History was made on a number of fronts in the UW-River Falls football team’s 28-21 victory over 19th-ranked UW-Oshkosh Saturday in Oshkosh.
The victory wasn’t just the Falcons eighth win of the season– the most since 1998– and their first win over Oshkosh since 2005, but it also vaulted UWRF into the D3football.com Top 25 for the first time ever at No. 22, and locked up a spot in the inaugural Culver's Isthmus Bowl against Washington University - St. Louis this Saturday, Nov. 20, in Madison.
The bowl game marks the first postseason college bowl game in Wisconsin state history and the first bowl game in UW-River Falls football program history.
The game features the top two teams from the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) and the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) that did not make the NCAA Playoffs. The Falcons and Bears each finished third in their respective league's standings.
UW-Whitewater won the WIAC title to earn the WIAC’s automatic bid to the Division III playoffs while UW-La Crosse received one of just five at-large bids available nationwide. UWRF’s only two losses this season were to the Warhawks and Eagles, but despite missing the playoffs, will play an 11th game for the first time since making the postseason in 1996.
Saturday’s victory at Oshkosh came after the Falcons took a 28-21, early in the fourth quarter, picked off a Titan pass deep in their own territory with just over seven minutes remaining and never gave the ball back, sealing the win with a bold 4th-and-2 conversion near midfield with 2:12 left.
UWRF trailed until Kole Hinrichsen hit Alex Traxler for a seven-yard touchdown pass to cap a 16-play, 80-yard drive with 9:52 remaining. Ben Biese ran in for the two-point conversion to put the Falcons up 28-21.
Oshkosh responded by reaching the UWRF 25-yard line before Michael Brown picked off a Titan pass at his own three with 7:19 remaining.
From there the Falcons ran the ball six straight times while picking up two first downs before Hinrichsen found Biese for another first down at midfield. Oshkosh burned its three time outs around three straight Falcon runs and facing 4th-and-2 at the Titan 42, tight end Biese took the direct snap and shoveled the ball to Tim Oeun, who raced all the way to the Titan four yard line with 1:27 on the clock. Three straight kneel-downs and the Falcons were heading to the Isthmus Bowl.
Luke Fugate scored the Falcons’ first touchdown of the game from a yard out late in the first quarter but the extra point was blocked, leaving Oshkosh with a 7-6 lead. Hinrichsen hit Jaeger Reismann in the back of the end zone just before halftime to make it a 14-13 game before Hinrichsen and Charlie Huschka hooked up for a 21-yard score midway through the third quarter to give the Falcons a 20-14 lead.
Oshkosh answered with a quick score to go up 21-20 after three, before UWRF controlled the fourth quarter for the seven point win.
UWRF compiled 556 yards of total offense while limiting UWO to 333. The Falcons were a perfect 6-for-6 on fourth downs and limited the Titans to just 10 first downs.
Hinrichsen collected 376 yards of total offense, completing 29-of-44 passes for 249 with three touchdowns and rushing for 127 yards. Fugate also rushed for 113 yards.
Defensively, Andy Metcalf and Bailey Germain each logged a team-high five tackles.
UWRF will look to reach nine wins for the first time since 1996 when it takes on Washington University - St. Louis in the Isthmus Bowl this Saturday at 3 p.m. at Verona Area High School.