OSHKOSH — Senior kicker Zach Litchfield booted a 37-yard field goal with two seconds left on the clock to give the Pioneer football team its ninth win of the season, 17–16 over UW–Oshkosh on Saturday.
Sunday the Pioneers (9–1, 6–1 WIAC) received one of the five at-large bids to the 2013 NCAA Division III Football Championships.
Platteville will host Concordia (Wis.) on Saturday, at noon in Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium.
The Pioneers will be playing in the NCAA playoffs for the first time in school history. Platteville last made the postseason in 1970 as a member of the NAIA.
Concordia (8–2) earned the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference’s automatic bid after winning the league outright with an undefeated 6–0 record.
After forcing a Titan punt, the Pioneers got the ball back with just less than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win.
Platteville marched down to the Titans’ 20 yard line with just two seconds left to set up Litchfield’s heroic finish.
With his two passing touchdowns in the game, senior quarterback John Kelly has tallied 31 on the year, surpassing Chris Charnish’s university record of 29 passing touchdowns in the 1969 season.
The Pioneers and the Titans played neck-and-neck in the first quarter, as the teams traded punts before Oshkosh’s Beau Steffens picked off a pass from Kelly.
The Titans got on the board first on the strength of a 13-play drive following the turnover, scoring on a 2-yard plunge from Cole Myhra. Oshkosh missed the extra point however, and the score remained 6–0.
The Pioneers took the lead later in the second quarter after Kelly moved the ball down the field, helped by 22 and 23-yard catches from senior wide receiver Ryley Bailey.
Platteville scored the go-ahead touchdown as Kelly found Bailey in the end zone from 10 yards out, giving the Pioneers a 7–6 lead.
Oshkosh tacked on a field goal as time expired in the half to hold a 9–7 lead going into the break.
Junior Pioneer linebacker Alex Schleis started the second half off with a bang, as he forced a fumble to halt a Titan drive on their first possession of the third quarter.
After a Pioneer punt, the Titans scored a touchdown on a 12-play drive capped by a 2-yard run by Myhra to extend the lead to 16–7.
Platteville answered with a drive deep into Titan territory that ended in an interception at the three yard line. The Pioneer defense held, forcing a Titan punt.
Kelly and the offense again moved the ball down the field through the air, driving to the Oshkosh 5-yard line before Kelly was picked off in the end zone.
The defense again forced a Titan punt, and the offense avoided any key mistakes en routeto a 23-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to junior receiver Trevor Whitehead to make it 16–14, which set up the dramatic finish.
Whitehead finished the day with 14 catches and 131 yards and the score, while Kelly went 30 of 45 with 340 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Tickets for Saturdays first-round match-up between the UW–Platteville and Concordia are currently available at the UW–Platteville Athletic office (608 342-1567). Adult tickets are $10, seniors (62 and older) are $8 and students/children (17 and under) are $4 a piece.
UW–Platteville 17, UW–Oshkosh 16
(from Saturday, Nov. 16 @ Oshkosh)
UW–Platteville. 0 7 0 10 — 17
UW–Oshkosh 0 9 7 0 — 16
O: Myhra 2 run (kick failed)
P: Ryley Bailey 10 pass from John Kelly (Zach Litchfield kick)
O: FG Ray 22
O: Myhra 2 run (Ray kick)
P: Trevor Whitehead 23 pass from Kelly (Litchfield kick)
P: FG Litchfield 37
First downs — P 21, O 24. Rushing — P 21-75, O 57-272. Passing Yards — P 340, O 115. Passing — P 30-46-3, O 13-20-0. Fumbles–lost — P 0-0, O 1-1. Penalties — P 2-15, O 2-12.
Rushing — P: John Kelly 10-36, Andy Puccini 7-36. Passing — P: Kelly 30-45-3, 340; O: Olla 13-1-0, 115. Receiving — P: Trevor Whitehead 14-131, O: Wipperfurth 2-35.