|Jake Murphy and his teammates relished the opportunity to welcome an opponent to Titans Stadium for the first time in 2018.
Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
By Adam Turer
Road trips can be great bonding experiences for players and valuable tests for coaches to evaluate.
Then again, there’s no place like home.
UW-Oshkosh finally played its home opener yesterday, and coincidentally played its best game of the season. The Titans defense held UW-Platteville to 3.8 yards per play in a 31-10 victory. The offense was balanced and effective, led by Dom Todarello’s 146 yards from scrimmage (75 rushing, 71 receiving).
“It was weird being at home. It was nice to be in our own locker room, to feel comfortable and to have the space to do what we do to get ready,” said Todarello.
The Titans spent their first five games travelling by bus to Michigan, Missouri, and three times within Wisconsin. They had to take two painful bus rides back home after losses. It wasn’t easy, and the Titans are happy to have that half of the season behind them.
“We were mentally prepared for it. I guess you don’t realize it until you do it,” said head coach Pat Cerroni. “We did it, it’s over, and we survived. We don’t mind playing on the road, but five in a row was a little ridiculous.”
The players made the most of it. Each position group dressed thematically for each trip and the team’s trainers judged the outfits. The losing position group then had to sing karaoke in front of their teammates. As much fun as the road trips were, the Titans were ecstatic to sleep in their own beds on Friday night.
“Mentally, it was a little draining. It was tough being mentally prepared,” said Todarello. “Something felt different yesterday with our energy level. You could feel it in the locker room.”
Cerroni enjoyed arriving at home at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. He noticed the impact of his players sleeping later on Saturday morning.
“I think our guys were excited,” he said. “I saw energy from them that I haven’t seen in weeks.”
The offensive line opened up holes and drove off the line as effectively as it had all season. Kyle Radavich completed 19 passes spread among six different receivers. It was a nice bounce back after being shut out and held to 18 rushing yards the week before in Whitewater.
“The Whitewater loss woke us up,” said Todarello. “Yesterday, we got it rolling. Hopefully, that gets us on track.”
As happy as the Titans were to finally be at home, another program was excited to take a long road trip. While the rest of the Centennial Conference enjoyed a bye, Muhlenberg traveled to Thomas More. It was just the second home game of the season for the independent Saints, and a rare opportunity for the Mules.
Muhlenberg made the most of its eight-hour trek from Allentown to Cincinnati. The Mules stopped at Washington and Jefferson and practiced on Friday. They stayed in downtown Cincinnati before bussing it to northern Kentucky on Saturday morning.
“It’s a lot different going into an unknown place. A lot of us had never been to Kentucky before. We like to do what we do, wherever we are. It’s just another game to us. It doesn’t matter if we’re in Kentucky or Pennsylvania, we take it one week at a time and just play whoever we’re going to play,” said H-back Ryan Curtiss. “We’re a family, so it’s just normal to us and we love it. The bus ride back is going to be a lot better with a win.”
In a thriller that featured five lead changes, the Mules did indeed ride home after a 34-31 last second victory.
“This felt like a playoff game. That’s a really, really great football team in Thomas More. Those guys are war daddies for going on the road every single week and playing maybe the hardest schedule in America,” said Mules coach Nate Milne. “I think we are road-tested. Should we be fortunate enough to win some more games, I don’t think this team is scared to go anywhere in the country.”
Being road warriors will pay dividends for any of these teams should they make the playoffs. To reach the ultimate at goal, at some point they will need to travel a long distance and play a high-stakes game against a very talented opponent.
Last week, just seven of UW-Oshkosh’s 30 defensive players had ever played at Whitewater. Perkins Stadium is a daunting environment. Although they came out on the wrong end of the scoreboard, the experience should prove valuable. As will the other four road contests that opened the Titans’ season.
“Your new players just aren’t used to the routine,” said Cerroni. “We’re a better team now because of it. It’s going to really benefit us, maybe not this year, but two and three years down the road.”
Here's what to watch for on D3football.com this week.
Later today-- New Top 25 poll released
Monday--Around the Nation podcast with Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan and Team of the Week weekly honors.
Thursday--Around the Nation column.
Friday--Quick Hits, and another edition of the Around the Nation podcast.
Saturday--You know what Saturdays are for.
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