/notables/2012/10/beating-whitewater-just-a-step

For Oshkosh, beating UWW just a step

More news about: UW-Oshkosh
UW-Oshkosh defensive back Ryan Stefaniak chased down Whitewater quarterback Ryan Behrendt after a short gain on a day in which Oshkosh put both UWW quarterbacks on the move.
Photo by Daryl Tessmann for d3photography.com

By Andrew Wagner
for D3sports.com

OSHKOSH, Wis. – In the not-so-storied history of football at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, there may not have ever been a victory worthy of as many adjectives as the Titans 28-13 upset of No. 5 UW-Whitewater on Saturday.

There is still much to accomplish if the Titans hope to celebrate their first Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title since 1976 and clinch their first-ever NCAA Division III playoff berth. But history, which hasn’t always been kind to the Titans over the years, could be the single best teaching tool as Oshkosh tries to close out the season and lock down that elusive conference title beginning Saturday at UW-La Crosse.

In some respects, getting past Whitewater was the easy part of the equation. Beating the Warhawks has been a goal for coach Pat Cerroni as he rebuilt the Oshkosh progra from the ground up when he was promoted from defensive coordinator in 2007.

Getting players to choose Oshkosh, which had posted two winning seasons (but finished .500 six times) since its last conference title was no easy sell and required recruits to buy into a different kind of philosophy than Whitewater, the perennial powerhouse and three-time defending national champion.

“We just weren’t very good,” Cerroni said. “We didn’t recruit guys that wanted to be champions, we recruited guys that wanted to build a program and beat champions. Those are the kinds of kids we’ve got here right now. They didn’t come here thinking they were going to win championships; they came here to knock people off.

“It took a long time, five years, but last year we had 19 seniors, this year we’ve got 19, next year we’ll have 21. Getting a group of kids that are older and more mature makes a big difference.”

Titans have been
fair to middlin'

In the years since the WIAC first got an automatic bid to the playoffs, UW-Oshkosh has often been competitive, but not a contender. Year-by-year results:

2012 (7-0, 4-0 WIAC)
2011 (7-3, 5-2 WIAC)
2010 (4-6, 3-4 WIAC)
2009 (4-6, 2-5 WIAC)
2008 (4-5, 2-5 WIAC)
2007 (7-3, 4-3 WIAC)
2006 (5-5, 3-4 WIAC)
2005 (7-3, 4-3 WIAC)
2004 (5-5, 2-5 WIAC)
2003 (4-6, 1-6 WIAC)
2002 (4-6, 2-5 WIAC)
2001 (3-6, 2-5 WIAC)
2000 (3-7, 1-6 WIAC)
1999 (3-7, 2-5 WIAC)

The maturity was evident against Whitewater, especially early in the second half. Down 21-0 at the half, the Warhawks came out on fire in the third quarter, dominating the Titans defensively while kicking the offense into gear and cutting the lead to 21-13.

On the sidelines, there was no sense of panic from the Titans, who hadn’t beaten the Warhawks since 2002 and were winless in Whitewater since 1987. Led by senior quarterback Nate Wara, the Titans kept their cool, rode out the storm and finally got back on track, adding a fourth-quarter score to extend the lead.

That kind of poise – the cool and resilient nature – made it look like the upstart Titans had been there before. And they have … sort of.

Cerroni knew early on in the rebuilding process that, at some point, his team would need to be tested in “big-game” situations. With that in mind, he scheduled perennial powerhouse Mount Union to a home-and-home series for the 2010 and 2011 seasons, much like UW-Whitewater did in 2002 and 2003.

The results were predictable: Mount Union won both games in relatively easy fashion, 45-28 and 41-17, respectively. But the experience gained in those matchups was on display Saturday as Oshkosh held on for its historic victory.

“It was pretty impressive of how that crowd of 11,000 – I say 11,000 because probably 1,000 of the people [of the 12,318] in that stadium were our fans – you look across and they’re going crazy,” Cerroni said. “You know then that the momentum isn’t just lost or shifting, it’s gone at that point. We just stuck with it, made a couple plays, got lucky and it turned out good.

“That’s why we played Mount Union and Whitewater the last two years. Everyone said Oshkosh hasn’t been in a big game. We went to Mount Union a year ago. It was a pretty good atmosphere. We didn’t know how to play in those games but now, we were prepared for that moment.

“How do you prepare for this moment, the next one? This is the uncharted territory.”

Like Whitewater, La Crosse has dominated the series against Oshkosh, holding a 49-9-6 record dating to the first meeting in 1919. The Titans haven’t won in La Crosse since 1967 but finally snapped a 27-game losing streak two years ago in Oshkosh. Last season, they came into the game with a shot at a playoff bid but fell in overtime, 30-24.

That game is still fresh in the Titans’ collective minds, not so much for the end result, but for the lack of focus in that game, which came on the heels of a three-point loss to Whitewater a week before.

Coming up just short against the Warhawks set the tone for a disappointing week of practice and preparation and ultimately, a missed opportunity.

“It was almost like Whitewater beat us twice,” said senior running back Cole Myhra.

The Eagles jumped out to a 24-7 lead midway through the third quarter before the Titans finally got themselves together and rallied to force overtime before losing.

The score was misleading. La Crosse dominated in almost every facet of the game, gaining 479 total yards and 28 first downs compared to just 297 and 13 for the Titans, while holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes and converting 56 percent of their third-down attempts.

“We lost focus,” Wara said. “After we lost to Whitewater, we just were like ‘we lost by three points, we could have done something else.’ Our minds just weren’t into the La Crosse game at all.”

