October 25, 2012

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.

comments powered by Disqus
Sep. 3: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Anna Maria at Coast Guard
7:00 PM
Franklin and Marshall at Lebanon Valley
7:00 PM
Ursinus at Millersville
7:30 PM
Manchester at Trine
Live Stats Video
8:00 PM
Belhaven at Millsaps
8:00 PM
Bethel at UW-Stout
Sep. 4: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Salisbury at Albright
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Gettysburg at Bridgewater (Va.)
7:00 PM
St. Lawrence at Morrisville State
7:00 PM
MIT at WPI
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Westfield State at Nichols
7:00 PM
Becker at Fitchburg State
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Stevenson at N.C. Wesleyan
7:00 PM
Mount Ida at Mass-Dartmouth
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Curry at Bridgewater State
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Wilkes at Muhlenberg
7:00 PM
Averett at Washington and Lee
Live Stats Video
8:30 PM
Luther at UW-La Crosse
Sep. 5: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Hobart at Dickinson
12:00 PM
Norwich at RPI
12:00 PM
Heidelberg at Cortland State
12:00 PM
Maine Maritime at SUNY-Maritime
12:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Thomas More
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Alfred at Husson
Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Framingham State at Endicott
Live Stats
12:00 PM
TCNJ at Christopher Newport
12:00 PM
Worcester State at Salve Regina
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Grove City at Juniata
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at Southwestern Assemblies
1:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Montclair State
1:00 PM
Lycoming at Susquehanna
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
William Paterson at Alfred State
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Alma at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Springfield at Western New England
1:00 PM
Ferrum at Emory and Henry
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Earlham at Olivet
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hampden-Sydney
Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Washington and Jefferson at Wooster
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Rowan at Widener
1:00 PM
Ithaca at Union
1:00 PM
Brockport State at Oberlin
1:00 PM
John Carroll at St. Vincent
1:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Randolph-Macon
1:00 PM
Castleton State at Plymouth State
1:00 PM
Methodist at Apprentice
1:00 PM
Waynesburg at Muskingum
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at Chicago
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Carnegie Mellon at Washington U.
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Centre at Hanover
1:30 PM
Buffalo State at Otterbein
1:30 PM
Wittenberg at Capital
1:30 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at Franklin
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Berry at Maryville (Tenn.)
Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Monmouth at Hope
Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Bethany at Mount Union
Live Stats
1:30 PM
Bluffton at Wilmington
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at UW-Platteville
Live Stats
2:00 PM
North Park at Concordia (Wis.)
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Kenyon at Sewanee
2:00 PM
Rockford at Lawrence
2:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Lake Forest
Audio
2:00 PM
Carthage at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Coe
2:00 PM
Jamestown at Concordia-Moorhead
2:00 PM
Macalester at Carleton
2:00 PM
Minnesota-Morris at Hamline
2:00 PM
Northwestern (Minn.) at St. Olaf
2:00 PM
Dubuque at St. John's
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Illinois College at Aurora
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at Simpson
2:00 PM
Hendrix at Austin
2:00 PM
Southwestern at Hardin-Simmons
2:00 PM
Knox at Eureka
2:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Martin Luther
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at Ripon
2:00 PM
Louisiana College at Huntingdon
2:00 PM
Loras at Elmhurst
3:00 PM
Pacific at College of Idaho
3:30 PM
Beloit at Concordia-Chicago
4:00 PM
George Fox at La Verne
4:00 PM
Puget Sound at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Live Stats
4:30 PM
Misericordia at Utica
Live Stats Video Audio
5:00 PM
Western Connecticut at Hartwick
5:00 PM
Defiance at Adrian
6:00 PM
Moravian at King's
6:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at LaGrange
Live Stats
6:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at Albion
6:00 PM
Redemption Christian College at Southern Virginia
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Guilford at Greensboro
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Allegheny at Thiel
7:00 PM
Gallaudet at Shenandoah
Live Stats Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
Kalamazoo at Rose-Hulman
Live Stats Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Westminster (Pa.) at Hiram
7:00 PM
Marietta at Denison
7:00 PM
Anderson at Taylor (Ind.)
7:00 PM
Mary Hardin-Baylor at Ohio Wesleyan
7:00 PM
Frostburg State at Geneva
7:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at Robert Morris University (Ill.)
7:00 PM
Greenville at Millikin
7:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at Howard Payne
7:00 PM
Texas Lutheran at Sul Ross State
7:00 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Augustana
7:10 PM
St. Thomas at UW-Eau Claire
7:30 PM
Catholic at McDaniel
7:30 PM
Benedictine at Central
8:00 PM
McMurry at East Texas Baptist
8:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
8:00 PM
Augsburg at Wartburg
8:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Crown
8:00 PM
Iowa Wesleyan at Cornell
Maintenance in progress.