UW-Oshkosh exploded for an early lead and held on with five takeaways to post a 31-28 season-opening football win over Central College (Iowa) on Saturday (Sept. 3) at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
The Titans wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Following a Dutch fumble on the opening kickoff, Charlie Weissman (Sr. • Colgate) bolted up the middle for a 29-yard touchdown run. The UW-Oshkosh defense forced a punt to set up another score. On third-and-long, Nate Wara (Jr. • Oshkosh) fired deep downfield for Caleb Voss (So. • Van Dyne), who caught the ball in stride and went 84 yards for a 14-0 lead just five minutes into play.
Central College (0-1) continued the scoring on its next drive. Nate Snead found Jeremy Snead three times, with the final connection going 22 yards for a touchdown. UW-Oshkosh answered back as Nick Olla (So. • Kewaskum) passed to Weissman for a pickup of 57 yards. That gain set up a Nate Becker (Jr. • Waukesha) 24-yard field goal that gave the Titans a 17-7 lead.
Just five snaps occurred in the third quarter before the Titans executed another big play. Wara tossed a perfect rainbow over the middle to Voss for a 51-yard score. Central College came right back with a grind-it-out, 16-play drive to make it 24-14. Nate Snead registered nine rushing attempts during the series, including a one-yard plunge for the touchdown.
Wara showed his own versatility on the ensuing possession. He had runs of 14 and 12 yards while recording a 15-yard pass completion. On first down at the Central 15-yard line, Wara rolled right and threw all the way back to the left pylon to an outstretched Weissman for the touchdown. UW-Oshkosh's margin stood at 31-14 with 1:26 left in the third quarter.
The Dutch put together two touchdown drives in the final 13 minutes to put the outcome in doubt. After Nate Snead found Jeremy Snead on consecutive plays for 20 yards, Nate Snead ran two yards for a touchdown with 10:15 remaining. Central College then used a 41-yard pass reception by Ben Lechtenberg to threaten again. Jeremy Snead hauled in a 17-yard pass with 3:13 on the clock to pull the Dutch within 31-28.
Central College threatened in the game's closing minutes, but Jacob Juedes (Sr. • Sheboygan Falls) and Zach Wettengel (Jr. • Appleton) intercepted passes for UW-Oshkosh. Wettengel sealed the Titans' 28th season-opening victory in 31 years with his theft at UW-Oshkoh's 22-yard line with 1:35 remaining.
Wara finished the game by completing 17-of-25 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. He also added another 36 yards rushing. Weissman caught four passes for 88 yards and rushed 11 times for another 43. The Titans' leading pass receiver was Voss, who tallied 148 yards on four catches.
Central College lost its season opener for the first time since 2004 despite the efforts of Nate Snead. He racked up 291 passing yards and four total touchdowns. His 26 carries resulted in just 66 yards. Jeremy Snead totaled nine catches for 98 yards and Lechtenberg six for 99.
The Dutch owned most statistical categories, including marks of 23-12 in first downs, 390-369 in total yards and 32:44-27:16 in time of possession. UW-Oshkosh made up for its 3-of-16 efficiency on third downs by posting four plays of 29-plus yards. Central College ended up with conversions on 11 of its 17 third downs.
Jack Breese (Sr. • Kewaskum) paced the Titans with nine tackles, while Manfred Johnson (Jr. • Milwaukee) added eight solo tackles and Andrew Thompson (Jr. • Greendale) six stops and two quarterback sacks. The Central College defense was highlighted by the nine tackles of Keith Rush and the eight tackles of Ryan Schmidt.
UW-Oshkosh has quite a challenge when it travels to second-ranked University of Mount Union (Ohio) on Saturday (Sept. 10).