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NCAA Postseason Berth On The Line When Titans Host Warhawks

NCAA Postseason Berth On The Line When Titans Host Warhawks

An automatic berth into the 2019 NCAA Division III Football Championship will be on the line when UW-Oshkosh hosts nationally ranked UW-Whitewater during the regular season finale Saturday (Nov. 16). Kickoff for the 112th meeting between the teams is set for 6:05 p.m. at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.

UW-Oshkosh (7-2, 5-1 WIAC) can clinch a share of the conference championship and the league's automatic berth into the 32-team national tournament with a win. The Titans, who have won 26 consecutive regular season home games, are seeking their fourth WIAC title in the past eight seasons.

UW-Whitewater (9-0, 6-0 WIAC), ranked third in the country by D3football.com, is vying for its second straight outright conference title and 12th overall league championship since 2005. The Warhawks earned at least a share of this year's WIAC title with last Saturday's (Nov. 9) 37-17 victory over UW-Stout in Whitewater.

Saturday's de facto WIAC championship game features the top two defenses in the league as UW-Whitewater gives up a WIAC-best 14.1 points per game. UW-Oshkosh is second in the WIAC at 17.9 points allowed per contest.

UW-Oshkosh paces the league by surrendering just 282.8 scrimmage yards and 175.7 passing yards per game while yielding 139 first downs and limiting opponents to a 106.87 passing efficiency rating. The Titans are the least penalized team in the conference, committing 51 penalties for an average of 46.56 yards per game.

UW-Whitewater's 64 rushing yards allowed per game ranks ninth in the nation. The Warhawks also lead the conference in fumble recoveries (12), third down efficiency defense (.314), rushing yards per game (191.2), sacks allowed per contest (1.11), and both kickoff (24.50) and punt (10.61) return averages.

UW-Whitewater won last year's matchup with UW-Oshkosh by a 20-0 score in Whitewater to up its record to 77-29-5 during a series that began in 1897. The Titans and Warhawks will be meeting in the regular season finale for the first time since a 21-20 UW-Oshkosh victory in 2002.

UW-Oshkosh, scoring 25.3 points per game and averaging 360.2 yards per contest on the year, has not suffered a regular season home loss since a 24-20 decision against NAIA member Marian University (Ind.) on Sept. 13, 2014.

UW-Oshkosh quarterback Kobe Berghammer has completed 112 of 228 passes for 1,443 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He leads the team with 558 rushing yards and five scores on the ground.

UW-Oshkosh has scored 14 rushing touchdowns and averages 186.2 yards on the ground per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Peter MacCudden has logged a team-high 115 rushes for 443 yards and three touchdowns while Chris Hess and Riley Kallas have combined for 486 rushing yards and three scores. Joe Franks has accounted for one rushing touchdown and 55 yards on 33 carries.

Four UW-Oshkosh receivers have caught at least 14 passes on the year, including Mitchell Gerend with a team-high 27 grabs for 380 yards and one touchdown. Kallas, who leads the conference by averaging 7.4 yards per punt return, has 22 receptions for 317 yards and three scores. MacCudden, Jimmy DuVal, Ryan Hayes, Justin Kasuboski, Max Nowinsky, Jake Parsons and Tony Steger have all caught at least one touchdown pass for the Titans this season.

UW-Oshkosh's deep and productive defense features 21 different players with a tackle for loss, 19 with at least 10 total tackles on the year, 15 with sacks, 10 with pass breakups, six with interceptions and four with fumble recoveries.

Nick Noethe leads the Titan defense with 54 tackles while Connor Zirpel has added 45 stops, Logan Heise 44 and Tory Jandrin 40.

Brady Heimer and Trenton LaCombe have collected seven and six sacks, respectively, UW-Oshkosh. Kollyn Beyer ranks sixth nationally with 14 pass breakups and co-leads the conference with four interceptions for the Titans, who have also received a team-high 12 tackles for loss from Brandon Kolgen and five pass breakups apiece from Calvin Shilling and Tyler Jensen.

UW-Oshkosh kicker and punter Jaydon Haag has connected on all nine of his field goal attempts and 20 of 23 extra points while averaging 34.8 yards per punt with 17 of his 50 boots inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Haag is among three kickers in the entire division to sport a 1.000 field goal percentage.

UW-Whitewater, which hasn't lost a regular season road game since a 37-20 setback at UW-Oshkosh on Sept. 30, 2017, averages 31.1 points and 386.8 yards per contest this year.

The Warhawks' potent ground attack is headlined by Alex Peete, who leads the conference with 10 rushing touchdowns and paces the team with 669 yards on the ground. Running backs Jarrod Ware and Ronny Ponick, and quarterback Zach Oles have combined to add 946 rushing yards and nine more rushing scores.

Oles has gone 99-for-176 passing this season for 1,337 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. Max Meylor, who finished UW-Whitewater's last game under center, has completed 35 of 57 passes for 423 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in six games played.

The UW-Whitewater balanced aerial game features Ryan Wisniewski with a team-leading 35 catches for 415 yards and three touchdowns. Derek Kumerow has 29 receptions for 343 yards and three scores while JT Parish follows with 20 grabs for 343 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

UW-Whitewater's defense includes three conference individual leaders, including Nate Tranel, who ranks fourth in the country with three fumble recoveries. Mark McGrath and UW-Oshkosh's Beyer share the league lead with four interceptions. Mackenzie Balanganayi, who leads the team with 12 tackles for loss, has recorded a WIAC-best nine sacks.

Kaleb Kaminski's 75 tackles leads a UW-Whitewater defense that has produced 31 sacks and 21 turnovers. Jordan Brand and Niko Lemke have chipped in 7.5 sacks apiece for the Warhawks.

Warhawks kicker Wojciech Gasienica has converted 7 of 17 field goals and each of the team's 35 extra points. UW-Whitewater punter Andy Cooper is averaging 38.0 yards per punt.

UW-Whitewater has won a record 36 WIAC titles. The Warhawks advanced to the national championship game all but one year from 2005-14, winning Division III titles in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014.

UW-Oshkosh, which claimed the most recent of its 10 WIAC titles in 2017, reached the Division III championship game in 2016. The Titans also played in the national semifinals in both 2012 and 2017, and the quarterfinal round in 2015.

The Titans' last regular season home loss to UW-Whitewater was a 17-14 decision Oct. 26, 2013.