/notables/2012/12/mount-union-wins-11th-national-title

Mount Union seniors get their championship

More news about: Mount Union | St. Thomas
Mount Union ended a three-year drought in Salem, defeating St. Thomas 28-10 for the national title.
Photo by Dan Poel, d3photography.com 

By Ryan Tipps
D3sports.com

SALEM -- This class of Mount Union seniors got themselves one kind of first and avoided another kind.

With the specter of being the only Purple Raiders football team in two decades to go four years without a national championship, the senior-laden squad battled its way to the Walnut and Bronze with a 28-10 win over St. Thomas.

Near the end of the fourth quarter, the mood of the stadium changed and the team knew – they knew they finally achieved that elusive goal. After St. Thomas’ final drive, All-American defensive back Nick Driskill stood on the 40-yard line, facing the Mount fans, and pointed to the sky.

Mount Union’s Stagg Bowl XL performance brought them all the way to the top.

“It’s very heartwarming” to be in this position, coach Larry Kehres said to a crowd of fans and players as the team accepted the championship trophy.

The national title was the 11th for the Purple Raiders in 16 trips to Salem.

It was also the first time in eight years that the Division III national championship didn’t feature Mount Union against UW-Whitewater. The Purple Raiders may not have had the chance to avenge their three straight losses against the Warhawks, but that in no way diminished the fulfillment that this team feels.

The spark was lit in the first drive, when Mount Union traveled 82 yards down the field, helped by a 41-yard reception by All-America wideout Junior Collins and capped by a 1-yard run by Jake Simon. But the Purple Raiders’ offensive momentum stalled for a large chunk of the game – though the scoreboard wasn't stagnant.

Late in the first quarter, defensive lineman-turned-linebacker Charles Dieuseul blocked a punt, picked up the loose ball and found the end zone, lifting Mount Union to a 14-0 lead from which it would never need to look back.  It marked the third playoff game in a row in which a blocked punt led to a Mount Union touchdown.

“I was going to score regardless, if I had to drag 20 people in there, I was going to get into the end zone,” Dieuseul said.

He said that practicing punt blocking was part of the team’s routine, and Kehres noted that he’s never hesitated from using his best players on the field in that aspect of the game.

“We practice special teams daily, more minutes probably than a lot of other teams. And we get the dividend of that,” Kehres said. “We’re not afraid to take risks.”

Though Mount Union owned the first quarter, in many ways, St. Thomas commanded the second and third quarters, but often couldn’t convert their spurts of momentum into points. A pivotal point in the game was in the middle of the third, when a flubbed Mount Union punt was recovered by the Tommies. But the Purple Raiders held the Tommies and forced them into kicking a 38-yard field goal. That closed the gap on the scoreboard to four points, injecting new drama into Salem Stadium.

Mount Union responded in the way that Mount Union often does, with forceful conviction. Twice then, the team strung together drives of more than 80 yards and further solidified their lead and the security of a victory.

“We had some flashes of excellence that showed up at times and that pulled us through,” Kehres said. “Our defense was consistent throughout.” (continues below)

“When they got us on our heels,” Tommies coach Glenn Caruso said, “they were able to bring pressure and get home. There were times when we had a decent answer to it, and we moved the ball a little bit. But there were more times that we did not have a good enough answer to it.”

Kehres lauded St. Thomas’ defense and special teams, along with some of the twists they threw in.

“It was a tough game,” Kehres said. “We had our up moments and our down moments. The pressure defense from St. Thomas does that.”

Before Friday night, Mount averaged 62 points a game over the first four playoff tilts. Instead on Friday, they were held to less than half that. The Purple Raiders, which throughout the season averaged 557.71 yards per game, was held to 344 yards.

In their toughest moments, sophomore quarterback Kevin Burke said he and his teammates “kind of buckled down, looked at where they were, and kind of realized this is it.”

“That hits you hard, and you have to step up at that point,” said Burke, who with 222 passing yards was named the Stagg Bowl’s Most Outstanding Player. “We’re not a perfect team by any means, but we got the job done.”

