The No. 5 ranked University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans welcome the No. 9 ranked St. John’s Johnnies on Saturday for their second round battle in the NCAA Division-III football playoffs. UW-Oshkosh enters the game 10-1 on the season, finishing second in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), and advancing after winning the their first round matchup over Washington University. St. John’s finished second in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), also going 9-1 during the regular season. They defeated UW-Platteville last weekend to advance to Round 2.
How They Got Here
UW-Oshkosh got off to a hot start, winning their first four games and outscoring their opponents by a ridiculous 223-38 margin. They then traveled to the No. 1 ranked UW-Whitewater Warhawks where they were narrowly defeated 17-14. Over the next two weeks they had two close affairs, defeating UW-Stevens Point 13-3 and then UW-Platteville 22-13, then rattled off three decisive victories to close out the season.
Last weekend, Washington University came to town and was defeated by the Titans 49-13. UW-Oshkosh took the lead in the first quarter on a five-yard touchdown run by Devon Linzenmeyer. A two-yard touchdown run by Mitch Gerhartz made it 14-0, but Washington scored on the next possession to cut the lead to seven. The Titans followed with five straight touchdowns to take command of the game.
Gerhartz ran for 204-yards and a TD and Linzenmeyer added 76-yards and 2-scores. Brett Kasper threw for 3-touchdowns and 192-yards on just 18-attempts. The defense picked off two passed.
St. John’s started out with three huge victories, scoring at least 40-points in each of those contests, as they outscored their opponents 133-24. They then welcomed the No. 3 ranked St. Thomas Tommies and fell 33-21 in a very hard fought battle. The Johnnies rebounded to win their final six games of the season, including back-to-back shutouts against Augsburg and Carleton.
Last weekend the Johnnies welcomed UW-Platteville and won the most exciting game of the first round, 32-31. This was a great back and forth affair that saw the lead change hands five times. UW-Plateville scored first, before St. John’s responded with 10-points to take the lead. The teams traded field goals before the Pioneers took a four-point lead on a 12-yard pass to Dan Arnold from Tom Kelly. The Johnnies would take the lead again when Evan Clark took the ensuing kickoff 82-yards for the touchdown. The Pioneers then got a seven-yard touchdown run from Wyatt Thompson and a one-yarder from Sean Studer to take a 31-20 lead with a little over 12 minutes left in the game. Zack Sundly’s 19-yard touchdown reception cut the lead to five. The Johnnies got the ball at their own 20 with 2:20 left in the game and moved the down the field until they were first and goal at the one. Three incomplete passes made it fourth and goal with just a few ticks on the clock left. The ball was handed off to Dusty Krueger on the final play of the game, and he burst through to give the Johnnies the one-point victory.
Krueger gained 73-yards and a touchdown on 20-carries. Jackson Erdmann threw for 235-yards and 2-scores. On defense, Carter Hanson led St. John’s with 11-tackles and added an interception.
UW-Oshkosh PPG: 41.9, Rushing YDs/Game: 278.3, Passing YDs/Game: 204.5, Total YDs Game: 482.7
St. John’s PPG: 42.5, Rushing YDs/Game: 215.3, Passing YDs/Game: 228.5, Total YDs Game: 443.8
UW-Oshkosh PPG: 12.1, Rushing YDs/Game: 95.4, Passing YDs/Game: 170.0, Total YDs Game: 265.4
St. John’s PPG: 12.5, Rushing YDs/Game: 63.1, Passing YDs/Game: 143.0, Total YDs Game: 206.1
Why UW-Oshkosh Will Win
- This team came up just three-points short from beating the best team in the country. They are not intimidated by anyone and, at home, they are extremely tough to beat.
- The Johnnies have a balanced offense, but the Titans have a balanced defense. They will shutdown the St. John’s running game and make life miserable for Jackson.
- UW-Oshkosh has so many weapons in their ground game. They are just impossible to stop.
Why St. John’s Will Win
- John’s is No. 9 for a reason. This is an outstanding team who played a great game against the No. 3 team in the country. They are as solid as any team in these playoffs.
- The Johnnies are hard to defend because no one player is a key to the team’s success. They can throw, they can run. Anyone of seven guys could be a difference maker on offense.
- The Johnnies defense knows how to make plays when they are needed. Their secondary is brutal to throw against and they support the run well. They cause teams to make mistakes.
This is a great matchup between two Division-III powerhouses. Neither team has superstars on the offense, but they move the ball and score points. On defense, both teams have big-time playmakers and they can shut down an opponent, especially in the running game. These are two of the best defenses in the country and this should be a very hard fought battle. Either team could win this game, but UW-Oshkosh is at home. Give them the edge because of that and take the Titans, 17-13.
By Robert Pannier