The UW-Oshkosh defense thwarted a potential go-ahead two-point conversion with three minutes remaining and held on for a 20-19 victory over Carthage College during the Titans' 125th football season opener Saturday (Sept. 7) at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
Carthage College pulled within 20-19 on its second blocked kick for a touchdown of the afternoon as Steven Shipp scooped up the ball and scampered 71 yards to set up a pivotal two-point conversion attempt by the Red Men. With the ball on the left hash, Carthage College quarterback Colten Klein faked a handoff and rolled to his left, but UW-Oshkosh's Nick Noethe forced Klein toward the sideline before a pass could be attempted, preserving the Titans' one-point lead.
The Titans recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Carthage College 49-yard line and took 2:27 off the clock until punting the ball back to the Red Men with 33 seconds remaining. UW-Oshkosh's Tyler Jensen and Trenton LaCombe combined for an 11-yard sack on the first play of the Carthage College final drive, forcing a second-and-21 at the Red Men 17-yard line. Then a false start by Carthage College with under 10 seconds left ended the game.
UW-Oshkosh (1-0) overcame a pair of Carthage College special teams touchdowns by recording seven sacks and limiting the Red Men to just 26 rushing yards on 36 carries. The Titans' sack total matched the program's best since registering nine against UW-La Crosse on Oct. 27, 2012.
The Titans owned advantages of 333-154 in scrimmage yards, 171-26 in rushing yards, 162-128 in passing yards and 7-0 in sacks. UW-Oshkosh also possessed the ball for more than 19 minutes during the second half, including 10:32 in the fourth quarter, and finished the contest with just two penalties for 20 yards. The Red Men went a mere 2-for-12 on third down.
UW-Oshkosh had 15 tackles for loss as Brady Heimer accounted for 2.5 sacks while Jensen added 1.5 sacks, and LaCombe and Brandon Hughes both had 1.0. Logan Heise and Alex Jagla chipped in a half-sack apiece. LaCombe paced the Titans with six total tackles. Calvin Shilling snared an interception for the Titans, and Jacob Edwards recovered a fumble.
Titans quarterback Kobe Berghammer went 8-for-18 for 138 yards with two touchdowns during his collegiate debut. He added seven rushes for a team-leading 67 yards.
Riley Kallas and Tony Steger hauled in touchdown catches for UW-Oshkosh. Steger finished with a team-high three catches for 34 yards. Kallas, whose lone grab went for a 25-yard score, also had two carries for 57 yards while Peter MacCudden ran a team-best 13 times for 47 yards.
UW-Oshkosh took a 3-0 lead on a Peyton Peterson 47-yard field goal with 20 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The field goal capped a seven-play, 32-yard drive. Peterson's career-best kick was the longest by a Titan since Eli Wettstein drilled a 48-yarder against UW-La Crosse on Nov. 5, 2016.
The Red Men and Titans later traded long touchdown passes during a span of a little more than two minutes. Carthage College claimed a 6-3 lead on Klein's 67-yard scoring pass to Bret Patton with 7:39 left in the second quarter. Berghammer answered with a 22-yard touchdown pass of his own to Steger with 5:15 to go before halftime. Red Men placekicker David Collins had his point-after attempt blocked before Peterson split the uprights for a 10-6 UW-Oshkosh lead.
Edwards recovered a fumble for the Titans at the Carthage College 8-yard line with 5:08 remaining in the first half, but UW-Oshkosh settled for a 26-yard field goal attempt four plays later. However, Dylan Ramirez blocked the kick and Kevin O'Boyle stunned the Titans with an 85-yard return for a 13-10 Red Men advantage at intermission.
Peterson's 22-yard field goal with 2:09 left in the third period knotted the score at 13 before Berghammer and Kallas connected on their 25-yard touchdown pass for a 20-13 Titan lead with 10:29 remaining in the game.
Klein went 8-for-19 passing for 128 yards and one score for the Red Men.
Dana Fontenot paced the Carthage College rushing attack with 19 totes for 22 yards while Jovone Stricker led all players with four receptions for 35 yards for the Red Men. Patton concluded the game with 87 receiving yards and one score.
O'Boyle led the Red Men defense with 11 tackles, including seven solo. Bobby Baker had an interception for Carthage College (0-1) while Anthony Martin recovered a pair of fumbles in Red Men territory.
Saturday's contest marked just the second meeting between UW-Oshkosh and Carthage College. The Titans won the first matchup, 20-9, last season in Kenosha.
UW-Oshkosh plays at first-time opponent Salisbury University (Md.) next Saturday (Sept. 14).