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Wisconsin-Oshkosh Ends Wartburg’s Playoff Run [VIDEO]

Photo By: Elwin Huffman - Townsquare Media
Photo By: Elwin Huffman – Townsquare Media

One of the greatest football seasons in Wartburg College history came to a disappointing end in Oshkosh, Wis., Saturday afternoon (Dec. 2, 2017).

The 17th-ranked Knights (12-1) were denied their first trip to the Final Four as they fell to No. 3 Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 41-27, in the quarterfinals of the Division III NCAA playoffs at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium. This season, Wartburg tied the program’s record for season wins (12), postseason victories (2) and games played (13).

Wisconsin-Oshkosh (13-0) limited the Knights to a season-low 73 rushing yards despite possessing the ball for nearly 34 minutes (33:46). The Titans, who reached the national championship game last year, ended the day with a 503-336 advantage in total offensive yards.

Dylan Hecker ran for a career-high five touchdowns and helped UW-Oshkosh take control of the game in the third quarter. Three of his scores came on consecutive possessions during a 10-minute span of the second half, after Wartburg tied the game at 20-20. Hecker found the end zone on a pair of one-yard runs in the third quarter, then helped the Titans’ extend their lead to 41-20 with a nine-yard touchdown reception at the 7:53 mark of the fourth quarter.

The Knights took an early 7-0 advantage when they scored on their second possession of the game. Junior quarterback Matt Sacia capped a seven-play drive with a two-yard run at the 7:09 mark of the first quarter.

Wisconsin-Oshkosh answered with a pair of scores. Hecker recorded the first of his five touchdowns on a one-yard run, then caught a 43-yard touchdown pass to cap a drive that was set up by a Wartburg turnover. The Titans missed the point-after kick following the second touchdown and took a 13-7 lead into the second quarter.

The Knights cut the deficit to 13-10 on Jordan Johnson’s 25-yard field goal with 8:04 left before intermission, but UW-Oshkosh extended the margin on its ensuing drive when Brett Kasper tossed a 29-yard scoring strike to Sam Mentkowski. On the day, Kasper completed 16-of-25 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns, while Mentkowski led the Titans’ receivers with 120 yards on eight catches.

Wartburg trailed 20-17 at halftime following a late second-quarter score. The Knights were facing fourth-and-one at their opponent’s five-yard line with 1:03 left when Sacia found Matt Mulford all alone in the back of the end zone. Sacia finished 25-of-36 for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

The underdog Knights tied the game at 20-20 on their second drive of the third quarter. Wartburg gained some momentum on Johnson’s second field goal of the day — a 26-yarder — at the 8:15 mark, but its hopes of pulling off the upset were ended by Hecker’s second-half performance.

The Knights capped the scoring with 4:13 left in the game. Senior Riley Brockway added to his single-season leading pass receptions and receiving yards total when he hauled in a five-yard toss in the end zone. Brockway and senior classmate Griffin Brenecke each finished with 82 receiving yards to lead Wartburg.

Sophomore Dylan Binion led the Knights’ ground attack with 77 yards.

Senior Tony Anstoetter led the Wartburg defense with 14 tackles (including 12 solo), while adding a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Peyton Imhoff and Rob Rottler contributed nine and seven tackles, respectively, for the Knights.

With the victory, Wisconsin-Oshkosh advances to play No. 2 Mount Union (Ohio) in the national semifinals on Saturday (Dec. 9).

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Courtesy: Wartburg Knights via YouTube

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