UW-Oshkosh tallied 24 unanswered points in the second half to earn a 24-20 victory over Central College on Saturday (Sept. 7) in Pella, Iowa.
The Titans, who won their opener for the 30th time in 33 years, trailed by a 17-0 score at halftime. Cole Myhra then ran for two touchdowns and Nick Olla connected on some deep passes to bring the 12th-ranked Titans (1-0) back.
It was just the 15th home loss for Central College in its last 29 regular seasons.
Neither offense could produce early, with UW-Oshkosh turning the ball over on a failed fake punt. Central College (0-1) got things going with 19-yard catches by Brendon Boerm and Grant McArdle. Aaron Eiseler capped the drive with a four-yard fade pass to Blaine Forsythe for the 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The Titans reached the Central College 35-yard line late in the period before fumbling the ball away. Boerm followed with a leaping catch for 18 yards. Facing 2nd-and-4 on the eight-yard line, Eiseler rolled out and threw the ball up for grabs. McArdle came down with it for the touchdown and a 14-0 advantage.
UW-Oshkosh appeared to grab some momentum when Austin Blashka made a spectacular interception and returned the ball 35 yards. Zach Kasuboski then picked up 37 on a post pattern. The drive set up a 43-yard field goal, but the Dutch blocked the kick to maintain a shutout.
Central College added a 34-yard field goal by Kevin Sheldon just before halftime to make it 17-0.
On the first play of the second half, UW-Oshkosh made a statement. Cory Wipperfurth hauled in a slant pass and raced for 56 yards. Three snaps later, Myhra plowed his way into the end zone from two yards out.
The Titans slowed Central College's next drive with a pair of sacks. Sheldon still lined up for a 50-yard field goal, but it sailed wide right to keep the score at 17-7.
Olla moved UW-Oshkosh down the field on the next series with throws to Kasuboski for 27 yards and Joe Sommers for 11. Nate Ray then drilled a 27-yard field goal with 6:02 left on the third-quarter clock.
The next two drives showed promise, but Central College missed a field goal and UW-Oshkosh tossed an interception on fourth down.
Down by seven, the Titans took possession at their own 33-yard line with 11:29 to play. Olla then dropped back and launched a rainbow down the middle of the field. Wipperfurth made the grab with a defender on his back and sprinted all the way for a 67-yard game-tying touchdown.
The contest was played with temperatures in the upper 90s.
"Both sides got tired," said receivers coach Craig Smith. "We took advantage of our offensive depth. Nick Olla made the right throws, and his offensive line gave him plenty of time."
Blashka snatched his second pick of the day – this time off a deflected pass – and set up UW-Oshkosh 40 yards from pay dirt. Myhra recorded a 21-yard catch and then walked untouched five yards for the touchdown that put the Titans up, 24-17, with 8:36 left.
Sheldon knocked through a 21-yard field goal with under four minutes remaining. The Dutch got the ball back in the closing seconds, but Manfred Johnson made an interception to seal the contest.
UW-Oshkosh totaled 325 passing yards by Olla, while Myhra led the squad with 57 rushing. Wipperfurth compiled 123 yards on two catches and Kasuboski marked 66 yards on three. The Titans were able to overcome 1-of-12 success on third down.
Beau Steffens led the Titan defense with 11 tackles. Central College received 14 tackles from Mitch Schroeder.
The Dutch racked up 370 yards of offense, including 119 receiving on 10 catches by Boerm. Eiseler threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns, while Josh Osborn topped Central with 69 yards on 17 carries.
The Titans travel to Indianapolis, Ind., next Saturday (Sept. 14) for a battle against defending National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics champion Marian University.
By Jon Feyen, UW-Oshkosh Sports Information