Titans, Royals Look To Continue NCAA Playoff Journey
A spot in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division III Championship is on the line when fifth-ranked UW-Oshkosh hosts 21st-ranked Bethel University (Minn.) on Saturday (Nov. 24) at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.
UW-Oshkosh, champion of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), owns an 11-0 record after running past The College of St. Scholastica (Minn.), 55-10, in a first-round contest held last Saturday at Titan Stadium. The Titans have won 13 straight games for the longest active winning streak in all levels of NCAA football.
Playing its first postseason game in school history, UW-Oshkosh committed turnovers on consecutive possessions to fall behind St. Scholastica, 10-0. The Titans then scored touchdowns on eight of their next 10 drives to take a 48-10 third-quarter lead.
UW-Oshkosh totaled 600 yards of offense against the Saints, including 413 on the ground. Running back Cole Myhra (Jr. • Menomonee Falls) rushed for a career-high 198 yards and three touchdowns while also catching one score. Quarterback Nate Wara (Sr. • Oshkosh) passed for 187 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 128 yards rushing. Wide receiver Caleb Voss (Jr. • Van Dyne) caught four passes for 106 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, UW-Oshkosh held The College of St. Scholastica to 243 yards and 11 first downs. The Saints gained only 69 yards rushing and converted four of their 15 third downs. Linebacker Ryan Stefaniak (Jr. • Milwaukee) led the Titans with eight tackles, including four for a loss.
UW-Oshkosh's offense ranks ninth nationally in yardage (504.7) and 12th in points (40.3). Myhra has rushed for 1,284 yards and 13 touchdowns while catching 27 passes for 310 yards and two scores. Voss owns 48 receptions for 1,014 yards and 10 touchdowns, as Zach Kasuboski (So. • Wautoma) grabbed 45 passes for 517 yards and four scores. Kasuboski has also rushed for 288 yards and one touchdown.
Wara, the 2012 WIAC Player of the Year, has completed 177-of-275 passes (64 percent) for 2,576 yards and 25 touchdowns. He compiled another 689 yards and seven touchdowns rushing. Wara, who's started 41 straight games, ranks third in WIAC history with 10,416 yards of total offense. Earlier this week, the All-America candidate was named one of 10 finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy.
UW-Oshkosh's defense allows just 14.2 points per game to rank 12th in the country. Linebacker Taylor Goodman (Sr. • South Wayne) owns a team-leading 78 tackles, including 5.5 sacks. He also has three forced fumbles and one interception. The Titans forced 22 turnovers, including seven interceptions by cornerback Tim Filter (Sr. • New Berlin).
Bethel University, which shared second place in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), raised its record to 9-2 after topping Concordia University-Chicago (Ill.), 24-23, on Saturday in River Forest, Ill. The Royals have won two straight games since dropping a 24-17 decision to St. Olaf College (Minn.) on Nov. 3.
Bethel University, a national semifinalist in 2007 and 2010, is making its seventh playoff appearance. The Royals also made previous trips in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2006. Bethel remained alive in this year's 32-team tournament by stopping a Cougar two-point conversion with 18 seconds left.
Quarterback Erik Peterson led the Royals to their win over Concordia University-Chicago by completing 16-of-23 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown. His favorite target was wide receiver Mitch Hallstrom, who caught eight passes for 100 yards and one touchdown. Hallstrom also threw a 23-yard touchdown pass. Running back Marshall Klitzke contributed 134 yards rushing.
Bethel allowed 490 yards to Concordia University-Chicago, including 390 in the air. Linebackers Seth Mathis and Brett Skoog led the Royals' defensive effort with 15 and 10 tackles, respectively.
Bethel University, which defeated UW-Eau Claire in the second round of the 2007 NCAA Division III Championship, is led by the offensive trio of Peterson, Klitzke and Hallstrom. Peterson has completed 182-of-272 passes (66.9 percent) for 2,091 yards and 14 touchdowns. Klitzke rushed for 485 yards and four touchdowns, while Hallstrom caught 69 passes for 765 yards and one score. Wide receiver Jay Hilbrands owns 39 grabs for 475 yards and seven touchdowns.
This season, Bethel's defense has 18 sacks, 16 interceptions and allowed just 36 percent success on third downs. Mathis led the defensive group with 120 tackles, five interceptions and three forced fumbles. Skoog also owns 74 tackles, including 11.5 for a loss.
Saturday's game will be the first between UW-Oshkosh and Bethel University. The winner advances to play Linfield College (Ore.) or North Central College (Ill.) on Dec. 1. The national championship game (Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl) is scheduled for Dec. 14 in Salem, Va.