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Titans Open WIAC Play With Convincing Victory

Titans Open WIAC Play With Convincing Victory

Kyle Radavich threw for a career-high 300 yards and five touchdowns in just more than three quarters of action, the Titans intercepted five passes and recovered a fumble, and nationally ranked UW-Oshkosh scored 27 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for a 48-14 victory at UW-River Falls in the WIAC football opener Saturday (Sept. 29).

Clinging to a 21-14 lead at halftime, the Titans put the game away by scoring on five of its first six possessions of the second half. UW-Oshkosh, which never trailed, held the Falcons to just 59 yards of offense after intermission, including negative-3 yards and zero first downs on 14 plays during UW-River Falls' first five drives of the second half.

Radavich's career day included scoring strikes of 56 and 27 yards to Riley Kallas in the first quarter, 13 yards to Dom Todarello in the second period, 37 yards to Mitchell Gerend in the third and 57 yards to Todarello in the fourth.

Defending league champion UW-Oshkosh (3-1, 1-0 WIAC), ranked 12th in the NCAA Division III by D3football.com, secured its 13th consecutive win over UW-River Falls. The Titans have outscored the Falcons, 440-171, during the past 13 meetings.

Radavich, who went into Saturday with 252 passing yards and one touchdown pass through the first three games, completed 15 of 25 passes for 300 yards with five touchdowns and one interception against the Falcons before exiting with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Radavich's five touchdown passes are tied for third most in a game during UW-Oshkosh's 124-year history. The Titan game record for touchdown passes is six, established by Brian Tomalak in 1998 against UW-River Falls and Brett Kasper in 2017 against North Central College (Ill.).

UW-Oshkosh amassed significant advantages in scrimmage yards (543-276), rushing yards (243-89), passing yards (300-187), first downs (24-14) and turnovers (6-2).

The Falcons, who were held to 3.9 yards per play and 2.5 yards per carry, went into the contest leading the WIAC with 210.3 rushing yards per game. The Titans, who entered the day 10th in the country by ceding 7.7 point per game, was leading the conference in opponent passing efficiency rating (84.66), interceptions gained (7) and average turnover margin (+0.67).

Kallas had four catches for 109 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season and the seventh of his career.

Todarello added three receptions for 90 yards and a pair of scores. Todarello, who notched his fourth career game with two touchdown receptions, chipped in five carries for 34 yards to top 100 scrimmage yards for the first time this year and the fifth time in his career.

Gerend registered a career-best four grabs for 68 yards in addition to his second touchdown of the season and fourth of his career.

The Titans ran the ball on 48 of 73 offensive plays, averaging 5.1 yards per carry behind starting offensive linemen Tommy NoennigTyler Powers, Austin Summers, Alex Wendorf, Alex Wipperfurth and Jason Wright.

Mitch Gerhartz paced UW-Oshkosh with 21 carries for 122 yards, marking his first 100-yard rushing day of the year the sixth of his career. Gerhartz also contributed two receptions for 13 yards.

Eight Titans had at least one rushing attempt against UW-River Falls, including Max Nowinsky with nine totes for 29 yards and his first career touchdown that capped the scoring early in the fourth quarter.

Cole Yoder snared two interceptions for the Titans while AJ Plewa, Calvin Shilling and Tyler Staerkel also picked off Falcon passes. Yoder, who overtook the team lead with four interceptions on the season, is now tied for third in program history with 16 during his career. Plewa collected his first interception of the year and the eighth of his career while Shilling and Staerkel both recorded their first career interceptions.

Justin Kasuboski rounded out the Titans' six turnovers with a fumble recovery on a kickoff return during the fourth quarter.

Yoder also led the team with six tackles against UW-River Falls while Shilling, Logan Heise, Trenton LaCombe and Nick Noethe each added five as 26 different Titans were credited with tackles. LaCombe recorded a sack while Heise and Jake Murphy combined for a quarterback takedown.

