|Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
By Brian Lester
Eighteen seconds still hung on the clock and UW-Oshkosh trailed UW-Platteville 20-17 with less than a minute to go.
But there was no panic from quarterback Kobe Berghammer. His teammates were just as calm and cool in a pressure-packed situation.
Never mind that Berghammer is only a freshman. And never mind that the Titans were dangerously close to dropping their second consecutive game and falling out of contention for at least a share of the WIAC championship.
“No one was freaking out,” Berghammer said. “We were all positive.”
That kind of reaction, especially from Berghammer, didn’t surprise Titans coach Pat Cerroni one bit.
“He had a smile in the middle of the game and said ‘coach, relax.’ When you have a guy telling you to relax, you know you have something special here,” Cerroni said. “The team believes in him.”
That belief was solidified moments after the team came out of the huddle against Platteville.
Berghammer hit Peter MacCudden on a 10-yard scoring strike with 18 seconds remaining, lifting the Oshkosh to a 24-17 win over then- No. 13 Platteville.
“Right when I threw it, I kind of looked away because I knew he was going to catch it,” Berghammer said. “I started celebrating with my O-linemen.”
This has been an up and down season for the 6-2 Titans. But they have won five of their last six and they are in much better shape than a year ago when they finished 6-4.
“It has been a little up and down, but we are living off that last win right now,” Oshkosh head coach Pat Cerroni said. “This is a very difficult league. You just never know week to week what the heck is going to happen.”
What the Titans do know is they have a quarterback who has emerged as a dual threat. Berghammer has thrown for 1,281 yards and 11 touchdowns and leads Oshkosh in rushing with 381 yards and five scores.
The funny thing is that until late in his high school career, Berghammer wasn’t really known as a running quarterback.
“I didn’t have my first rushing touchdown until my senior year of high school,” Berghammer said. “I kind of started running more that year and I got a lot faster over the summer. I’ve been able to do more as a runner and it’s another way I can help out my team.”
|Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
Cerroni is impressed with what Berghammer has been able to accomplish in his first year of college football. Freshmen are often overwhelmed by the moment. Berghammer has embraced the opportunities in front of him.
There have been tough moments for Berghammer for sure. Like against La Crosse in a 31-3 loss two weeks ago. Berghammer completed only 13 of his 35 passes for 95 yards.
But he’s proven he can bounce back, much the way he did in the win over Platteville where he connected on eight of his 17 attempts for 174 yards and two scores.
“Obviously, he’s a talented kid, but I didn’t realize how mature he was,” Cerroni said. “This kid is a competitor. He has that It factor. I’m just really proud of him. For him to go out against La Crosse and not have his best day, and that’s an understatement, and then turn around and do what he did against Platteville, it says a lot.”
Berghammer will tell you he wasn’t sure what to expect going into the season. He was never concerned about the confidence factor but he is a little surprised by what he’s done so far.
“I’m pretty confident, but I didn’t expect anything like this,” Berghammer said. “My teammates have really helped me and the other quarterbacks in the room have my back and helped me a ton. It’s my teammates that helpe me succeed. They have my back and they know I have their back.”
Cerroni agrees with that assessment.
“Even though he’s a freshman, the team knows he gives us the best chance to win right now,” Cerroni said. “When he’s on the field, everybody is ready to go and he makes everyone around him better. I’m proud of him.”
For Burghammer, his success on the field is about not letting the game become bigger than it is.
“It’s still just football,” Berghammer said. “Everyone at this level is better, but football is football. It wasn’t too difficult adjusting to college.”
Oshkosh hasn’t been a conference champion since 2017. That year, the Titans made it all the way to the national semifinals where they fell 43-40 to Mount Union..The program has enjoyed three conference titles in all since 2012.
Cerroni knows his team isn’t quite at that level yet but the ride this season hasn’t been all that bad either. The Titans are alone in second place in the WIAC with a 4-1 record.
“I’m not going to sit here and say we are having a blast, but we’ve done a pretty good job,” Cerroni said. “It’s been an experience being at the top of the mountain and being in the valley again trying to rebuild this thing. It’s not easy. We’re trying to get back to the promised land but we have a long way to go. We’re just trying to win the next one.”
Which is why Cerroni isn’t even thinking about a showdown with first-place Wisconsin-Whitewater at the end of the regular season yet. The task at hand is Wisconsin-River Falls, which is winless in league play.
“It’s tough to think about (the Whitewater game). We have to stay in the moment,” Cerroni said. “The thing with this league is there are no week’s off. “We don’t take anyone lightly. We have to focus on the next game and the guys have responded so far. It shows in our record.”
Berghammer is looking forward to seeing how he and his teammates handle the next two games.
“It’s all about the team goals,” Berghammer said. “We just have to worry about us. That’s where the emphasis has to be. We’ll go try to play the best two games that we can and see what happens.”