Defense Carries Titans To Monumental Victory Over UW-La Crosse
The UW-Oshkosh football team didn't surrender a point in the second half as the Titans beat UW-La Crosse, 28-17, for the first time since 1972 on Saturday (Oct. 2) at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
The victory snapped a 24-game losing streak to the Eagles (0-4/0-1 WIAC). After racking up 271 yards in the first half, UW-La Crosse totaled just 128 after the break. When the Eagles tried to mount a comeback in the final 17 minutes, UW-Oshkosh's defense forced a fumble and two turnovers on downs.
The Titans (2-2/2-0 WIAC) showed they were serious to open the third quarter, embarking on a 17-play drive to take the lead. The 67-yard march required a six-yard catch on 3rd-and-5 from Charlie Weissman (Jr. • Colgate), who also rushed for three yards when UW-Oshkosh needed two. Nate Wara (So. • Oshkosh) ran a sneak on 4th-and-1 and just reached the sticks by inches. After a 17-yard pass to Garrie Fox (Jr. • Madison), Wara hit Paul Coburn (Sr. • Sussex) with a jump ball for the two-yard touchdown and a 21-17 edge.
UW-La Crosse reached the red zone on its next trip, but the Titan defense yielded only three yards on 4th-and-5. Wara, who compiled 230 yards and three scores on the evening, then took his offense 80 yards to seal the game. He ran for an 11-yard pickup and connected with Craig McClelland (Sr. • Union Grove) for 11 more. On the possession's 10th play, Fox snatched a 14-yard touchdown with 9:49 on the clock to post the final score.
If there was a chance for the Eagles to continue their dominance in this series, it ended when Lee Lauters got stuffed on fourth down at the UW-Oshkosh 14-yard line with 4:03 remaining. UW-La Crosse forced a punt minutes later, but the returner couldn't handle the football and Justin Budiac (Jr. • Mukwonago) recovered.
The first four drives of the game resulted in touchdowns, featuring a 7-7 tie after seven minutes of play. UW-La Crosse's opening trek saw Travis Bordeau catch five passes before Lauters ran in for a two-yard touchdown. The Titans responded with only three plays – a run of 17 by Nate Wara, a 20-yard grab from Juston Wara (Sr. • Oshkosh) and a 30-yard hookup to Weissman for the touchdown.
Bordeau was the recipient of Nick Anker's first eight completions. Lauters chipped in on the second drive, posting a 23-yard rush and a 15-yard catch. Late in the first quarter, Bordeau reeled in a five-yard pass to cap the 80-yard possession and go up, 14-7.
UW-Oshkosh, which has a 2-0 WIAC mark for the first time since 1991, rode the back of Weissman to come up with another quick response. He took the ensuing kickoff and sprinted up the middle for 58 yards. Weissman then picked up 12 on a draw play before galloping into the end zone from three yards out to tie the score at 14.
The only points of the second quarter came as a result of UW-Oshkosh's lone turnover. Wara had a pass go through his receiver's hands, turning into his first interception of the season on his 81st attempt. Alex Maxinoski highlighted the Eagles' aerial attack, marking receptions of 17 and 30 yards. UW-La Crosse then gained a 17-14 cushion on Justin Huinker's 32-yard field goal with 9:43 left in the first half.
Wara threw incomplete on a pair of fourth downs late in the second quarter, but he still finished the night with 20-of-28 accuracy. His leading target was Fox, with six catches for 72 yards. UW-Oshkosh went 5-of-12 on third down and totaled 338 yards, including 70 of those coming on Nate Wara runs. Logan Heyden (Sr. • Kenosha) posted 12 tackles and Nate Gross (Jr. • Hartland) eight to lead the Titans.
After his blazing start, Bordeau ended the contest with 11 grabs for 78 yards. Lauters added to his strong season with 152 rushing yards on 29 carries, while Anker compiled 211 yards through the air. UW-La Crosse (399 yards) outgained the Titans and held the ball longer (33:51), but its three turnovers were costly. The Eagles received seven tackles apiece from Jason Church, Jim Litscher and Phillip Minja.
UW-Oshkosh hits the road to challenge UW-Stevens Point (2-2/0-1 WIAC) next Saturday (Oct. 9).