NCAA Division-III Playoffs: R. 2, Polar Bears v. Titans
NCAA Division-III Playoffs
Ohio Northern (9-2)
No. 5 Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans (10-1)
How They Got Here: The Ohio Northern Polar Bears broke through this season, downing John Carroll to earn a berth in the NCAA Division-III playoffs. Other than a decisive loss the Mount Union, the Polar Bears have proven that they belong in the playoffs. Ohio Northern split their first two games of the season, defeating Utica by seven and then losing to Baldwin Wallace by one. Two weeks later they won at John Carroll, 30-27, before falling the Mount Union. That was the last loss the team would suffer, as the Polar Bears rolled over the next five games to finish 7-2 in the Ohio Athletic Conference. In those five games the closest margin of victory was 21-points.
In their first round playoff matchup, the Polar Bears downed Franklin 27-22. It looked like this was going to be a long afternoon for Ohio Northern as the Grizzlies jumped out to a 16-0 lead heading into half, but 21 unanswered points put the Polar Bears on top. Up 21-16, the game was setup for a dramatic ending. Franklin took the lead with 10:20 left in the game when Ty’Ronte Files scored from 21-yards out. Ohio Northern then mounted an 11-play drive that lasted 5:11 to retake the lead. Justin Magazine’s five-yard score put the Polar Bears back on top by five. The Grizzlies had one more chance, but Mark Aguilar sacked Franklin quarterback Chase Burton on fourth and 10 to preserve the win.
Magazine finished the day with 36-carries for 153-yards and 2 scores. Devon Price caught 6-passes for 117-yards receiving and a TD.
The Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans broke the strangle hold that Wisconsin-Whitewater had over the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, defeating the National Champions 10-7 in October. That enabled them to finish 7-0 in the conference to claim the conference title. A two-point loss to Robert Morris to start the season was the only blemish on the Titans record, as they dominated for the rest of the season. The Wisconsin-Oshkosh defense held three opponents scoreless and the offense scored at least 31-points in all but three contests this year.
In their first round matchup of the NCAA Division-III playoffs, the Titans welcomed St. Scholastica and dominated from the start. Dylan Hecker scored the first two touchdowns of the game, finishing with three overall in the 48-0 victory. Quarterback Brett Kasper had an impressive day, completing 20 of his 32-passes for 336-yards and 2 TDs. Zach Kasuboski made 5-catches for 165-yards and 2 scores, and the defense was led by Branden Lloyd, who made 8 tackles and recorded 2.5-sacks.
Magazine is one of the best running backs in the country. He is 13th in the country in rushing yards with 1,474-yards and tied for second nationally with 24 rushing touchdowns. The senior is as difficult to bring down as any running back in the country and his one fumble lost demonstrates that he is careful with the ball as well.
Devon Price is a top receiver who caught 84-passes for 1,184-yards and 6 TDs. He knows how to get open and has great hands.
The defense is led by sophomore linebacker Zach Schmerge who has 105-tackles. He isn’t a guy that is going to see his name in the scoresheets for big plays like fumbles or sacks; he simply make plays. A ferocious tackler with great technique, Schmerge always finds a way to get his hat in the play.
Wisconsin-Oshkosh sophomore Brett Kasper is a top notch quarterback who seems be getting better with every start. That is quite a feat, considering the Oshkosh quarterback has been exceptional all season long. Kasper has completed an impressive 65.9 percent of his passes for 2,535-yards and 21-touchdowns against just 4 picks. He will spread the field and is rarely locked in on just one receiver. If a player is open he will find him and make the play.
Dylan Hecker and Devon Linzenmeyer form an outstanding two-headed beast at the running back position. Hecker gets the majority of the carries, rushing for 815-yards, and near the end zone he is relentless, scoring 17-touchdowns on just 150-carries. Linzenmeyer rushed for 619-yards and 7 TDs, but his 7.3 yards per carry average demonstrates that there is absolutely no drop off when he enters the game.
This is a team that has had several large leads, so the individual numbers for their defenders are not huge, but the Titans have an outstanding set of players. Johnny Eagan is an outstanding corner who has 4-interceptions this season, and Cole Yoder comes in with 3 and also has 2 forced fumbles. Lloyd leads the team with 5.5 sacks.
Outlook: The Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans overcame a huge hurdle in defeating Whitewater to become the conference champions, now they have to prove that they can be a quality representative from the conference. Ohio Northern had to overcome their own nemesis by beating John Carroll and they have as much to prove as the Titans. Oshkosh simply looks too good however. Take Wisconsin-Oshkosh 35-14.
By Robert Pannier