UW-Oshkosh's strong defense faces a formidable rushing attack when the WIAC co-leading Titans host UW-Eau Claire on Saturday (Oct. 19). Kickoff for the UW-Oshkosh homecoming contest is set for 1:30 p.m. at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
The Titans, surrendering just 17.4 points per game, rank 17th in the NCAA Division III by allowing a WIAC-leading 143.6 passing yards a contest while UW-Eau Claire owns a league-best 203 rushing yards per game.
UW-Oshkosh (4-1, 2-0 WIAC), tied atop the conference standings with third-ranked UW-Whitewater (5-0, 2-0), is seeking to avenge last year's 20-14 loss at UW-Eau Claire that snapped the Titans' string of seven consecutive victories over the Blugolds. UW-Eau Claire sports a 42-28 record in the series that began in 1937.
The Titans won their 24th consecutive regular season home game last Saturday (Oct. 12) with a decisive 20-7 victory over UW-Stevens Point in which the Titans owned a 20-0 lead midway through the third quarter. UW-Oshkosh also secured home wins of 20-19 over Carthage College on Sept. 7 and 44-14 over Huntingdon College (Ala.) on Sept. 21. UW-Oshkosh split its two road contests this year, falling by a 24-19 score at 12th-ranked Salisbury University (Md.) on Sept. 14 and defeating UW-Stout, 26-23, Oct. 5.
UW-Eau Claire's (3-2, 1-1 WIAC) schedule has included three games against teams that appeared in last year's NCAA Division III Championship as the Blugolds knocked off then sixth-ranked University of St. Thomas (Minn.), 21-19, in Eau Claire on Sept. 28 and fell by scores of 27-21 at St. Norbert College on Sept. 14 and 24-14 at third-ranked UW-Whitewater on Oct. 5. UW-Eau Claire also earned home wins of 35-3 against Loras College on Sept. 7 and 27-14 over UW-River Falls last Saturday.
UW-Oshkosh is averaging 25.8 points and 368.8 yards per game while surrendering 17.4 points and a WIAC-best 259.6 yards per contest. The Titans lead the conference in fewest sacks allowed (1.40), penalties (5.20) and penalty yards (41.80) per contest, and kickoff return average (23.93).
UW-Eau Claire, which is playing as UW-Oshkosh's homecoming opponent for the first time since 1995, averages 23.6 points and 324.8 yards per game, and yields 17.4 points and 315.8 yards per contest. The Blugolds rank 19th nationally with 9.0 tackles for loss per game while also leading the conference in average time of possession (32:33), punt return average (10.57) and red zone defense (.474). However, UW-Eau Claire also ranks 230th among 245 Division III programs in passing yards per game (115.4), and 229th in both tackles for loss allowed per contest (9.20) and red zone offense (.476).
UW-Oshkosh quarterback Kobe Berghammer is 69-for-125 passing for 898 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. He has also rushed 48 times for 160 yards and two scores.
Eleven UW-Oshkosh players have helped the Titans average 164.6 rushing yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. Riley Kallas (193), Peter MacCudden (189) and Chris Hess (139) all join Berghammer with more than 100 yards on the ground this season. Mitch Gerhartz logged a team-leading 17 carries for 56 yards during his first action of the season last Saturday. Kallas, Hess and Joe Franks have each tallied one of the team's five rushing touchdowns.
Mitchell Gerend paces the UW-Oshkosh receiving corps with 18 catches for 254 yards and one touchdown. Kallas, averaging 27.6 yards on his seven rushes and leading the league at 10.2 yards per punt return, has added 13 catches for 190 yards and a team-high three scores. MacCudden has contributed 10 receptions for 85 yards and Justin Kasuboski eight catches for 128 yards and one touchdown. Ryan Hayes has accounted for two of UW-Oshkosh's nine touchdowns through the air. Max Nowinsky, Jake Parsons and Tony Steger have all reached the end zone once.
The UW-Oshkosh defense features 18 players who have contributed tackles for loss, 14 players with at least 10 tackles and 12 who have recorded sacks. The Titans have created five turnovers, snagging three interceptions and recovering a pair of fumbles.
Logan Heise's 26 tackles lead the deep Titan defense. Nick Noethe and Connor Zirpel have 25 apiece while Tory Jandrin and Calvin Shilling follow with 23 and 20, respectively. Heise and Jandrin both have one interception while Brady Heimer has a team-high 5.5 sacks. Brandon Kolgen has notched 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, Trenton LaCombe 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, and Jared Saad one interception.
UW-Oshkosh's Jaydon Haag is 4-for-4 on field goals, including a long of 42 yards, and 11 of 12 on extra points. He is also averaging 34.9 yards on 30 punts.
UW-Eau Claire running back Austin Belot is ranked fourth nationally by averaging 144.2 yards on the ground per game. He also lists 11th in the country with eight rushing touchdowns and paces the conference at 6.2 yards per carry. Conrad Bolz has chipped in 36 rushes for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
UW-Eau Claire quarterbacks Jonathan Malueg and Josiah Johnson have both appeared in all five games this year. Malueg is 31 of 67 passing for 368 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions while Johnson has gone 24-for-34 for 209 yards with one interception.
Darius Jones is UW-Eau Claire's leading receiver with 11 catches for 163 yards. Antwan Moore and Seth Luckman have accounted for the Blugolds' receiving scores.
Sam Romanski headlines the UW-Eau Claire defense, collecting 47 tackles and leading the WIAC at 2.2 tackles for loss per game. Victor Martinelli and Romanski have 5.5 and 4.5 sacks, respectively, for the Blugolds, who have also received 34 tackles from Cameron Swanson and 32 from Alex Mashak. Carmelo Rosado has two interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries for a UW-Eau Claire squad that has created 11 turnovers and registered 19 sacks.
On special teams, Blugolds returner Keshaun Story is averaging a WIAC-best 24.7 yards on 11 kickoff returns and 14.8 yards on five punt returns.
Three different UW-Eau Claire punters have collectively averaged 33.9 yards on 28 punts. Two Blugolds have combined to make 2 of 5 field goals, including a long of 25 yards, and each of the team's 16 extra points.
UW-Eau Claire's last win in Oshkosh was a 44-35 decision in 2009. UW-Oshkosh has not suffered a regular season home loss since a 24-20 setback to NAIA member Marian University (Ind.) on Sept. 13, 2014.