PLATTEVILLE — A never-say-die attitude paid major dividends for the UW–Platteville football team Saturday afternoon.
The 22nd-ranked Pioneers scored 28 unanswered points to stun 13th-ranked North Central College 35–28 in overtime at Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium in a non-conference battle of Top 25 teams.
UW–Platteville (3–0) trailed 28–7 with less than 12 minutes left in the game, but scored three touchdowns in the final 11:24 of regulation to force OT.
Junior Dillon Villhauer’s (Oxford, Iowa) electric 75-yard punt return with 2:38 left in the fourth quarter pulled the Pioneers within a point. Back-up kicker freshman Michael Pratl (New Lenox, Ill.), who was playing in place of injured Eric Matuszak (Cuba City), booted the game-tying extra point.
UWP senior Andrew Belken (East Dubuque) forced a fumble near midfield with 52 seconds left in regulation, but the Pioneer offense was forced to punt with 27 seconds left in regulation.
Junior quarterback Tom Kelly (Chicago) scored on a 1-yard sneak on the first possession of overtime to give the Pioneers their first lead of the game.
After a two-yard run on North Central’s first play of their overtime possession, UWP sophomore defensive back John Hotchkiss (Matteson, Ill.) broke up back-to-back North Central passes to force fourth down.
On 4th-and-8, sophomore linebacker Marty McGrail (Plainfield, Ill.) batted down Justin Hunniford’s pass to secure the upset and set off a wild celebration on the UW–Platteville sideline.
North Central (1–1) took an early 7–0 lead just 52 seconds into the game when senior Oshayne Brown busted loose for a 62-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage.
UW–Platteville evened the score on junior Dan Arnold’s (Fargo, N.D.) amazing one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone with 12:17 left in the second quarter.
NCC regained the lead midway through the second quarter on a 19-yard touchdown by Brown.
A few plays later North Central sophomore Pat Cravens intercepted a Kelly pass at the Cardinals’ 16-yard line and returned it 59 yards to the Pioneers’ 25, and a personal foul moved the ball to the 13.
Three plays later junior Dylan Warden tossed a 7-yard TD pass to sophomore Ryan Kuhl to make it 21–7 with 4:09 left in the half.
The Cardinals extended their lead to three scores when Austin Breunig broke loose for a 46-yard TD run less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
UW–Platteville’s comeback began with an eight-play, 66-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard TD run by senior Ryan Fish (Madison) with 11:24 left. The Pioneer drive was kept alive on a key roughing the passer penalty on 3rd-and-long at the NCC 34.
The Pioneer defense held on 4th-and-2 at their own 29, when senior linebacker Alex Johnson (Milan, Ill.) dropped Breunig for a five-yard loss.
The UWP offense was again aided by a penalty on the ensuing possession when a late hit on a 3rd-and-31 deep in Pioneer territory gave the home team a new set of downs. Kelly and company took full advantage completing three straight passes to move the ball to the NCC 14-yard-line.
A few plays later, on 4th-and-goal, Kelly again connected with Arnold for a clutch 3-yard touchdown to make it a one score game with 4:11 left to play. Arnold finished the game with 10 catches for 110 yards and two scores.
The Pioneer defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive and Villhauer took the punt all the way to the house for the game-tying touchdown.
The UW–Platteville offense racked up 400 yards of total offense on the day, including 315 through the air. Kelly completed 30 of 56 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. Junior Justin Johnson (Menomonee Falls) led the Pioneers with 70 yards rushing on 18 carries.
Belken and Hotchkiss led the UWP defense with 10 tackles apiece. Belken also recorded two of the team’s five sacks. Johnson was in on nine tackles.
The Pioneers have a bye Saturday, but will return to action Saturday, Oct. 3 when they travel to top ranked UW–Whitewater (2–0) to open WIAC play with the annual George Chryst Bowl. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
A year ago, the Warhawks defeated UWP 17–7 in Platteville. The Pioneers have lost the last 10 meetings with UW–Whitewater. Their last win was a 7–6 victory in 2004.
UW–Platteville 35, North Central 28, OT
(from Saturday, Sept. 19 @ Platteville)
North Central 7 14 0 7 0 — 28
UW–Platteville 0 7 0 21 7 — 35
NC: Brown 62 run (Zavagila kick)
P: Dan Arnold 16 pass from Tom Kelly (Michael Pratl kick)
NC: Brown 19 run (Zavagila kick)
NC: Kuhl 7 pass from Warden (Zavagila kick)
NC: Breunig 46 run (Zavagila kick)
P: Ryan Fish 1 run (Pratl kick)
P: Arnold 7 pass from Kelly (Pratl kick)
P: Dillon Villhauer 75 punt return (Pratl kick)
P: Kelly 1 run (Pratl kick)
First downs — NC 18, P 27. Rushing — NC 45-230, P 35-85. Passing Yards — NC 134, P 315. Passing — NC 12-22-0, P 30-56-2. Fumbles–lost — NC 1-1, P 0-0. Penalties — NC 8-81, P 6-69.
Rushing — NC: Brown 15-133; P: Justin Johnson 18-70. Passing — NC: Hunniford 9-14-0, 112; P: Tom Kelly 30-56-2, 315. Receiving — NC: Gray 3-65, Kuhl 3-31; P: Dan Arnold 10-110, Quinn Buschbacher 8-73.