October 19, 2011

Titans Face Two-Time Defending National Champion For Homecoming

Two nationally ranked squads with impressive winning streaks meet to decide first place when UW-Oshkosh hosts UW-Whitewater on Saturday (Oct. 22) at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium. The Warhawks (6-0/3-0 WIAC) bring their 36-game win streak and number-one ranking, while the Titans (5-1/3-0 WIAC) have captured four straight and list 20th in the latest D3football.com poll.

Both these teams suffered their last defeat to the University of Mount Union (Ohio). UW-Whitewater has been perfect since falling to the Purple Raiders in the national title game on Dec. 20, 2008. UW-Oshkosh dropped a 41-17 decision to second-ranked Mount Union (6-0) on Sept. 10. The Titans' current four-game win streak is their best in a season since 2003.

UW-Whitewater, which has been the top-ranked team for 22 consecutive months, won each of its games this year by 19+ points. The Warhawks' conference slate includes victories over UW-Platteville (34-14), UW-River Falls (42-10) and UW-Stout (42-21). UW-Oshkosh has also beat those three opponents by scores of 24-3, 42-7 and 56-10, respectively.

This match-up features the WIAC's top two offenses and top two defenses. UW-Whitewater leads the league in nine of the 10 main statistical categories, including total offense (483 yards) and total defense (226 yards). The Warhawks rely on Levell Coppage and his conference-bests of 725 yards and 12 touchdowns running. Coppage is currently 185 yards from becoming the WIAC's all-time leading rusher (6,584 yards).

Quarterback Matt Blanchard has completed 70 percent of his passes while tossing 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. His 1,400 passing yards include 515 to Tyler Huber and 373 to Luke Menzel. Huber and Menzel stand first and third, respectively, on the WIAC's receiving charts.

The Warhawk defense is surrendering just 11 points and 67 rushing yards per game. UW-Whitewater owns a +7 turnover margin, and it allows opponents to convert 29 percent of their third downs. Greg Arnold paces the unit with 35 tackles.

UW-Oshkosh will counter with the WIAC's second-ranked offense, marking 408 yards per game. The Titans, who average 32 points, have used 954 passing yards and 457 rushing yards by Nate Wara (Jr. • Oshkosh). Wara accounted for 12 touchdowns this year, while Justin Budiac (Sr. • Mukwonago) has rushed for seven scores in the last four games. Garrie Fox (Sr. • Madison) owns 368 receiving yards and Caleb Voss (So. • Van Dyne) 351 to both rank in the top five of the conference.

In last week's victory at Platteville, the Titan defense allowed 188 yards. UW-Oshkosh has been especially stout through the air, yielding a WIAC-low 5.1 yards per pass. The Titans have posted nine takeaways from nine different players, while Jack Breese (Sr. • Kewaskum) leads the team with 46 stops.

UW-Whitewater holds a 72-25-5 edge in this series, which began in 1897. The Titans last won in 2002, but they were effective during their 48-21 setback last season. The victorious Warhawks ran for 325 yards and held the ball for 39 minutes. Wara threw for 217 yards to highlight UW-Oshkosh's effort.