Chris Denton, an All-America wide receiver for Mount, said he and his teammates went in with the intent of always setting its own pace.  Opponents “like to change the game on us,” he said. Mount’s reply is not letting them do so.

Denton hauled in his team’s third-quarter touchdown, a 17-yard strike that might very well have swung the momentum back to Mount after several minutes of pressure from the Tommies. It was fourth down and five yards to go, and Mount could have settled for a field goal. Instead, the Purple Raiders showed what being a championship team is all about.

Experience has helped make this team so good. Only one starter on the offense isn’t a senior, and seven starting defenders are seniors. Collins had some of the game’s biggest receptions and notched his sixth-straight 100-yard game. Running back Jake Simon had 87 yards and two touchdowns. The front five opened some big holes. Strong safety Nick Driskill and cornerback Isaiah Scott made plays.  

Because of what these players meant to him, the effort to bring home a title for the first time since 2008 had a renewed sense of urgency for Kehres.  

He said while it would have been easy for this senior class to get down on itself or angry, this team showed great resolve amid its past three season-ending losses.

“It was a difficult three years, to see the seniors experience loss in the final game I felt for them,” Kehres said. But “this group inspired me. … They were such a dedicated group.”

What do the seniors have to say about it?

Dieuseul answered: “It’s the greatest feeling in the world. We worked all summer long … and all the work we did in offseason ball at 5 o’clock in the morning, 6 a.m. lifting, practices in the snow, it paid off tonight.”

Burke, the only non-senior among the offensive starters, will help carry the momentum and drive into next year. The quarterback who is as dangerous on his feet as he is with his arm offered his secret:

“We just played Mount Union football.”

