November 28, 2012

Inside the 'D' at UWO

More news about: UW-Oshkosh
Ryan Stefaniak moved from safety to linebacker before the 2011 season, but it's in 2012 where he's had a huge impact.
Photo by Daryl Tessmann, d3photography.com

By Jason Galleske
D3sports.com

Ryan Stefaniak’s world on the gridiron was quite different a season ago.

Stefaniak, now a starting outside linebacker at UW-Oshkosh, was bummed because at the start of the 2010-11 season he was third on the depth chart at strong safety.

Prior to the opener against Central, Stefaniak was asked by coach Pat Cerroni to shift to start at linebacker.

“I didn't know where to line up at all,” Stefaniak said. "All I knew were the base coverages."

Stefaniak learned quickly and eventually earned the starting position for good last season and even added 20 pounds in the offseason in preparation for this year and earned second-team All-WIAC league honors.

Even though the junior is more familiar with the Titans' schemes, he forgot one of them Saturday in a playoff game against Bethel. The Titans were down 14-0 and Stefaniak missed a blitz call that turned into a game-changing play. Stefaniak intercepted Bethel quarterback Erik Peterson and ran 23 yards to set the Titans in great position on the Royals’ 26-yard line. Two plays later, Cole Myhra added a 1-yard touchdown run to get his team on the scoreboard.

“It was a lucky break,” Stefaniak said. “I was glad it worked.”

By the end of the game, Stefaniak had compiled a game-high 13 tackles, including three for a loss of 12 yards, and a pass deflection. Plus, he and fellow linebacker Taylor Goodman brought down a Bethel running back in the end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter to put the icing on the cake of a 37-14 win.

“He’s definitely a kid that loves to play football,” Cerroni said. “He loves to prepare. He watches more film than anyone on the team.”

Cerroni wasn’t too concerned with him lining up out of place during his key play.

“He knew exactly what was going to happen,” Cerroni said. “It’s an absolute testament to him being a great football player.”

 Stefaniak and the rest of the Titans advanced to play at third-ranked Linfield Saturday afternoon in McMinnville, Ore. It’s a place that’s tough to win, as the Wildcats have won 25 straight games at Maxwell Field. They're 15-3 at home in the playoffs.

“We know we’re going into a hornets’ nest,” Cerroni said.

And against another traditional team that dons a winning color scheme.

“What’s the deal with purple uniforms?’" Cerroni quipped. “Maybe we should change our uniforms to purple. The only way you play good football in D-III is to have purple uniforms.”

The black and gold Titans, who are in the playoffs for the first time, know a little about what it’s like to play against top teams that wear purple. UW-Oshkosh plays in the same conference as UW-Whitewater, the three-time defending national champion. They also played a non-conference home-and-home in 2010 and '11 with Mount Union, who has been in the past seven Stagg Bowls. On the way to winning the WIAC, Oshkosh topped Whitewater and snapped the Warhawks’ 27-game conference win streak.

“Playing Whitewater and Mount Union has been the entire difference why we are where we are,” Cerroni said. “You’re not going to shock us.”

The Titans (12-0) know a little bit about winning, as well as they have reeled off 14 straight wins, the longest active streak in college football.

“We're pretty loose, we like to have fun,” Stefaniak said. “We just feel like we don't even know what we're doing. We're watching film and trying to go out and win a football game.”

Stefaniak is one of the core guys on the defense along with seniors Goodman, cornerback Tim Filter and linemen Nathan Smith and Andrew Thompson. Those four earned All-WIAC first-team honors. They anchor a strong senior group that studies well for the task at hand.

“With 14 seniors it does not take us long to get ready,” Cerroni said. “We’ve run the same defenses thousands of times with these same guys. We’re prepared for this.”

 The Wildcats boast both of the top players in their conference as quarterback Mickey Inns was the NWC Offensive Player of the Year and linebacker Dominique Forrest earned Defensive Player of the Year honors. Linfield is also the country's best team at sacking the quarterback with 60.

“They have great players, speed and intensity,” Cerroni said.

