Cerroni expects Mount Union quarterback to play amid legal matter
The UW-Oshkosh Titans football team has been to the NCAA Division III National Semifinals before. Last season the Titans defeated John Carroll University 10-3 en-route to the Stagg Bowl. Mount Union has made the semifinals, 23 times. In a row.
UW-Oshkosh (12-0) will host Mount Union (13-0) on Saturday, December 9 at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh at 12:05 p.m.
The Mount Union Purple Raiders are 12-time National Champions and are seeking its 20th trip to the national championship. Last season, Mount Union lost 14-12 to eventual champion Mary Hardin-Baylor who defeated UW-Oshkosh in the Stagg Bowl 10-7.
“This is why we play the game. This is why we came here. We’ve been here before so it’s not really unfamiliar in that way but it’s a team we haven’t faced before so we are excited to see what’s in store,” UW-Oshkosh senior running back Dylan Hecker said.
This week the question of whether or not sophomore quarterback D’Angelo Fulford will play against Oshkosh have come up. Fulford did not play last week in Mount Union’s 70-37 win over Frostburg State. Legal troubles have plagued the quarterback of late.
He was arrested in a traffic stop last month and taken into custody when Stark County deputies found out he had an active warrant in Florida for not appearing in juvenile court for an alleged assault case from the summer of 2015, according to Cleveland.com. Fulford was released after agreeing to report to Florida to address the warrant in December after the school semester ends, the Alliance Review reports. But UW-Oshkosh Head Coach Pat Cerroni expects to see Fulford on the field on Saturday.
“He’s going to play,” Cerroni said Tuesday. “No doubt. (Fulford) is going to be in there.”
Sophomore quarterback Luke Poorman started in place of Fulford last Saturday and put up some big numbers. Poorman threw 12 total passes and six of them went for touchdowns. Poorman was 12-16 for 355 yards, 6 TDs and one rushing touchdown.
Fulford, and the Purple Raiders offensive numbers will haunt a defensive coordinator, which for the Titans is Pat Cerrroni.
“They are really good. They’ve got a lot of talent so how do you stop them? You really have got to look at it. No one has. And it ain’t like they are playing teams that aren’t very good. These guys are in the playoffs so they got to do something right but it’s definitely a challenge.”
Fulford has thrown for 48 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions with a completion percentage of 70.3%, the best in the nation and 2,629 yards.
“Coach Cerroni has been telling us all week that we are going to practice for (Fulford) to play. (Fulford) has been their starter most of the season,” UW-Oshkosh defensive back Rajon Hall said. “If we practice for him to play, we will be successful.”
Oshkosh is making its third straight trip to the national semifinals. In order to get to this point the Titans have been dominant. In the first round they beat Lakeland 63-0, then North Central College 42-21 in the second round and Wartburg 41-27 last Saturday.
“This is really the next challenge for us. We’ve talked about it as a team,” Cerroni said. “We’ve pretty much beaten the St. Thomas’, the St. John’s, the North Central’s, the Iowa Conference, Wartburg. Now really there’s Mount Union who we haven’t touched yet. Haven’t had a chance to play them in the playoffs. We’ll we got our wish. They are coming here Saturday. (I’ve) got a tremendous amount of respect for them. Great football team, well coached, great athletes. Just another challenge put in front of us so we’ll see how we respond.”
Oshkosh senior quarterback Brett Kasper was named as a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, which is the Division III equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. For the four year starter it’s just next team up.
“I had the conversation with Coach Cerroni last night just kind of talking about the past games we've been able to play especially at the big stage,” Kasper said. “Playing Whitewater on an annual basis. Playing St. Thomas last year. St. John’s. Mary Hardin-Baylor. So all these big teams that we’ve been able to play. It’s exciting. We are definitely ready to face another good team in Mount Union.”
Ticket prices for Saturday's game are $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens (55 or older) and $6 for students (K-12 & College). Children under the age of 5 will be admitted free. Tickets will be sold from the UW-Oshkosh Athletics Office in Kolf Sports Center on Friday (Dec. 8) from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from J. J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m.
Saturday's semifinal contest will be streamed live on ESPN3. Shawn Kenney will handle the play-by-play and former college and NFL head coach Al Groh will provide color commentary.