Litchfield's last-second field goal lifts Pioneers
Written by Colten Bartholomew, UW-Platteville Sports Information
OSHKOSH, Wis. -- Senior kicker Zach Litchfield booted a 37-yard field goal through the uprights with two seconds left on the clock to give the Pioneer football team their ninth win of the season, 17-16 over UW-Oshkosh.
The Pioneers (9-1, 6-1 WIAC) won in a matchup where the winner is the odds-on favorite to receive an at-large bid into the NCAA Division III National Football Championship Tournament.
After forcing a Titan punt, the Pioneers got the ball back with just less than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter and one time out. UW-Platteville marched down to the Titans' 20 yard line with just two seconds left to set up Litchfield's heroic finish.
With his two passing touchdowns in the game, senior quarterback John Kelly has tallied 31 on the year, surpassing Chris Charnish's university record of 29 passing touchdowns in the 1969 season.
The Pioneers and the Titans played neck-and-neck in the first quarter, as the teams traded punts before UW-Oshkosh's Beau Steffens picked off a pass from John Kelly. The Titans got on the board first on the strength of a 13-play drive following the pick, scoring on a two yard plunge from Cole Myhra.
UW-Oshkosh missed the kick however, so the score stayed 6-0.
The Pioneers took the lead later in the second quarter after Kelly moved the ball down the field, helped by 22- and 23-yard catches from senior wide receiver Ryley Bailey. UW-Platteville scored the go-ahead touchdown as Kelly found Bailey in the end zone from 10 yards out, giving the Pioneers a 7-6 lead.
UW-Oshkosh tacked on a field goal as time expired in the half to hold a 9-7 lead going into the break.
Junior Pioneer linebacker Alex Schleis started the second half off with a bang, as he forced a fumble to halt a Titan drive on their first possession of the half.
After a Pioneer punt, the Titans scored a touchdown on a 12-play drive capped by a two-yard rush from Myhra.
UW-Platteville answered with a drive deep into Titan territory that ended in an interception at the three yard line. The Pioneer defense held, forcing a Titan punt.
Kelly and the offense again moved the ball down the field through the air, getting down to the UW-Oshkosh five yard line before Kelly was picked off in the end zone.
The defense again forced a Titan punt, and the offense avoided any mistakes to score a touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Kelly to junior receiver Trevor Whitehead to make it 16-14, which set up the dramatic finish.
Whitehead finished the day with 14 catches and 131 yards and the score, while Kelly went 30-45 with 340 yards.
The Pioneers will find out Sunday (Nov. 17) night if they have made the playoffs during the NCAA Selection Show at 5 p.m.