FG, opportunistic defense sends Oshkosh to semifinals

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Eli Wettstein kicked a go-ahead 36-yard field goal with 2:30 to go and No. 4-ranked UW-Oshkosh had eight takeaways and no turnovers of its own in Saturday's 34-31 Division III football quarterfinal-round playoff victory over No. 3-ranked St. Thomas at Palmer Field in St. Paul.

Receiver Sam Mentkowski caught TD passes of 46, 38 and 32 yards and Johnny Eagan had three interceptions and nine solo tackles as the Titans (12-1) advanced to the national semifinals for the second time in five seasons. They are expected to play host John Carroll (Ohio) on Dec. 10 in Oshkosh in a rematch of a season-opening game the Titans won in September.

QB Brett Kasper completed 13-of-26 for 237 yards and no turnovers, with Mentkowski getting 184 of those yards on seven catches. Oshkosh recovered three fumbles and to go with five interceptions.

The Tommies (12-1), who erased deficits of 24-7 and 31-24, had their 19-game home win streak halted. A 154-yard rushing day by freshman backup Josh Parks, a punt return block and TD return by senior Ryan Winter, and 254 all-purpose yards by senior Nick Waldvogel were not enough to save St. Thomas.

Coach Glenn Caruso's team gave up three touchdowns in a 10:30 span of the first quarter. The Toms later fell behind 24-7 but roared back with two third-quarter touchdowns. Winter blocked a punt and scooped the ball and finished off a 30-yard return touchdown that helped UST tie the game at 24-24.

After a defensive stop and a 29-yard Waldvogel punt return, UST had first down at the Titan 11-yard line. But Justin Watson's tipped pass and interception on second down in the red zone denied UST a chance to take the lead.

The Titans used a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Kasper to Mentkowski for 32 yards to take back the lead at 31-24.

With the score tied 31-31, Oshkosh converted two third-down plays to keep a drive moving. Wettstein, who previously made a 36-yard field in the second quarter, nailed another kick from 36 to put the Titans ahead 34-31.

The Tommies gained one first down and another on a pass interference penalty to move to their 40-yard line as the clock moved under 90 seconds to go. But QB Alex Fenske overthrew his target and Eagan made a game-sealing interception at the Titan 40-yard line with 1:08 to play.

UST forced a punt and got the ball at its own nine-yard line with :07 to go for a desperation try. The Toms' hook-and-ladder atempt on the final play was caught but the pitch was fumbled and recovered by Oshkosh.

The Toms had only one penalty but it was a block in the back that negated a 58-yard Waldvogel punt return to the UWO 9-yard line -- a play that denied him a 299-yard all-purpose stat line. UST then lost a fumble on that drive.

Waldvogel went over 5,000 career all-purpose yards and closed his 49-game career with 5,030 yards and 34 touchdowns.

For the fifth time this season, Parks rushed for 99 or more yards off the bench. He closed his first college season with 1,049 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns.

After a rocky start the Tommie defense forced nine punts. Bennett Celichowski was in on 12 tackles, and Jesse Addo had three tackles for loss.

It was the third year in a row that St. Thomas was eliminated from the playoffs despite scoring 30-plus points. UST lost 37-31 at No. 5-ranked Wartburg in 2014; fell 49-35 to Mount Union in the 2015 national title game; and lost 34-31 here Saturday.

Dec. 10: All times Eastern
at UW-Oshkosh 10, John Carroll 3
Box Score Recap Photos
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 14, Mount Union 12
Box Score Recap Photos
Dec. 16: All times Eastern
Mary Hardin-Baylor 10, at UW-Oshkosh 7
@ Salem, Va.
Box Score Photos
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