First place in the WIAC football standings will be at stake when UW-Oshkosh travels to UW-Platteville for a clash of top-10 NCAA Division III teams on Saturday (Oct. 14). Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium in Platteville.
UW-Oshkosh (4-0, 2-0 WIAC), ranked third in the country by D3football.com, and ninth-ranked UW-Platteville (5-0, 2-0) enter the contest tied atop the WIAC listings with UW-La Crosse (5-0, 2-0).
The Titans own a 49-48-4 record in the series with UW-Platteville. UW-Oshkosh reclaimed a one-game lead in the rivalry with a 22-13 victory last season in Oshkosh. UW-Platteville held a 6-3 advantage late in the second quarter of last year's meeting, but the Pioneers' lead lasted just 99 seconds as the Titans tied the score before halftime and hung on after building a 15-6 fourth-quarter edge.
UW-Oshkosh, which reached the national title game a year ago, has won three straight meetings with the Pioneers and seven of the last eight contests between the teams.
UW-Platteville's last home win over UW-Oshkosh was a 20-17 decision on Oct. 11, 2003. The Pioneers have won 11 of their last 14 home games, with UW-Oshkosh accounting for two of the losses during that span.
The Titans and Pioneers have both been ranked in the top 16 in the country during four of their past five meetings.
Last season, UW-Oshkosh and UW-Platteville were ranked fifth and seventh, respectively, while the matchup in 2015 featured the fifth-ranked Titans and 12th-ranked Pioneers. The 2013 meeting pitted eighth-ranked UW-Oshkosh against 10th-ranked UW-Platteville, and the 2012 meeting was between the 14th-ranked Pioneers and 16th-ranked Titans.
The Titans, who have not trailed this season, will be playing their second top-10 opponent of the year. UW-Oshkosh opened the season with a 23-17 win at then-eighth-ranked John Carroll University (Ohio) on Sept. 2 for its eighth victory over a nationally ranked team since the start of 2015.
UW-Oshkosh's unbeaten start to the season also includes wins of 74-7 over Virginia University of Lynchburg on Sept. 9, 37-20 over UW-Whitewater on Sept. 30 and 49-14 over UW-Stevens Point last Saturday (Oct. 7).
UW-Platteville, which suffered a 32-31 loss in the first round of the Division III playoffs a year ago, began the 2017 campaign with wins of 30-28 over George Fox University (Ore.) on Sept. 2, 38-29 over Hampden-Sydney College (Va.) on Sept. 16, 56-22 over Lakeland University on Sept. 23, 34-27 over 22nd-ranked UW-Stout on Sept. 30 and 24-14 over UW-River Falls on Oct. 7.
UW-Oshkosh enters Saturday's showdown ranked among the national top 15 in several statistical categories.
The UW-Oshkosh offense lists second in the division in interceptions thrown (1); third in third-down conversion rate (.558), completion percentage (.708) and passing efficiency rating (194.65); eighth in points per game (45.8); ninth in sacks allowed per contest (0.50); 10th in the yards per game (506.8); and 11th in rushing yards per contest (280.8).
On special teams, UW-Oshkosh lists fourth in the country in punt return average (19.50) and ninth in kickoff return average (26.85). The Titans also rank fifth in average time of possession (35:30), 12th in penalty yards per game (35.50) and 15th in turnover margin (+1.50).
UW-Platteville ranks among the top 20 Division III teams in one statistical category, listing 18th with a +1.40 turnover margin.
The Pioneers are averaging 36.4 points and 412.8 yards per game while allowing 24 points and 335.6 yards per contest. UW-Platteville lists eighth in the conference by yielding 247.6 yards passing per game and 13 touchdown passes.
Kasper has completed 54 of 78 passes for 841 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception. He ranks second in the country with a 199.5 passing efficiency rating while listing fourth with 10.78 yards per pass, seventh with a .692 completion percentage and 14th with 15.57 yards per completion. Kasper, who threw for four scores last Saturday, moved into 10th in WIAC history with 65 career touchdown passes.
