‘Hawks get homecoming win

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Oct. 29, 2014 By Andrea Sidlauskas

The Warhawks football team has historically been neck-and-neck with the UW-Oshkosh Titans football team, and Saturday’s Homecoming Game was no different.

After blowing out opponent after opponent and posting two shutouts, the ’Hawks won their closest battle of the season against the Titans, 24-7, in front of a record-breaking 13,627 fans.

“It was a physical football game,” head coach Lance Leipold said. “It got off to a good start, but you can see the effects of a veteran defense that Oshkosh has. There are a lot of seniors in that defensive front seven that I won’t miss next year.”

The ’Hawks’ offense exploded early in the game, scoring two touchdowns in the first 9 minutes.

But after the loss of senior wide receiver Jake Kumerow in the first quarter due to injury, the ’Hawks struggled to move the ball.

 “We did emphasize to get to a fast start on offense all week,” senior quarterback Matt Behrendt said. “We did that; we did a great job our first two drives to get in the end zone like that. After that, it was a little disappointing.”
Behrendt accumulated 176 yards and two touchdowns on 17 passes, but threw his first interception in almost a year.

Last season, Behrendt threw only one pick – also during the Homecoming match on Nov. 2, 2013 – against conference foe UW-Platteville. He went on to record 388 straight attempts without an interception.

“It shows he’s human,” Leipold said. “If you win after that happens, maybe it’s good because people stop talking about it. We’ve done a very good job in ball security, and I think we did again today.”

Junior running back Jordan Ratliffe rushed for a team-high 66 yards and a touchdown in 17 carries, while senior wide receiver Justin Howard caught five passes for 43 yards.  Kumerow racked up 59 yards and a touchdown in just three receptions before exiting the game.

After giving up 151 yards of offense and 14 points in the first quarter, the Titans’ defense held the ’Hawks to just 10 points and 146 yards for the remainder of the game, but the ’Hawks’ defense was equally stingy.

The ’Hawks held the Titans to 68 yards in the first half and allowed only one touchdown, which didn’t come until the fourth quarter – the first committed against the Warhawk defense in 11 quarters.

Senior defensive back Brady Grayvold made six tackles and grabbed an interception, his fourth of the season and 10th in his last 12 games.

“That’s a total defensive effort,” Grayvold said. “If that ball doesn’t get tipped, that pick’s not happening. It’s not just one person making a play; it’s ten other people doing their job.”

Junior defensive back Ryan Winske and junior linebacker Justin Dischler led the ’Hawks with 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, while junior defensive lineman Zach Franz posted six tackles and 1.5 sacks.

The Titans entered the game as one of only three teams left unbeaten in the WIAC, and although their record was 3-3 at the start of the contest, they had won three consecutive games prior to Saturday.

Their offense ranks No. 4 in the WIAC in scoring and are led by a trio of freshmen: quarterback Brett Kasper, whose 71.4 percent completion percentage ranks No. 2 in the conference behind Behrendt; running back Dylan Hecker, who averages 77.4 yards per game and is second in the conference in rushing; and wide receiver Sam Mentkowski, the Titans’ leading wide receiver.

“They’re young, but they’re playing college football for a reason,” Grayvold said. “Oshkosh is a good program. Their offense had been putting up 30 points a game in the last few games, so to hold them to seven is a good job.”

Despite the relatively low score posted by the ’Hawks, Behrendt said Saturday’s matchup was a good test for the squad, who averages 48.3 points per game.

“It was a great battle to have,” Behrendt said. “You never say it was a bad win, so you take the win, but we know we can play a lot better than we did.”

Up next, the ’Hawks will head to UW-Platteville to take on the No. 13 Pioneers on Nov. 1 in a clash for the last undefeated team remaining in the WIAC.