The Central College football team needed a do-over on the first 5 minutes of the 2011 season.
Spotting host Wis.-Oshkosh a pair of quick touchdowns, Central clawed its way back before dropping a 31-28 decision in the season opener. The Dutch nearly overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit before faltering. Five turnovers were the difference, including a costly one on the opening kick. It's Central's first season-opening setback since 2004.
After recovering the fumbled kickoff return, Wis.-Oshkosh got a 29-yard touchdown run by Charlie Weissman on the next play. On the next Titans possession, quarterback Nate Wara launched an 84-yard touchdown strike to Caleb Voss and it was 14-0 Wis.-Oshkosh with just 4:57 elapsed.
"When you have games like this, you wish you could go play again tomorrow," coach Jeff McMartin said. "You learn a lot and see things you can do better and you wish you had a chance to correct them right away. But that's not the way football is. You've got to make the most of the opportunities you have."
Still, the Dutch did not depart Wisconsin quietly. A 22-yard Nate Snead pass to Jeremy Snead made it 14-7 before the Titans tacked on a 24- yard field goal. After a scoreless second quarter, Wis.-Oshkosh regained command on its first third-quarter possession with another big play a 51-yard Wara toss to Caleb Voss and it was 24-7.
Snead's 1-yard run completed a 16-play, 78-yard march to climb within 24-14 with 6:20 left in the third quarter. But Wis.-Oshkosh responded with a drive of its own, moving 65 yards in 12 plays as Wara threw a 15-yard TD pass and it was 31-14 entering the fourth quarter.
Snead's second scoring run, from 2 yards out, made it 31-21 with 10:15 remaining, and then he hit Jeremy Snead again on a 17-yard scoring toss to make it a three-point game at the 3:13 mark.
The Dutch defense rose up and forced a Wis.-Oshkosh punt, giving Central a final shot from its own 42-yard line with1:56 left. But Snead was intercepted at midfield, ending the threat.
"The kids never quit," McMartin said. "The whole game, their attitude was great. They refused to get down. I was very impressed with how they were as a team on the field and on the sidelines."
There were lapses in all phases of the game.
"It doesn't matter who you're playing, you can't turn the ball over and you can't allow big plays," McMartin said. "Give Wis.-Oshkosh credit, they played very well. But on defense, offense and in the kicking game, there were some really critical things we did that made it hard for us to win the football game."
The Dutch won most of the statistical battles. Central had 390 yards of total offense to 369 for Wis.-Oshkosh. Snead completed 23 of 40 passes for 291 yards and two TDs with three interceptions and was sacked twice. He was also Central's top rusher with 66 yards on 26 carries. Junior running back Ross Doehrmann was the only other Dutch ballcarrier, with 33 yards on 12 carries. Jeremy Snead had nine catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns, the second-highest reception total of his career. Ben Lechtenberg had a career-best six receptions for 99 yards.
Defensive back Ryan Schmidt had eight tackles, including 2.5 for loss, and recovered Wis.-Oshkosh's only fumble. Linebacker Keith Rush had seven stops, including 1.5 for loss, and linebacker Ryan Steinkamp had six tackles.
Central makes its season home debut next Saturday against perennial playoff contender Augustana (Ill.) in a 1 p.m. game at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium.