/playoffs/2013/rare-ohio-showdown-wittenberg-mount-union

The rare Ohio showdown

More news about: Mount Union | Wittenberg
Spencer Leno considered purple, but ended up in red.
Wittenberg athletics photo

By Brian Lester
D3sports.com

When Spencer Leno was looking at his options to play college football, Mount Union was on his list of potential places to continue his athletic career.

"Mount Union was in my top three," Leno said. "I didn't grow up too far from Alliance and knew a lot about the school. I definitely considered going there."

But decisions are not made quickly by an athlete, and after a visit to Wittenberg, Leno knew the school was the right fit for him.

"I went on a couple visits and just fell in love with the place," said Leno, a star linebacker for the Tigers. "I liked the team and the coaching staff and they were looking for linebackers. It felt like a good fit.

Reed Florence is the starting quarterback for the Tigers and he said he never considered Mount Union. A couple of Division II schools did offer him an opportunity to be a preferred walk-on, but he chose to play for Wittenberg instead.

Still, even though the Purple Raiders weren't on his radar, everyone in Division III is aware of the reputation Mount Union has in the small-college football world.

"They have a great football program. They have great playmakers on both sides of the ball and they have a great tradition.

But the stories of what might have been are irrelevant at this point. Leno and Florence have become standout players at Wittenberg and have the No. 12 Tigers poised for a run at the national championship.

But if that run is to continue, No. 12 Wittenberg will have to get past No. 1 Mount Union on Saturday afternoon in a matchup of the two winningest programs in NCAA Division III history.

Although Mount Union has won 26 consecutive games and is the defending national champion, first-year head coach Vince Kehres does not expect anything to come easy against the Tigers.

The winner moves one step closer to Salem and a shot at a championship. The other will begin making plans for the offseason and the 2014 campaign.

"Wittenberg is a very successful, veteran team with talented players," Kehres said. "They can do a lot of different things very well. We will have to play well to be successful."

What is interesting about Mount Union and Wittenberg is that despite combining for more than 1,450 wins --- the Purple Raiders have 725 wins and the Tigers have 727 --- and despite being two of the most dominant teams in the state, the programs have only faced each other 28 times.

Wittenberg leads the series 18-10 but Mount Union has won seven of the last eight, including the 2001 NCAA quarterfinal battle by a score of 49-21 in Alliance.

No one would commit to a reason why the former Ohio Athletic Conference foes haven't met more regularly during the season: Wittenberg played Division I FCS non-scholarship Butler as its only non-conference opponent this season, while Mount Union played Franklin. One thing is for sure, the Tigers aren't going to allow themselves to be intimidated by the challenge and lose the game mentally before they even step on the field physically.

"Obviously, Mount Union is a very well-respected program and they have had a lot of success. It's going to take a great effort on our part to win it. But we are going to prepare the same way we have all year. It's not bigger than any other game. We have to go out with the mindset that we will be successful."

Florence echoed those thoughts.

"We aren't going to change much at this point," Florence said. "We will play the game the same way we have played it all year. We are treating this like any other game. Mount Union is a great team, the best in Division III, but we have to be ready to play our best and believe in each other."

Spencer Wilkinson caught three touchdown passes for Mount Union in the playoff opener vs. Washington and Jefferson.
Photo by Dan Poel for d3photography.com

Belief can be tough to generate when one thinks about the challenges Mount Union presents. The 11-time national champions and winners of 22 consecutive OAC championships feature an explosive offense and a defense that can be downright unforgiving at times.

Kevin Burke has thrown for 2,745 yards and 35 touchdowns while only getting picked off six times. Bradly Mitchell has rushed for 949 yards and six scores and Jack Nicholls has made 59 catches for 903 yards and nine touchdowns. Four other receivers have caught at least five touchdown passes, including Luc Meacham, who has made 10 touchdown grabs. Sherman Wilkinson had a breakout game for the Purple Raiders last week, adding a deep threat that Mount Union has not had as much this season.

The Purple Raiders are averaging 539 yards per game and the defense is giving up 232.7 yards per game. Tom Lally leads the defense with 64 tackles and nine sacks.

Alex Kocheff has racked up 63 tackles and four sacks. He has also recovered four fumbles.

