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Wildcats undone in overtime

UW-Oshkosh rallies from a 15-point deficit to beat Linfield 31-24 in the D-III quarterfinals


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Linfield QB Mickey Inns rolls out to make a throw during the first half of Saturdays 31-24 loss to UW-Oshkosh in the D3 quarterfinals.

McMINNVILLE — Disappointment, shock and silence were the words that best described the scene after Linfield saw a 15-point lead vanish in the fourth quarter Saturday in a 31-24 overtime loss to Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the D-III football quarterfinals.

A pair of short TD runs by Oshkosh QB Nate Wara set the stage for a game-deciding two-point conversion with 7:43 to play. Wara took the snap, made a quick drop back and hit a wide-open Cory Wipperfurth in the side of the end zone to tie the score 24-24.

The teams traded a set of late possessions before a long punt return by Linfield’s Chad Coburn allowed the Wildcats to take over on the Oshkosh side of the field with less than a minute to play.

Linfield QB Mickey Inns scrambled through the middle for a 7-yard gain and a first down to bring the team within range for heavy-footed Josh Kay with 0:17 on the clock. Kay had booted three field goals from 40-plus through the first two rounds.

He would have an even easier setup for this attempt after Inns sent a 7-yard dart over the middle to Aaron Hire. Linfield allowed the clock to tick down to 0:03 before calling its final timeout and sending Kay onto the field for a 39-yard try.

The snap was perfect, but the ball barely got off Kay’s foot when it was met with a thud. Oshkosh had crushed through the line and had a collection of bodies in place to block the kick.

“We made some nice plays to get Josh in range and figured we had it in the bag,” Linfield coach Joseph Smith said. “But they got tremendous pressure. It wasn’t a fluke — they earned that block.”

Kay had a 33-yard attempt blocked earlier in the quarter.

Oshkosh got the ball first in overtime and needed only two plays to find the end zone.

The scoring play appeared unlikely at first when Wara’s pass for Caleb Voss sailed high toward the sideline. But Voss twisted his body and reached above his helmet to bring down the one-handed catch.

Still, it appeared he would stumble out of bounds before the first-down marker, but he regained his balance just in time and tight-roped the sideline to find the end zone from 21 yards out.

“I tipped the ball to myself and just wanted to get as many yards as I could. It ended up being a touchdown,” Voss said.

Linfield’s overtime possession also lasted just two plays.

The Wildcats moved halfway to the end zone on a late-hit penalty against linebacker Andrew Thompson. He reached to his helmet in a mix of frustration and disbelief on his way back to the defensive huddle.

His emotions would soon change.

Linfield reached for a trick play on the next snap, sent receivers in motion and tried a double-reverse only to bobble the last hand off.

Inns saw the disaster about to happen and dived to the field, but he was too late. Thompson was in perfect position, falling directly on the loose ball between three purple jerseys.

Oshkosh (13-0) advances to face St. Thomas, Minn., in next weekend’s semifinals. The Tommies (13-0) were a 47-7 winner over Hobart on Saturday.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Linfield head coach Joseph Smith looks for an answer from an official during Saturdays playoff loss.

Linfield got out to a 14-0 lead Saturday, coming out on its first play with Inns hitting Charlie Poppen on a 41-yard strike that put the ball on the goal line. One play later, Coburn raced around the corner, and the Wildcats would have a lead that they would hold most of the day.

“I was very upset at that point,” Oshkosh coach Pat Cerroni said. “That put us way down, but these guys aren’t going to quit.”

The Titans clawed back into the game, trailing 21-9 midway through the third quarter.

Linfield had a chance to deliver a knockout blow with a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The Wildcats brought their QB to the sideline and sent out their “beef” package — a set that has four running backs lineup in the backfield.

The set had produced a touchdown and a key first down in the first half, but by the third quarter the “new look” wasn’t so new.

“Being from the Midwest we face that type of football all the time, so seeing them come out in that made us happy,” Cerrone said.

The Titans stuffed back-to-back run plays, and a halfback pass on third down was nowhere close.

Denied a touchdown, the Wildcats settled for an 18-yard field goal by Kay.

It was their only points of the second half.

“The longer a game goes against those option-style teams, they seem to be able to wear you down a bit,” Smith said. “We just weren’t able to score — we couldn’t get the ball into the end zone.”

Inns completed 20 of 33 passes for 247 yards with one TD and two interceptions. Deidre Weirsma caught seven balls for 93 yards and Charlie Poppen made six catches for 108 yards. John Shaffer led the ground game with 16 carries for 61 yards.

Kyle Wright led the defense with 12 tackles, while Mike Maierhofer had two quarterback sacks.

UW-OSHKOSH 6 0 3 15 7 — 31

LINFIELD 14 7 3 0 0 — 24

First quarter

LNF — Chad Coburn 1 run (Josh Kay kick), 12:56

LNF — Deirdre Wiersma 7 pass from Mickey Inns (Kay kick), 4:01

OSH — Cole Myhra 29 run (kick failed), 1:08

Second quarter

LNF — Stephen Nasca 8 run (Kay kick), 8:33

Third quarter

OSH — Nate Ray 28 FG, 11:22

LNF — Josh Kay 18 FG, 6:53

Fourth quarter

OSH — Nate Wara 2 run (Ray kick), 14:34

OSH — Wara 1 run (Cory Wipperfurth pass from Wara), 7:43

Overtime

OSH — Caleb Voss 21 pass from Wara (Ray kick)