Early season contest of UW-W and the Titans has postseason implications

Kolton Hegstrom, Sports Editor

The UW-Whitewater football team opens conference play on Oct. 30 when they travel to Oshkosh to take on the No. 3 UW-Oshkosh Titans.

Arguably the biggest rivalry in Division 3 football, the Warhawks and the Titans broke the all-time record for attendance in last season’s game where UW-W defeated UW-O on a last minute rushing touchdown.

“It will be a fun atmosphere, it’s going to be a blast,” Bullis said. “It’s going to be fun because both programs truly respect each other and the fans will show up because they know it will be a great show.”

This game can prove to be very important for the Warhawks. Right now UW-W has a losing record and sits unranked. With only seven weeks remaining beating a team like UW-O is what the Warhawks need to do if they want to have a shot at hosting the NCAA D3 Tournament. That being said, a loss would not completely knock the Warhawks out of playoff contention. There is another top-10 ranked team in the WIAC, UW-Platteville, and two other WIAC teams, UW-La Crosse and UW-Stout, who have received top-25 recognition this season. Recent years have shown that it is rare for a three-loss team to make the D3 tournament. The UW-W director of athletics recognizes the rivalry between the two squads, but doesn’t think the Warhawks should put more pressure on themselves just for this game.

“I see (Oshkosh game) as important as every other game on the schedule,” UW-W Director of Athletics Todd Garzarelli said.

The Titans come into the contest with a 2-0 record, while the Warhawks enter the game with a 1-2 record of their own. The Titans’ wins have been very impressive. UW-O opened up the season by defeating John Carroll, the team who defeated the Warhawks in the D3 NCAA Quarterfinals last season, 23-17. Then, in their second game, the Titans beat up on Virginia University of Lynchburg 74-7. Both of the Warhawks losses have come against Top-25 ranked opponents and they were finally able to get the offense going in their first win of the season against Washington-St. Louis.

In the game against Washington-St. Louis, the Warhawks were able to score 27 points in the fourth quarter. The Warhawks were only able to score 27 points total in their first two contests. The key part of their offense getting going was the explosion of their run game and, more specifically, of junior running back Ronny Ponick. Ponick was able to rush for 190 yards and one touchdown during the game. Coach Bullis is very excited about the way the Warhawks ran the ball last in the game.

The Warhawks won’t only have to focus on the run on one side of the ball. UW-O averages 287.5 rushing yards per game. One of the Titans’ biggest strengths on the ground is their ability to break the big play. UW-O already has multiple runs of more than 50 yards on the season. One of the keys for the Warhawks is stopping these big plays.

“The biggest defensive key is to not give Oshkosh long plays,” said Bullis, “and we need to take the football away from them. We did that in the second half against them last year and it proved to be the difference.”

The game will be played at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh with kickoff at 1 p.m.