Cerroni doesn’t foresee any mental issues heading into this year’s meeting of the two teams. Barely 24 hours after the Whitewater game, the Titans’ collective focus was already evident.

“Sunday night was totally different,” Cerroni said. “I didn’t see a team that left it all out there. We really fought last year and I give them a lot of credit. I saw the focus on Sunday night. This is how it’s been all year.”

Oshkosh played La Crosse earlier this season, in a nonconference game at Oshkosh. The Titans won, 16-7, behind 320 total yards from Wara, who passed for 238 and ran for another 82. The Oshkosh defense held La Crosse to just 102 total yards, including just 17 on the ground.

Since then, La Crosse has been up-and-down, sandwiching victories against UW-Stevens Point and UW-Stout with losses to UW-Platteville and UW-Eau Claire. In all, the Eagles are 2-2 in the league (3-4 overall), but nobody in the Oshkosh camp is expecting an easy go of things come Saturday.

“La Crosse is a good football team and they’re getting better by the week,” Cerroni says. “There’s no cakewalk in this league.”

Get past La Crosse, and two games remain: at home against UW-Stevens Point and the season finale at UW-Stout.

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 50, Massachusetts Maritime 7
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Final
Muhlenberg 56, at Juniata 40
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at Dean 25, Becker 10
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Salisbury 27, at TCNJ 7
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Final
MIT 38, at Catholic 21
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Final
Merchant Marine 56, at Maine Maritime 31
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at Hobart 34, Endicott 17
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Final
at Morrisville State 44, Nichols 22
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Final
at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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Final
at Albright 9, Widener 7
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Christopher Newport 16, at Montclair State 8
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at Westminster (Pa.) 41, Bethany 14
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Middlebury 41, at Bowdoin 14
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Williams 24, at Colby 7
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Amherst 36, at Hamilton 6
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Ursinus 35, at Moravian 17
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Trinity (Conn.) 51, at Bates 0
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at LaGrange 38, Brevard 28
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Geneva 33, at Thiel 24
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at Plymouth State 37, Mass-Dartmouth 7
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Kean 28, at Southern Virginia 14
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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Final
Union 17, at Curry 14
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at Carnegie Mellon 37, Thomas More 17
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Lycoming 44, at King's 41
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at Western New England 21, Husson 14
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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at DePauw 51, Wooster 24
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at Ohio Wesleyan 37, Allegheny 21
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at Misericordia 43, Wilkes 14
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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Final
at N.C. Wesleyan 35, Maryville (Tenn.) 25
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Huntingdon 31, at Ferrum 28
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Final - OT
at McDaniel 27, Gettysburg 20
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at Buffalo State 33, RPI 21
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Final
Franklin and Marshall 27, at Susquehanna 24
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at Denison 45, Oberlin 17
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 10, Westminster (Mo.) 7
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at Eureka 44, Crown 20
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at Lebanon Valley 24, FDU-Florham 14
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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Final
at Ohio Northern 35, Otterbein 7
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Final
at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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Final
at Rose-Hulman 37, Defiance 14
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Final
at Marietta 49, Muskingum 25
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Final
Franklin 59, at Bluffton 30
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at Hanover 64, Anderson 21
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Mount St. Joseph 31, at Manchester 14
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Final
Worcester State 34, at Westfield State 10
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Final
Coast Guard 13, at Norwich 9
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Final
at Fitchburg State 31, Bridgewater State 29
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Final
Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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Final
at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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Final
at Millsaps 17, Sewanee 13
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Final
at Rhodes 35, Birmingham-Southern 9
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Final
at Hendrix 36, Austin 24
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Final
at Martin Luther 34, Greenville 20
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Final - OT
at Trinity (Texas) 41, Chapman 35
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Final
at Loras 73, Buena Vista 34
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at Wartburg 30, Washington U. 20
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Final
at Gustavus Adolphus 51, Hamline 7
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Final
Augsburg 48, at Carleton 28
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Final
at Bethel 64, St. Olaf 7
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Final
at Luther 21, Dubuque 17
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Final
at Central 52, Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Final
Simpson 38, at Coe 33
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Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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Final
St. Norbert 66, at Grinnell 13
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Final
at Knox 13, Ripon 6
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Final
at MacMurray 32, Iowa Wesleyan 14
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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Final
Southwestern 37, at Louisiana College 34
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Final
Monmouth 26, at Macalester 0
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Final
at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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Final
at Springfield 42, WPI 10
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Final
at Cornell 55, Beloit 36
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Final
at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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Final
at Hartwick 24, St. John Fisher 21
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Final
at UW-La Crosse 41, Carroll 6
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Final
at St. Scholastica 37, Minnesota-Morris 3
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Final
at George Fox 44, UW-Eau Claire 0
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Final
at Western Connecticut 37, Salve Regina 23
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Final
at UW-Stevens Point 41, Adrian 28
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Final - OT
at Wesleyan 24, Tufts 17
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Final
at Averett 35, Methodist 6
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Final
at Berry 28, Centre 14
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Final
at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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Final
at Grove City 24, St. Vincent 14
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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Final
at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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Final
Carthage 55, at Augustana 14
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Final
Chicago 28, at Illinois College 7
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Final
at Sul Ross State 35, McMurry 7
Final - OT
at Wilmington 37, Capital 30
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Final
Lake Forest 42, at Lawrence 26
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at East Texas Baptist 79, Belhaven 40
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Arizona Christian 56, at Whittier 38
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Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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Final
Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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Final
at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Final
Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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Final
Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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Final
at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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Final
at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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Final
Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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Final
at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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Final
North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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Final
at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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Final
at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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Final
at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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Final
at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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