After UW-River Falls placekicker Dylan Swerig missed a 25-yard field goal on the game's first possession, UW-Oshkosh opened the scoring with Radavich's 56-yard touchdown pass to Kallas with 9:24 left in the first quarter. The scoring connection culminated a five-play, 80-yard drive that last just 1:50.

The teams gained a combined 20 yards and exchanged punts on the following five drives until UW-Oshkosh received the ball at its own 48-yard line with 71 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Gerhartz busted free on a 39-yard run on a first-and-25 play to reach the Falcons' 28-yard line, and Radavich found Kallas for a 27-yard touchdown two plays later as time expired in the first period.

UW-River Falls (1-3, 0-1 WIAC) cut its deficit to 14-7 by mounting a nine-play, 70-yard drive in the span of 2:46. The scoring drive was aided by back-to-back pass interference penalties on the Titans and a 21-yard pass from Ben Beckman to Alex Herink on a fourth-and-10 play. Anthony Silva concluded the march with a 1-yard touchdown run at the 7:14 mark of the second quarter.

Radavich and Beckman both tossed interceptions on the next two drives. Radavich was picked off near midfield on a first down play before Shilling made a momentum-shifting interception at the Titan 3-yard line with just over three minutes left before intermission.

Starting from their own 8-yard line, UW-Oshkosh ran the ball six consecutive times for 44 total yards to reach Falcon territory. A pair of Radavich completions to Gerend gave the Titans a first down at the UW-River Falls 23-yard line. Radavich then ran for 10 yards before finding Todarello for a 13-yard touchdown pass that extended the Titan advantage to 21-7 with 36 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Falcons answered quickly as Beckman ran for 7 yards and hit Herink on a 47-yard pass down to the Titan 7-yard line. Following a UW-River Falls timeout, Beckman completed a touchdown pass to Herink on the final play of the first half as the Falcons pulled within 21-14 with a 28-second scoring drive.

UW-Oshkosh began its dominant second half with a four-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that concluded with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Radavich to Gerend for a 28-14 lead at the 13:11 mark of the third quarter. Radavich sparked the possession with a 20-yard completion to Todarello on the first play of the period.

A 13-yard punt return by Todarello set up the Titans at their own 46-yard line on their next possession. UW-Oshksh proceeded to run seven times for 44 total yards to commence the drive and, after an 8-yard pass from Radavich to Mark Nellen, Titans placekicker Peyton Peterson drilled a 32-yard field goal to increase the Titan lead to 31-14 with 6:35 left in the third quarter.

UW-Oshkosh, which recorded three interceptions and one fumble recovery in the span of five UW-River Falls possessions across the final two quarters, went on to cap the scoring with a 22-yard Peterson field goal with 50 second to pay in the third quarter, Radavich's 57-yard scoring pass to Todarello with 14:29 left in the game and Nowinsky's 9-yard touchdown run with 13:04 to go.

Beckman finished the game 15-for-34 passing for 182 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions.

UW-River Falls running back Sam Altena, who entered the game as the WIAC leader with 349 rushing yards and six ground scores, was limited to a team-best 34 yards and no touchdowns on 11 carries.

Herink had five receptions for 98 yards and a score for the Falcons, who also received six grabs for 59 yards from Nicholas Studer. Herink, the 2017 WIAC Player of the Year in men's basketball, upped his league-leading total to five touchdown receptions during his debut football campaign.

UW-River Falls' Max Praschak led all players with 17 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Mitch Dienger added nine tackles, including the Falcons' lone sack, while Joey Leonard registered an interception for UW-River Falls.

UW-Oshkosh, which claimed its 10th straight WIAC-opening victory, has now won 41 of its last 45 league games.

The Titans completes its string of five consecutive road games to open the season next Saturday (Oct. 6) at 10th-ranked UW-Whitewater.

Photo by Emil Vajgrt