Oct. 14: All times Eastern
Final
Salve Regina 45, at Nichols 10
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Mount Ida 14, at Dean 7
Box Score
Final
at Thomas More 59, Waynesburg 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Maine Maritime 34, Coast Guard 16
Video Box Score
Final
at Finlandia 27, Trinity Bible 21
Video Box Score
Final
Hamilton 28, at Bowdoin 7
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Olivet 47, Albion 26
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wesleyan 41, Bates 23
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Union 27, at Rochester 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Amherst 40, at Colby 7
Video Box Score
Final
at Western New England 41, Endicott 14
Video Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final - OT
at Plymouth State 16, Framingham State 13
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at RPI 27, Ithaca 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Hobart 49, at Hartwick 27
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Ferrum 34, LaGrange 20
Video Box Score
Final
at Carnegie Mellon 42, Geneva 27
Video Box Score
Final
Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
Video Box Score Recap
Final
DePauw 26, at Denison 17
Video Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Trine 42, Kalamazoo 7
Video Box Score
Final
at Washington and Lee 47, Guilford 26
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Husson 49, Castleton 0
Box Score Recap
Final
Gallaudet 35, at Alfred State 19
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
Video Box Score
Final
Brevard 41, at Methodist 17
Video Box Score
Final
at Lebanon Valley 31, Stevenson 24
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Buffalo State 24, at St. Lawrence 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final - OT
at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
Box Score Recap Live stats
Final
at Randolph-Macon 52, Emory and Henry 29
Video Box Score
Final
at Wesley 29, Kean 9
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 58, Apprentice 28
Video Box Score
Final
Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at N.C. Wesleyan 45, Greensboro 0
Video Box Score
Final
at Westminster (Pa.) 49, Grove City 27
Video Box Score
Final
Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
Video Box Score
Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 56, Crown 15
Video Box Score
Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 29, Iowa Wesleyan 7
Video
Final
at Knox 56, Grinnell 14
Video
Final
at Widener 31, Lycoming 17
Video Box Score
Final
Trinity (Conn.) 23, at Tufts 16
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount St. Joseph 66, Earlham 7
Video Box Score
Final - 2OT
Ohio Northern 27, at John Carroll 20
Preview Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Baldwin Wallace 23, at Muskingum 20
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Rose-Hulman 44, at Manchester 13
Video Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Hanover 31, Bluffton 28
Video Video Box Score
Final
Defiance 45, at Anderson 0
Video Box Score
Final
at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
Video Box Score
Final
Hiram 62, at Kenyon 56
Video Box Score
Final
Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Williams 27, at Middlebury 26
Video Box Score
Final
at Westfield State 33, Fitchburg State 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Marietta 43, at Wilmington 33
Video Box Score
Final
at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Curry 40, at Becker 0
Video Box Score
Final
TCNJ 20, at Rowan 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at SUNY-Maritime 51, Anna Maria 15
Video Box Score
Final
Salisbury 28, at Montclair State 10
Video Box Score
Final
at Huntingdon 28, Maryville (Tenn.) 16
Video Box Score
Final
at Austin 33, Millsaps 19
Video Box Score
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Washington U. 55, Buena Vista 20
Video Video Box Score Recap
Final
Alma 27, at Aurora 19
Video Box Score
Final
at Rockford 29, Concordia-Chicago 14
Video Box Score
Final
Wisconsin Lutheran 22, at Concordia (Wis.) 19
Video Box Score
Final
at Lakeland 57, Benedictine 21
Video Box Score
Final
at St. Norbert 10, Chicago 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
St. Olaf 22, at Augsburg 20
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Bethel 24, at Gustavus Adolphus 3
Video Box Score
Final
St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
Video Box Score
Final
at Eureka 30, Greenville 19
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Centre 27, at Trinity (Texas) 21
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Dubuque 42, at Nebraska Wesleyan 27
Video Box Score
Final
Central 30, at Coe 19
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Lake Forest 56, at Cornell 28
Video Box Score
Final
at Carthage 31, Elmhurst 8
Video Box Score
Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
Video Box Score
Final
Millikin 28, at Augustana 27
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Ripon 52, at Beloit 28
Video Box Score
Final
MacMurray 49, at Minnesota-Morris 13
Video
Final
Macalester 21, at Lawrence 18
Video Box Score
Final
at Monmouth 59, Illinois College 14
Video Box Score
Final
at UW-Stevens Point 26, UW-Eau Claire 3
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wooster 38, Oberlin 28
Video Box Score
Final
Texas Lutheran 41, at East Texas Baptist 34
Video Box Score
Final
at UW-Stout 21, UW-River Falls 16
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Sewanee 34, at Birmingham-Southern 13
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Hope 22, Adrian 3
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
Video Box Score
Cancelled
La Verne at Occidental
Video Live stats Audio
Final
Whitworth 17, at Pacific Lutheran 14
Video Box Score Photos Photos
Final
at Cal Lutheran 42, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 20
Video Box Score
Final
at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
Video Video Box Score
Final
at Pacific 35, Puget Sound 27
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Pomona-Pitzer 45, at Whittier 23
Video Box Score
Final
at Western Connecticut 28, Massachusetts Maritime 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Scholastica 56, Martin Luther 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final - 5OT
at St. John Fisher 39, Utica 36
Video Recap Live stats Audio
Final - OT
at Heidelberg 48, Otterbein 45
Video Preview Box Score Recap Audio Tickets
Final
at Shenandoah 38, Bridgewater 20
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Southwestern 60, at Belhaven 31
Video Video Box Score
Final
Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
Box Score
Final
at Louisiana College 52, McMurry 34
Box Score
Final
at Simpson 38, Luther 17
Video Box Score
Final
at Chapman 45, Redlands 26
Video Video Box Score Recap Recap
Oct. 16: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
Box Score Recap
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
Video Video Live stats Live stats
Oct. 14: All times Eastern
Final
at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final - OT
at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
Box Score Recap Live stats
Final
at Wesley 29, Kean 9
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
Video Box Score
Final
at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
Recap Box Score Video
Final
Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
Video Box Score
Final
Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
Video Box Score
Final
at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
Video Box Score
Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
Video Box Score
Final
Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
Video Box Score
Final
at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
Video Video Box Score
Final
Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
Box Score
Oct. 16: All times Eastern
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
Box Score Recap
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
Video Video Live stats Live stats