December 1, 2012

Oshkosh breaks up a pack of purple

Kevin Burke threw for 380 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 115 yards and three more for Mount Union.
Photo by Dan Poel for d3photography.com 
Ayo Idowu and the St. Thomas defense gave Nick Strang very little time to throw.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com 
Darius Wilson dives into the end zone with the touchdown that put UMHB up for good against Wesley.
Photo by Andrew Zavoina, d3photography.com 

For the third week in a row, UW-Oshkosh fell behind early. This time it took all the way to overtime, but the Titans rallied to defeat Linfield 31-24. And the win kept it from being an all-purple semifinals, as Mount Union, St. Thomas and Mary Hardin-Baylor each won.

UW-Oshkosh blocked two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, including on the final play of regulation when Nathan Smith blocked a 39-yard attempt by Josh Kay. Caleb Voss put the Titans up with a touchdown catch in their half of overtime and Linfield fumbled it away on a reverse on its possession to end the game.

St. Thomas will return to the national semifinals for the second year in a row, while Mount Union will do so for the 18th year in a row as the Tommies defeated Hobart 47-7 and Mount Union rolled past Widener 72-17. Mary Hardin-Baylor solved its Wesley problem in the playoffs as well, defeating the Wolverines 32-20.

In becoming the only road team to win in Round 2 or the quarterfinals, UW-Oshkosh (13-0) held Linfield (11-1) scoreless for the final 21 minutes of the game plus overtime. Gagliardi Trophy finalist Nate Wara's numbers were modest (23 of 30 for 237 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions), but the quarterback ran for two touchdowns, and Cole Myhra rushed for 110 yards and a score.

In Belton, Texas, LiDarral Bailey was 16 of 20 with four touchdown passes and no interceptions, the last coming in the fourth quarter after Wesley had made it a five-point game, leading UMHB (13-0) past its playoff rival and nemesis. The Wolverines (11-2) had ended the Cru's season the past two years in the quarterfinals, but this year, after a 32-25 regular-season win in Delaware, UMHB rallied from a halftime deficit to win the playoff rematch at home. 

Wesley had a field goal blocked in the fourth quarter, which was scooped up and returned all the way to the other end zone and would have put UMHB up 32-17. But the Cru special teams kicked the ball before gaining possession of it and Wesley had a second shot at the field goal, which it hit to cut the lead to 25-20. UMHB answered with a 31-yard kickoff return, then Bailey ran for 30 yards on the next play and later hit Caleb Moore for a 23-yard touchdown pass to put the game out of reach.

That sets up a semifinal clash with No. 1 Mount Union for the No. 2 Cru, who are the only team in the era of Purple Raiders dominance to have a winning record in Alliance, Ohio. UMHB won at Mount Union in 2004 on the way to a Stagg Bowl appearance that year against Linfield. This is UMHB's fourth trip to the semifinals, but first since 2008.

In St. Paul, St. Thomas converted on all four trips to the red zone in the first half and limited Hobart (12-1) to one big play in putting together a 32-7 lead. Dan Ferrazzo caught six passes for 103 yards and ran in two two-point conversions for the Tommies (13-0) and Brenton Braddock had 23 carries for 94 yards and four scores on the ground.

In Alliance, after Widener took up five and a half minutes with a scoring drive to go up 3-0, Mount Union answered with a 64-yard drive in less than 90 seconds to take the lead and never looked back. Tyler Almeida kicked a field goal early in the second quarter, then Kevin Burke ran for a pair of scores and Nick Driskill recovered a blocked punt in the end zone to make it 37-3 at the half. 

Jasper Collins caught six passes for 102 yards and two scores, while Jake Simon ran for two touchdowns on the ground. 

Chris Haupt was 29-for-64 passing for 322 yards and was Widener's leading rusher, with just 11 yards. Mount Union (13-0) held Widener (11-1) to minus-29 yards for the game. Phil Ragona caught a touchdown pass early in the third and Steve Marrero a 36-yard TD late in the third for Widener's other two scores.

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