UW-Oshkosh is heading back to the NCAA Division III Football Championship for the fourth time in the past five years after upsetting nationally ranked UW-Whitewater, 27-20, behind 13 unanswered fourth-quarter points during the regular season finale Saturday (Nov. 16) at J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium.
The Titans tied the game at 20 on a 35-yard touchdown pass Kobe Berghammer to a leaping Mitchell Gerend. Facing a fourth-and-4 with UW-Oshkosh's postseason fate in the balance, Berghammer stepped away from pressure and heaved the ball to the front end of the end zone, where Gerend outjumped a Warhawk defender and pulled down a spectacular catch in traffic. Jaydon Haag's ensuing extra point provided the Titans the lead for good at 21-10 with 9:14 remaining in the game.
The UW-Oshkosh defense then intercepted four UW-Whitewater passes on the Warhawks' final six snaps from scrimmage to secure the Titans' 27th consecutive regular season home win. Haag created the final score with field goals of 42 and 49 yards over the last 5:43 of the contest.
UW-Oshkosh (8-2, 6-1 WIAC) and UW-Whitewater (9-1, 6-1) both earned a share of the league title, but the Titans receive the league's automatic berth into the 32-team Division III Championship by virtue of Saturday's head-to-head result. The conference championships are UW-Whitewater's league-best 37th and UW-Oshkosh's 11th.
The Titans' NCAA first round opponent and venue will be revealed during an online selection show at 4:30 p.m. (CST) Sunday on NCAA.com.
UW-Whitewater, ranked third in the country by D3football.com, suffered the loss despite compiling advantages of 328-236 in scrimmage yards, 164-158 in rushing yards, 164-78 in passing yards, 19-12 in first downs and 33:12 to 26:48 in time of possession. The Warhawks' five interceptions thrown are the program's most since at least the 1998 campaign.
Brandon Kolgen, Tory Jandrin, Tyler Staerkel and Tyler Watson were all credited with sacks as UW-Oshkosh's three quarterback takedowns were the most allowed by UW-Whitewater since ceding four in the 2019 season opener. UW-Whitewater had yielded three total sacks across its previous six games combined.
Berghammer finished the game 7-for-17 passing for 78 yards and his 12th touchdown pass of the season. He added a team-high 16 carries for 34 yards and his eighth rushing score of the year.
Four Titan ballcarriers gained at least 34 yards on the ground as Chris Hess logged five carries for a team-leading 59 yards, Riley Kallas had two rushes for 37 yards and a touchdown, and Peter MacCudden toted 13 times for 34 yards. Kallas' rushing score was his second of the season and third career.
Gerend recorded four catches for 64 yards and his second touchdown of the year and eighth during his three years as a Titan.
UW-Whitewater starting quarterback Zach Oles went 19 of 33 passing for 164 yards with one touchdown and a career-high four interceptions. Oles entered the night with six interceptions thrown on the year. Warhawks backup Max Meylor tossed an interception on his only pass attempt on UW-Whitewater's final offensive play of the game.
Alex Peete and Jarrod Ware combined to rush for 152 yards for the Warhawks. Peete led all players with 20 carries for 80 yards and his WIAC-best 11th rushing touchdown of the season.
JT Parish paced UW-Whitewater with five receptions for 64 yards. Warhawk tight end Michael Berentes, who went into the game with two grabs, chipped in four catches for 18 yards and his first touchdown.
Jacob Erbs spearheaded the UW-Whitewater defense with a game-high 13 tackles. Matt Anderson and Niko Lemke both recorded sacks for the Warhawks.
UW-Whitewater took a 3-0 lead on a 28-yard field goal from Wojciech Gasienica with 6:25 left in the first quarter, but Berghammer capped a 15-play, 71-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run that provided the Titans a 7-3 advantage with four seconds remaining in the opening period.
Oles then found Berentes on a 3-yard touchdown pass less than two minutes later as UW-Whitewater reclaimed a 10-7 lead.
UW-Oshkosh responded with Kallas' 6-yard touchdown run that culminated an eight-play, 75-yard drive for a 14-10 Titan advantage at the 6:00 mark of the second quarter.
Gasienica pulled the Warhawks within 14-13 at intermission with a 24-yard field goal with 24 seconds to play in the second period.
Peete reached the end zone on a 3-yard run that gave UW-Whitewater its final lead at 20-14 with 38 seconds remaining in the third period. UW-Whitewater possessed the ball for 12:49 of the third quarter as UW-Oshkosh mustered just four plays for 3 yards during the period.
After two consecutive Titan sacks forced UW-Whitewater to punt for the second and final time of the night, Berghammer's game-winning scoring strike to Gerend capped a four-play, 41-yard drive.
UW-Oshkosh later turned a pair of interceptions into two long field goals by Haag, who has now made each of his 11 field goal attempts this season.
Th Titans have not lost a regular season home game since a 24-20 setback against NAIA member Marian University (Ind.) on Sept. 13, 2014.
UW-Oshkosh, which clinched a share of its fourth conference championship since 2012, will be making its fifth overall appearance in the NCAA postseason. The 2016 national runners-up Titans reached the semifinal round in both 2012 and 2017, and the quarterfinals in 2015.