MENOMONIE — It was all Blue Devils in the second half, but when things got tight, Oshkosh turned to its freshman quarterback Kobe Berghammer to put the game away.
The Cumberland grad showed the poise of a veteran quarterback, reading the UW-Stout defense to pick up clutch first downs as the clock ticked down. Finally, the Blue Devils made a stop on fourth-and-one, but with less than a minute to go in the game, Stout couldn’t muster a comeback, falling 26-23 in the WIAC opener on Saturday afternoon in Menomonie.
“Whenever you face a quarterback who can run, that’s a dual threat, it’s scary,” Stout coach Clayt Birmingham said. “He’s going to be good in this league. He’s only a freshman, so we’ve got three more years of headaches from him.”
Three times, Berghammer picked up clutch first downs late in the fourth. First, he read an attacking Stout defender and pitched the ball to Alec Elkin to convert a third-and-five. Three plays later, he pitched it to a sweeping Jimmy DuVal for a 20-yard gain on third-and-three. Then, on fourth-and-one, he took it himself, shooting through the middle of the line for four yards.
“He’s just a hell of an athlete,” Oshkosh coach Pat Cerroni said. “He’s a coach’s son; he has great football awareness.”
On fourth-and-one from the Stout 12, Oshkosh opted to go for it with under a minute. The Titans lined up with Berghammer under center and three backs, but they couldn’t convert on a Berghammer rollout.
“We’ve had three kicks blocked this year and two returned for touchdowns,” Cerroni said, “and we’re the worst team in the league on fourth-and-shorts, so it’s a 50-50 decision.”
It opened the door for a Blue Devils comeback with 53 seconds remaining in the game. But an eight-yard sack just about ended any hope for a miracle.
Despite the loss, Birmingham said he was proud of the way his team played.
The Blue Devils rallied out of a 23-7 hole in the second quarter with 16 unanswered points.
“We didn’t roll over,” Birmingham said. “I told these guys after the game that we showed a lot of poise and made some good halftime adjustments and battled back.”
Levy Hamer put the Blue Devils on the board in the second quarter, blowing past an Oshkosh defender and pulling in a beautiful 34-yard strike by pinning the ball against his shoulder.
“I was just thinking catch the ball, we need this touchdown,” Hamer said. “Luckily Sean (Borgerding) just threw it up, he saw one-on-one coverage and he just believed in me.”
Hamer finished with a game-high 88 yards on four receptions.
“He’s explosive,” Birmingham said. “He knows how to setup D-backs and get himself open.”
Late in the second quarter, Berghammer lofted a high pass toward the end zone for a leaping Nick Arguedas, who pulled down the ball over two Blue Devils defenders to set the Titans up at the 1-yard line. A play later, Berghammer did it himself, punching in the score with 33 seconds left in the quarter.
With just one timeout remaining, the Blue Devils marched down the field in six plays and converted a 28-yard field goal as time expired in the half.
The Blue Devils came out of half reinvigorated.
“We brought more intensity than they did,” Hamer said.
The Blue Devils went back to the basics, according to Birmingham, and it worked.
Stout took its first drive of the third quarter 67 yards down the field with Borgerding scoring on a quarterback keeper from nine yards out.
The Blue Devils defense clamped down in the third, forcing consecutive punts from Oshkosh and allowing Alec Benzinger to hit a pair of 30-plus yard field goals to tie up the game.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the defense couldn’t get off the field in the fourth quarter, allowing Oshkosh to hit a go-ahead 42-yard field goal with 2:19 remaining in the game.
A 1-3 start has not been what the Blue Devils were hoping for this year, but they’ll return to action on Saturday when they head to La Crosse to take on the 2-2 Eagles at 1 p.m.
UW-Oshkosh 26, UW-Stout 23
UW-O 7 16 0 3 — 26
UW-S 0 10 10 3 — 23
O: Riley Kallas 14 pass from Kobe Berghammer (Jaydon Haag kick), 6:31.
O: Jaydon Hagg 33 kick, 14:10.
O: Ryan Hayes 28 pass from Peter MacCudden (kick failed), 8:51.
S: Levy Hamer 34 pass from Sean Borgerding (Alec Benzinger kick), 7:44.
O: Berghammer 1 run (Haag kick), :33.
S: Benzinger kick, 0:00.
S: Borgerding 9 run (Benzinger kick), 8:17.
S: Benzinger 35 kick, 2:39.
S: Benzinger 32 kick, 11:18.
O: Haag 42 kick, 8:49.
Team & Individual Statistics
RUSHING (att-yds): UW-Oshkosh (46-174): Berghammer 17-45, Riley Kallas 3-32, Chris Hess 9-32, Peter MacCudden 9-31, Jimmy DuVal 2-24. UW-Stout (32-87): Borgerding 13-41, Aquieth Bradshaw 8-31, Josh Nitek 10-13.
PASSING (comp-att-int-yds): UW-Oshkosh (17-32-0-204): Berghammer 15-30-0-155, MacCudden 1-1-0-28, Haag 1-1-0-21. UW-Stout (11-29-0-207): Borgerding 11-29-0-207.
RECEIVING (rec-yds): UW-Oshkosh: Kallas 3-33, MacCudden 2-32, Mitchell Gerend 2-30, Ryan Hayes 1-28, Justin Kasuboski 2-21, Tyler Staerkel 1-21. UW-Stout: Hamer 4-88, Kevion McDonald 5-62, Parker Fossum 2-32, Tyler Seymour 1-20.