Football: `Hawks topple Titans 17-14, now ranked No. 6

 

By Kevin Cunningham

It had been nearly two years since the UW-Oshkosh Titans lost at home, but on Saturday, the UW-Whitewater football team put an end to the Titans’ streak, winning 17-14.

Entering the game, the Warhawks were ranked No. 7 by D3football.com, while the Titans came in ranked No. 9. After the ’Hawks’ three-point victory, the team is now ranked No. 6 nationally.

The game made for an interesting one statistically and was ultimately a game of two halves. The Titans recorded seven drives in the first half and totaled 275 yards of offense but only mustered 14 points on the scoreboard.

For the ’Hawks, a lot of yardage was gained on their seven drives, but like the Titans, points came at a premium. Outside of a 36-yard field goal by senior Eric Kindler, the team was just able to score once more.

After a touchdown pass by Titans senior quarterback Nick Olla to give them a 7-3 lead, the ’Hawks responded with their only touchdown of the first half. Junior quarterback Matt Behrendt found sophomore wide receiver Joe Worth in the end zone on third-and-goal to give the ’Hawks the lead, 10-7.

In a seesaw first half, the Titans responded with another touchdown of their own on a 44-yard pass from Olla to junior wide receiver Zach Kasuboski. The remainder of the first half was scoreless, and the Titans led, 14-10.

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Kyle Wismer

At halftime, a message was sent to the Warhawks defense, and they responded immediately.

“We were being hesitant, were trying to be too perfect,” senior linebacker Kyle Wismer said. “[UW-Oshkosh] is an option team, so we had to be assignment-sound. The coaches told us to play fast. We just had to go after them instead.”

The ’Hawks started with the ball in the second half, and after a nine-play drive, Kindler missed a 52-yard field goal attempt. On the Titans’ first possession of the second half, the defense got its first turnover of the game, intercepting an Olla pass deep down the field.

“That first pick definitely shut that first drive down,” junior cornerback Brady Grayvold said. “That came on a 40-yard pass, so we weren’t going to let them keep throwing it deep on us.”

Despite a lower number of points being scored in the first half, the total yardage gained slowed down immensely in the second half. The next three possessions for both teams ended in punts, and the third quarter concluded with the Titans still on top, 14-10.

On the first play of the ’Hawks’ first possession of the fourth quarter, sophomore running back Jordan Ratliffe broke off a 56-yard run all the way down to the Titans’ 18-yard line.

On the next play, freshman running back Booker Ross scampered into the end zone on an 18-yard run to give the ’Hawks the lead, 17-14, with 11:00 remaining in the game.

“The offensive line, fullback, tight ends and receivers all gave great blocks for me to make a big play for our team when we needed it,” Ratliffe said. “Once we scored, we knew they would want to score right back, and we wanted to keep momentum on our side.”

On the ensuing possession for the Titans, the Warhawk defense forced another three-and-out. The Titans got the ball back, but this time, lost the ball on downs at their own 32-yard line with 2:59 remaining.

After another punt by the ’Hawks, the Titans had one final possession, trailing 17-14 with no timeouts, starting at their own 24-yard line with 1:57 remaining in the game.

After a third down conversion by the Titans with 1:20 left on the clock, Olla’s next pass was intercepted by Wismer, giving him his first interception of the season.

The ’Hawks ended the game with kneel downs, escaping Oshkosh with a 17-14 victory and a 7-0 record.

“Marcus [McLin] made a good play on the ball, tipping it right into my hands,” Wismer said. “It’s very hard to stop an offense that runs a lot of different formations, but I believe we’re one of the best defenses in the nation.”

According to NCAA.com, the ’Hawks’ defense only allowed 69 total yards in the second half, after giving up 275 in the first half. The undefeated ’Hawks rank No. 4 in total defense, No. 5 in third down conversion defense and No. 2 in turnover margin and scoring defense.

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Brady Grayvold

The defense has been great so far this season, but Grayvold knows the bigger picture is more important.

“We respect every offense we face,” Grayvold said. “I think our coaches are good enough schematically that we will be put in the right position to make plays, and as long as we make them, we’re going to have great success on defense.”

The next game for the ’Hawks is at 1 p.m. on Saturday for Homecoming weekend against the undefeated, No. 8-ranked UW-Platteville Pioneers. The Pioneers enter the contest with an explosive offense, averaging more than 520 yards and 46 points per game.

The 7-0 Pioneers get things done offensively through the air, as they have thrown for 32 touchdowns, average more than 360 yards per game and rank No. 2 nationally in passing offense according to NCAA.com.

“We know it’s going to be a four-quarter dogfight,” Ratliffe said. “We’re going to practice hard this week, and we know what we have to do to pull out the win.”