Nationally ranked Central College (Iowa) converted 9-of-9 third down opportunities to open the second half as it held off UW-Oshkosh, 34-28, on Saturday (Sept. 4) in Pella, Iowa.
Central College (1-0), ranked seventh in the NCAA Division III by D3football.com, went just 1-for-6 on third down in the opening half. Nate Snead executed the offense smoothly after the break, including a pair of completions late to run down the clock. UW-Oshkosh (0-1) got the ball with 1:10 remaining, but two short passes failed before Aaron Steenhoek recorded a sack to put the game away.
The loss was just the third setback for the Titans in their last 30 season openers. UW-Oshkosh did not turn the ball over in the contest while getting 179 yards passing and 50 yards rushing from Nathan Wara (So. • Oshkosh). Central College's Snead was even better, accounting for 257 passing yards, 76 rushing yards and all four touchdowns. The Dutch, who have gone undefeated in three of the last four regular seasons, totaled 442 yards and possessed the ball for nearly 38 minutes.
The Titans got the ball to open the game before going three-and-out. Central College couldn't handle the punt, however, giving UW-Oshkosh possession at the 22-yard line. A Craig McClelland (Sr. • Union Grove) grab for 13 yards put his team in scoring position. Four minutes into the contest, Wara found Garrie Fox (Jr. • Madison) in the corner of the end zone for a six-yard touchdown and the 7-0 lead.
A solid kickoff return allowed the Dutch to respond with a 64-yard scoring drive. Nate Snead hooked up with Jeremy Snead for nine yards and Cody Thie for 22 more. Brett Wilkin then snatched a 15-yard score over the middle to tie the game with 7:53 on the first-quarter clock.
Central College's next trip covered 45 yards over 13 plays. On 4th-and-15, Nate Snead completed a pass to Jeremy Snead for 16 yards. Nate Snead made another clutch play by running for seven yards on 4th-and-5. The Titans' Nate Heard (Sr. • Milwaukee) broke up a fade pass on third down to force Jake Viggers' 25-yard field goal conversion.
UW-Oshkosh was forced to punt after taking a sack on third down. The Dutch then used runs of 22 and 10 yards by Kyle Wood to move down the field. Viggers booted through a 22-yard field goal to make it 13-7 with 3:40 to play in the first half.
Charlie Weissman (Jr. • Colgate) took matters into his own hands after McClelland got the Titans driving with a 14-yard catch. On back-to-back snaps, Weissman posted 13 yards on a swing pass and 35 after breaking a tackle and sprinting down the sideline. Nathan Wara carried the final two plays of the 78-yard march, scoring from one yard out with 21 seconds left. UW-Oshkosh took a 14-13 advantage into halftime.
Taking the kickoff, Central College needed just five plays to cover 75 yards. The Titans appeared to end the threat with an interception, but the play was negated by a penalty. Jeremy Snead recorded a catch for 14 yards before the Dutch broke free to take the lead. Jordan Leuschen got wide open and blazed 36 yards for a touchdown. The score made it 20-14 just 3:35 into the third period.
Nate Snead gained 42 yards on the ground as Central College put together an 85-yard touchdown march. He picked up chunks of 23, 11 and six yards as the Dutch entered UW-Oshkosh territory. Jeremy Snead then reached up and marked a 21-yard catch near the boundary. Running three consecutive quarterback sneaks, Nate Snead finally crossed the goal line for a one-yard touchdown and the 27-14 cushion.
The Titans used Nathan Wara's dual-threat ability to register a 72-yard drive when they got the ball back. Wara ran for gains of 14 and six yards while also floating a 34-yard pass into the hands of Fox on third-and-long. Facing 3rd-and-13 at the beginning of the final quarter, Wara scrambled and hit Matt Haass (Sr. • Brownsville) near the pylon for a 15-yard touchdown.
Scoring continued when Nate Snead found Wilkin and Leuschen on consecutive plays for a total of 58 yards. Snead then took it himself from two yards out to give Central College a 34-21 lead with 8:58 remaining.
A pair of explosive plays allowed UW-Oshkosh to remain in the contest. Jeremy Roach (Sr. • Deerfield) took back the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to the Dutch 35-yard line. The Titans got creative, utilizing a flea-flicker that had Juston Wara (Sr. • Oshkosh) complete a 27-yard pass to Nathan Wara. Weissman then punctuated the drive with a four-yard sprint to the pylon on fourth-and-goal to obtain a 34-28 deficit with seven minutes left.
Central College booked 59 yards on the ground from Ross Doehrmann's 19 attempts, in addition to 50 yards on seven carries by Wood. Jeremy Snead finished with four receptions for 60 yards, while Leuschen compiled 103 yards on three catches. The Titans, who amassed 295 offensive yards, were led by Weissman's 67 receiving yards on four grabs.
Thanks to their amazing third and fourth quarters, the Dutch finished 10-of-16 on third down and the Titans 9-of-16. Central College also owned an advantage in first downs (24-14) and was successful on both of its fourth-down tries.
Keith Rush paced the Dutch defense with nine tackles, including two for a loss. UW-Oshkosh received nine stops from Jack Breese (Jr. • Kewaskum) and its lone sack from Luke Bingen (Sr. • Hartford).
The Titans welcome second-ranked and perennial national power University of Mount Union (Ohio) for their home opener on Saturday (Sept. 11).