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Titans Run Away From Falcons

Connor Zirpel had three solo tackles to go along with his 43-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Connor Zirpel had three solo tackles to go along with his 43-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Kobe Berghammer and Peter MacCudden both rushed for a pair of touchdowns to lead the UW-Oshkosh football team to a 41-20 victory over UW-River Falls on Saturday (Nov. 9) at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.

The Titans scored on their second play from scrimmage, recorded an interception on the Falcons' opening snap of the game and owned a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter. UW-Oshkosh owned a 20-10 advantage at halftime before building a 34-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.

With the victory UW-Oshkosh (7-2, 5-1 WIAC), which won its 14th straight meeting with UW-River Falls, will host nationally ranked UW-Whitewater (9-0, 6-0) for the league's automatic berth during the season finale Nov. 16. UW-Whitewater, ranked third in the NCAA Division III by D3football.com, has claimed 11 WIAC championships in the past 14 years while UW-Oshkosh secured the other three.

The Titans advanced to the de facto WIAC title contest by limiting UW-River Falls' potent offense to one touchdown during the first 55 minutes of the game. The Falcons, who were held to 2 of 14 on third downs, committed four turnovers that led to 14 UW-Oshkosh points.

UW-Oshkosh concluded the day with advantages of 473-362 in scrimmage yards, 311-98 in rushing yards and 35:15 to 24:45 in time of possession. The Titans accumulated their most rushing yards since gaining 332 in a 31-14 rout over Saint John's University (Minn.) during the second round of the 2016 Division III Championship.

Berghammer went 11-for-24 passing for 162 yards with a pair of interceptions and added 16 rushes for a career-high 177 yards and two touchdowns. He now has a team-leading nine scores on the ground this season.

MacCudden logged 20 carries for 81 yards. The rushing touchdowns were his second and third of the year.

UW-Oshkosh scored in all three phases of the game as Connor Zirpel returned an interception 43 yards to the end zone in the third quarter and Jaydon Haag connected on two field goals during the second period and each of his four extra points. The touchdown was the first of Zirpel's career. Haag is now 9 of 9 on field goals this season.

Riley Kallas led UW-Oshkosh with four catches for 67 yards.

The Titan defense, which held the Falcons to 69 passing yards in the first half, collected seven tackles for loss and three sacks. Kollyn Beyer paced the unit with a career-best eight tackles and two interceptions while Brandon Kolgen added a career high-tying six tackles and Brandon Hughes accounted for 1.5 sacks among his five stops. Beyer increased his team-best total to four interceptions on the year.

UW-River Falls quarterback Ben Beckman completed 26 of 44 passes for 264 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He rushed 15 times for an additional 50 yards and a score Saturday. Beckman entered the day ranked third in the country in completions per game (24.25) and ninth in both total passing yards (2,432) and offensive yards per game (330.4).

The Falcons' Alex Traxler paced all players with 10 receptions for 164 yards. Alex Wickliff chipped in five grabs for 21 yards and a touchdown for UW-River Falls. Falcons leading receiver Alex Herink was held to three catches for 44 yards after entering Saturday with 50 receptions for 778 yards.

Andy Metcalf led UW-River Falls with 11 tackles while Athen Ashton and Spencer Scott had 10 apiece for a Falcon defense that did not register a sack among its three tackles for loss.

UW-Oshkosh began the game's opening drive from its own 22-yard line before Berghammer hit a streaking Kallas on a 51-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage. Berghammer then raced 27 yards into the end zone just 37 seconds into the contest.

Beyer intercepted a Beckman pass on the ensuing snap. MacCudden later cashed in the turnover 10 plays later, when his 4-yard touchdown run and Haag's extra point extended the Titan lead to 14-0 at the 8:41 mark of the first quarter.

Beckman pulled UW-River Falls within 14-7 following a 7-yard touchdown run less than three minutes later, and a 26-yard field goal from Bobby Patterson cut the Falcon deficit to 14-10 with 3:35 remaining in the opening period.

A pair of Haag field goal accounted for the only scoring during the second quarter as he connected from 36 yards at the 12:26 mark ahead of a 31-yarder that upped the UW-Oshkosh lead to double digits for good at 20-10 with 6:47 left in the period.

Zirpel then put the game away with his 43-yard interception return for a touchdown that increased the Titan lead to 27-10 at the 9:16 mark of the third quarter.

Following a 36-yard Patterson field goal that trimmed the Falcon deficit to 27-13 in the latter stages of the third quarter, Berghammer broke a pair of tackles and scampered 68 yards up the middle to the end zone to culminate a five-play, 73-yard drive for a 34-13 cushion with 10:13 remaining in the game.

Beckman hit Wickliff on a 3-yard touchdown pass with under five minutes to play, but MacCudden capped the scoring on a 1-yard plunge with 3:34 left. The final UW-Oshkosh drive was set up by Ryan Hayes' 40-yard return of an onside kick down to the UW-River Falls 3-yard line.

UW-Oshkosh, which has won 26 consecutive regular season home games, will attempt to win its fourth WIAC title in eight years when the Titans host UW-Whitewater next Saturday.