On Saturday, the No. 3 ranked St. Thomas Tommies will play host to the No. 5 ranked University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division-III football playoffs. St. Thomas enters the game with a 12-0 record, following a perfect regular season and wins over Northwestern and Coe in the playoffs. UW-Oshkosh is 11-1, going 9-1 in the season and defeating Washington University and St. John’s in the playoffs.
Run in the Playoffs
After going 10-0 in the regular season, the Tommies opened the playoffs by defeating Northwestern University 43-0. On their opening drive of the game, St. Thomas moved 80-yards in 12-plays to take a 7-0 lead. Running back Jeremy Molina added two one-yard touchdowns in the second quarter of the game as the Tommies took a 30-0 lead into the half. After the half Dylan Andrews returned an interception 58-yards for a touchdown and Stephen Wagner added a 10-yard touchdown run to close out the scoring.
In Round 2, Coe College came to St. Paul and the Tommies proved to be very inhospitable hosts, downing the Kohawks, 55-6. The St. Thomas Tommies led this game 41-0 heading into the half. Alex Fenske had two early touchdown passes, one for 13-yards to Luke Iverson and the other to Joe Reed for 42. The first quarter would end with the Tommies leading 21-0 following a 4-yard touchdown by Josh Parks, and Tucker Trettel had an 83-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 27. Fenske would add a third touchdown pass and a touchdown run in the second quarter, and Josh Parks added his second TD scamper in their third quarter.
Fenske finished 16-23 for 229-yards and 3-TD tosses and a TD run. Trettel gained 102-yards and a TD on 9-carries. Parks had 12-carries for 99-yards and 2-scores.
The UW-Oshkosh Titans started the playoffs with a decisive 49-13 victory over Washington University in Round 1. Devon Linzenmeyer gave his team the early lead with a five-yard touchdown run. The Titans would jump ahead 14-0 before Washington cut that lead to seven. However, five unanswered scores by the UW-Oshkosh offense gave the team the lead on their way to the 36-point victory.
Last Saturday, the Titans welcomed the Tommies chief rivals, the St. John’s Johnnies, to town. It was a scoreless first quarter, but UWO took the lead in the second on a 2-yard run by Dylan Hecker. The Johnnies tied the score, but Eli Wettstein added a 26-yard field goal before the half to make it 10-7 for the Titans heading into the break. After the half, Hecker added two more touchdown runs and Linzenmeyer had a 72-yard score to give the Titans the 31-14 victory.
Hecker had a huge game, rushing 21-times for 198-yards and 2-TDs. Johnny Eagan led the defense with 10-tackles and added an interception.
St. Thomas PPG: 48.4, Rushing YDs/Game: 206.0, Passing YDs/Game: 277.5, Total YDs Game: 483.5
UW-Oshkosh PPG: 41.0, Rushing YDs/Game: 282.8, Passing YDs/Game: 195.6, Total YDs Game: 478.3
St. Thomas PPG: 10.5, Rushing YDs/Game: 61.9, Passing YDs/Game: 156.9, Total YDs Game: 218.8
UW-Oshkosh PPG: 12.3, Rushing YDs/Game: 101.3, Passing YDs/Game: 160.5, Total YDs Game: 261.8
Tommies Keys to Success
- Ride that running game. It does not seem to matter who the Tommies put in the backfield, they are going to put up big numbers.
- Stop the two-headed running attack that the Titans have and force QB Brett Kasper to beat them.
- Coach Glenn Caruso is a master in the special teams. Use the great special teams to ensure you win the battle for field position.
Titans Keys to Success
- The Tommies are tough against the run, but they have not faced an attack like the Titans. Run and control the clock.
- Get ahead. The Tommies fans can be raucous. Take them out of the game by getting the lead and they may be able to frustrate the Tommies.
- The UW-Oshkosh defense does not get a lot of pressure on the QB and that could be bad against a guy like Fenske. They have to play sound and get great play in stopping the run and get their corners to defend the passing game well.
A match up of top five teams is always a great one and this is no exception. It is true that the Tommies have rolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but Coe and Northwestern are nowhere near as good as the Titans. St. Thomas is one of the toughest teams in the country to face, and when they get on a roll they seem almost unstoppable. UW-Oshkosh’s only loss this season was to the No. 1 team in the country and that was by three-points on the road. Expect the reverse to happen here. Take the UW-Oshkosh Titans to win in a great game, 20-17.
By Robert Pannier