Hecker paces the Titans with 73 carries for 443 yards and six touchdowns. He reached the end zone twice last Saturday to increase his school-record career total to 51 rushing scores, which ranks third in conference history.
The Titans' starting offensive line of Tyler Powers, Austin Summers, Ty Summers, Alex Wendorf and Alex Wipperfurth has surrendered just two sacks and allowed 16 total UW-Oshkosh ball carriers to average 5.6 yards on 199 rushes.
JP Peerenboom, Chad Walton and Riley Kallas have also gained more than 100 yards on the ground for UW-Oshkosh this season. Peerenboom has 187 yards rushing with one touchdown, while Walton has compiled 108 yards and one score, and Kallas 105 yards.
Mentkowski leads the Titans with 19 receptions for 435 yards and four touchdowns. His 22.89 yards per catch ranks 20th in the country. Mentkowski has amassed 14 catches for 355 yards and three touchdowns over his last two games, including 10 receptions for 207 yards and two scores against UW-Whitewater.
Dom Todarello has contributed nine receptions for 63 yards and one touchdown for UW-Oshkosh, which has also received a pair of touchdown catches from Kallas.
Spearheading the UW-Oshkosh defense are Derrick Jennings Jr. and Jon Kallas, who have recorded 25 tackles apiece. Jennings Jr. has a team-leading two sacks and two interceptions to go along with one fumble recovery.
Trenton LaCombe and Jamier Szymanski both have 1.5 of the Titans' seven sacks this year. Cole Yoder has snared two of UW-Oshkosh's seven interceptions while LaCombe and Calvin Shilling have recovered fumbles. Kollyn Beyer, Rajon Hall and Taylor Ripplinger each have registered interceptions for UW-Oshkosh.
On special teams, UW-Oshkosh's Turner Geisthardt has connected on 4 of 6 field goals and all 18 of his extra points while averaging 42 yards on his nine punts.
Todarello leads UW-Oshkosh's highly ranked return units with a national-best 22 yards per punt return and 22.3 yards per kickoff return.
UW-Platteville's offense is led by a trio of quarterbacks with more than 300 passing yards. The Pioneers are averaging 278.4 passing yards and 134.4 rushing per contest.
Pioneer Cade Earl is 53-for-78 passing for 551 yards with four touchdowns while Jack Eddy is 43-for-74 for 507 yards and four scores. Tyler Blang is 22-for-41 for 334 yards with five touchdowns.
Eddy played the whole game under center for UW-Platteville last Saturday, completing 20 of 38 passes for 262 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Sean Studer and Wyatt Thompson lead the Pioneer offensive backfield. Studer has rushed 81 times for 369 yards and five touchdowns while Thompson has contributed 50 carries for 246 yards and three scores.
Mark Johnson paces the UW-Platteville receiving corps with 45 catches for 518 yards and five touchdowns. His nine receptions per game ranks sixth nationally.
UW-Platteville's Tim Jansen has added 29 catches for 441 yards and four scores.
Five UW-Platteville defensive players have registered at least 20 tackles this season. Chandler Crary has a team-best 23 stops, including five for loss.
Colin Griffin leads UW-Platteville with three sacks while Josh Mackie has two of the Pioneers' six interceptions. Four different players have accounted for UW-Platteville's six fumble recoveries.
UW-Platteville's Michael Pratl has converted 7 of 11 field goals and each of the team's 23 extra points. Pratl's 1.4 field goals per game ranks 11th in the nation.
Punter Connor Foley is averaging 40.8 yards on his 24 punts for the Pioneers.
Six of the last 14 meetings between UW-Oshkosh and UW-Platteville have been decided by seven points or fewer, including the Titans' 30-27 triple-overtime victory at Platteville during the 2014 regular season finale.