A punt flipped the field for good and an interception sealed the fate.
Host UW-Oshkosh overcame a 20-14 deficit with a 13-point fourth quarter to defeat visiting UW-Whitewater 27-20 Saturday night in a game that gave the Titans the automatic NCAA Division III playoff bid for the WIAC.
The Titans and Warhawks will share the WIAC championship with identical 6-1 records, but the Oshkosh will get the bid with its win Saturday.
The Warhawks, who came into the game undefeated, will have to rely on an at-large bid from the NCAA to get into the playoffs.
“I’d like to think we have a pretty good chance of getting into the postseason,” said UW-Whitewater head coach Kevin Bullis. “I said to the guys, if you want to mourn tonight over this, mourn tonight. Tomorrow, you’re done mourning. It’s now all about coming together and being tight together.”
Their postseason fate will be determined in the selection show tonight.
Quarterback Zach Oles’ fourth interception of the game went through the hands of receiver Ryan Wisniewski. UW-Oshkosh punted after three plays, but Max Meylor entered the game and threw an interception on his only play under center.
The loss snapped a 25-game regular-season winning streak, with the last loss also at Titans Stadium in 2017.
The Warhawks’ conference title was the 37th time in school history.
Kobe Berghammer gave UW-Oshkosh a 21-20 lead when he scrambled on 4th-and-5 and completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Gerend with 9 minutes, 14 seconds left in the game.
Gerend went up over safety Nate Tranel to pull down the desperate heave by Berghammer.
“It wasn’t a designed boot, we got some pressure on him and he went out of the pocket. His guys knew to go deep,” said Tranel, who had four tackles including one tackle for a loss. “(Berghammer) was hoping for a prayer and the prayer was actually received, so if I could go back maybe I would go up with two hands, but it was just out of my reach.
“I wish I could have gotten back just a little bit more to make the play, but I didn’t.”
The lack of a pass rush gave Berghammer time to scramble and eventually make his seventh completion of the game. Berghammer completed 7 of his 17 passes for 78 yards and one touchdown.
The touchdown pass was set up by a battle of field position as UW-Oshkosh put the Warhawks on their own 15-yard line following a 66-yard punt by Haag. UW-Whitewater gained six yards with a running play on first down before Oles was sacked twice to force UW-Whitewater punter Andy Cooper to kick from the back of his own end zone.
On the next drive, Oles had a pass rusher hit his right arm as he threw and it was intercepted by linebacker Logan Heise. Haag made a 41-yard field goal three plays later to extend the lead to 24-20 with 5:43 to play.
“There were some times where there was good pressure by them and they were getting on us quickly, but there were other times where Zach was kind of standing back there,” Bullis said. “There are two types of sacks, there are coverage sacks and pressure sacks where they get on us right away.”
The first interception Oles threw came when he had time in the pocket and attempted to complete a pass to Tyler Holte on a 3rd-and-7 from the UW-Oshkosh 26-yard line. Holte had tight coverage by UW-Oshkosh sophomore Connor Zirpel and the pass was deflected into the air and caught by UW-Oshkosh sophomore Kyle Scharenbroch.
The Titans took over on their own 25-yard line, ran eight plays covering 75 yards for a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead with 3:35 to go in the second quarter.
“We were able to consistently move the ball, but then we would turn the ball over,” Bullis said. “That’s really what it came down to. The turnovers were the story of the game and us not taking the ball away from them defensively. That’s the one way you can overcome (turnovers).”
OSHKOSH 27, WHITEWATER 20
Whitewater 3 10 7 00—20
Oshkosh 7 7 0 13—27
Scoring summary: W—FG. W. Gasienica, 28. O—Kobe Berghammer, 6 run (Jaydon Haag kick). W—M. Berentes, 3 pass from Zach Oles (Gasienica kick). O—Riley Kallas, 6 run (Haag kick). W—FG, Gasienica, 29. W—Alex Peete, 3 run (Gasienica kick). O—Matchell Gerend, 35 pass from Berghammer (Haag kick). O—FG, Haag, 42. O—FG, Haag, 49.
Statistics: First down—W 19 (8 passing, 9 rushing, 2 penalty), O 12 (5 passing, 7 rushing). Rushes—W 38-164, O 43-158, Yards passing—W 164, O 78. Passes—W 34-19-5, O 17-7-0. Fumbles—W 0-0, O 0-0. Penalties—W 3-27, O 2-24.