The Titans continue to make their own history, something that will be remembered. For now, it’s about hopping on a plane for a shade over a 2,000-mile trip to try and continue the dream season for the Titans.

“We're not worried about that right now. Ten years down the road it will be cool to look back at it that we are the first ones,” Stefaniak said. “We're just going to try and enjoy it as we go.”

Sep. 1: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Coast Guard at Anna Maria
7:00 PM
Defiance at Baldwin Wallace
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Johns Hopkins
7:30 PM
Trine at Manchester
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
Sep. 2: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Mount Ida
6:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
7:00 PM
Muhlenberg at Wilkes
7:00 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Stevenson
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Becker
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Albright at Salisbury
7:00 PM
WPI at MIT
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Salve Regina at Worcester State
7:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Curry
7:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
10:00 PM
Adrian at Pacific
Sep. 3: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Endicott at Framingham State
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Washington U. at Carnegie Mellon
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Chicago at Case Western Reserve
12:00 PM
Husson at Alfred
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Cortland at Heidelberg
12:00 PM
Otterbein at Buffalo State
12:00 PM
Ursinus at Bethany
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Kenyon
1:00 PM
King's at Moravian
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Kean at Christopher Newport
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Catholic
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton
Live Stats
1:00 PM
RPI at Norwich
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Dickinson
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Kalamazoo
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
1:00 PM
Wooster at Washington and Jefferson
1:00 PM
Alfred State at William Paterson
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Alma
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Olivet at St. John Fisher
1:00 PM
Rowan at Widener
1:00 PM
Hobart at Brockport
1:00 PM
Union at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Utica at Misericordia
1:00 PM
The Apprentice School at Methodist
1:00 PM
TCNJ at UW-Whitewater
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Bluffton
1:30 PM
Monmouth at Hope
1:30 PM
Bridgewater at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
2:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Trinity Int'l
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Austin at Hendrix
2:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Martin Luther
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Millikin at Greenville
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
Live Stats
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Rockford
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Westminster (Mo.)
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Luther
2:00 PM
Beloit at Lake Forest
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Jamestown
2:00 PM
Crown at Hamline
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
2:00 PM
Bethel at Dubuque
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at St. John's
Live Stats
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Grinnell
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at Mayville St.
2:00 PM
Simpson at UW-Stout
2:00 PM
Aurora at Carthage
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at Coe
2:00 PM
Ripon at Concordia-Chicago
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Loras
2:00 PM
Huntingdon at Louisiana College
2:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Robert Morris-Chicago
2:00 PM
Benedictine at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
John Carroll at UW-Oshkosh
2:30 PM
Southern Virginia at Earlham
Live Stats
2:30 PM
Lawrence at Presentation
4:00 PM
UW-Platteville at George Fox
4:00 PM
La Verne at Puget Sound
Video Live Stats
4:00 PM
Central at Whitworth
5:00 PM
Hartwick at Western Connecticut
Live Stats
6:00 PM
Wabash at Albion
6:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Berry
6:00 PM
Augustana at Mount St. Joseph
6:00 PM
Thomas More at Franklin
Live Stats
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Averett
7:00 PM
Denison at Marietta
7:00 PM
Hiram at Westminster (Pa.)
7:00 PM
Thiel at Allegheny
7:00 PM
Capital at Wittenberg
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Shenandoah at Gallaudet
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Illinois College at Rose-Hulman
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Geneva at Frostburg State
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Guilford
Live Stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Southwestern
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Anderson at North Park
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Mary Hardin-Baylor
7:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Texas Lutheran
7:10 PM
St. Thomas at UW-Eau Claire
Video Live Stats
7:30 PM
Hanover at Centre
8:00 PM
Willamette at Rhodes
8:00 PM
Cornell at Iowa Wesleyan
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Augsburg at Northwestern (Minn.)
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Howard Payne
8:00 PM
Sul Ross State at UT-Permian Basin
8:30 PM
Redlands at Trinity (Texas)
Dec. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 49, at St. Thomas 35
@ Salem, Va.
Box Score Recap Recap Photos