese Dziedzic was named to the AFCA All-American Team. He is the first Titans defensive player to be named to the team, starting all 47 games his past four years of playing and leading the team in tackles all four years as well.

Dziedzic says he is grateful for the award, but has his goal set on a the bigger picture.

“Winning is a lot more exciting than individual awards,” Dziedzic said. “It’s cool and stuff, it’ll be something to hang on my wall, but I think winning a national championship would be a lot better.”

Cerroni said his team is considered the underdogs going in the game, but he does not believe it.

“We’ve been the underdogs our entire lives so I think we’ll be fine with it,” Cerroni said. “Just keep underestimating us, and I think we’ll be fine.”