In their playoff opener, the Purple Raiders (11-0) took down Washington & Jefferson 34-20. Kehres was pleased with the effort.

"On offense, I thought we he hit some big plays early to get off to a good start, then later when the weather turned, we were able to run the ball effectively to control the clock," Kehres said.  "On defense, we were able to limit them from running the football.”

Wittenberg has quite a bit of momentum heading into this game. The Tigers have rattled off 10 consecutive wins after a season-opening loss to Butler, their latest victory a 59-17 drubbing of Lebanon Valley where the Tigers scored on nine of 10 possessions en route to the convincing win.

Leno said the success of the Tigers (10-1) is a credit to the work of the team in the offseason, particularly the seniors.

Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
Video Video Box Score Recap
Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 29, Westfield State 14
Video Box Score
Final
Moravian 20, at Juniata 17
Video Box Score
Final
at Salve Regina 41, Endicott 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Thomas More 63, St. Vincent 13
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Union 28, Hobart 23
Video
Final
at Hamilton 27, Colby 24
Video Box Score
Final
at Christopher Newport 27, William Paterson 19
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 35, St. John Fisher 10
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Allegheny 44, Kenyon 35
Video Box Score
Final
SUNY-Maritime 21, at Mount Ida 13
Video Box Score
Final
Middlebury 43, at Bates 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
Video Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Amherst 21, Wesleyan 17
Video Box Score
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 63, Bowdoin 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Husson 48, at Gallaudet 21
Box Score
Final
Wabash 35, at Oberlin 21
Video Box Score
Final
at Utica 34, Buffalo State 12
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Ohio Northern 7, at Muskingum 6
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 26, Albright 23
Video Box Score
Final
Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
Video Video Box Score
Final
at Albion 31, Alma 28
Video Box Score
Final
at Guilford 45, Shenandoah 20
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Plymouth State 40, at Massachusetts Maritime 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Wooster 58, at Hiram 25
Video Box Score
Final
Washington and Lee 36, at Hampden-Sydney 6
Video Box Score
Final
at Anna Maria 36, Alfred State 34
Box Score
Final
Bridgewater 31, at Emory and Henry 23
Video Box Score
Final
at FDU-Florham 49, Wilkes 31
Video Box Score
Final
Lebanon Valley 17, at Misericordia 0
Video
Final
at St. Lawrence 36, Rochester 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
RPI 30, at Alfred 15
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Curry 46, Nichols 16
Video Box Score
Final
at Salisbury 42, Southern Virginia 0
Video Box Score
Final
Ferrum 27, at Brevard 24
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Randolph-Macon 63, at Apprentice 14
Box Score
Final
at Susquehanna 21, Ursinus 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Cortland 34, at Morrisville State 20
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Trine 50, Hope 14
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Trinity (Texas) 27, at Sewanee 21
Video Box Score
Final
Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
Video Box Score
Final
at Franklin and Marshall 56, Dickinson 0
Video Video Box Score
Final
Tufts 21, at Williams 13
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
Video Box Score
Final
MIT 30, at Coast Guard 21
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Norwich 24, Maine Maritime 22
Video Box Score
Final
at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Franklin 29, at Rose-Hulman 22
Video Video Box Score Photos
Final
John Carroll 48, at Capital 21
Video Box Score
Final
at Manchester 28, Bluffton 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Mount St. Joseph 71, at Anderson 27
Video Box Score
Final
UW-Whitewater 20, at UW-River Falls 7
Video
Final
Kean 26, at TCNJ 3
Video Box Score
Final
at LaGrange 59, Greensboro 10
Video Box Score
Final
at Worcester State 45, Mass-Dartmouth 40
Video Box Score
Final
Muhlenberg 40, at McDaniel 13
Recap Video Box Score
Final
Western New England 45, at Becker 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Maryville (Tenn.) 35, Methodist 14
Video Box Score
Final
Adrian 36, at Kalamazoo 22
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Denison 31, at Ohio Wesleyan 20
Video Box Score Photos
Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
Video Box Score Live stats Audio Audio
Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Benedictine 43, Olivet 37
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Birmingham-Southern 31, at Austin 24
Video Box Score
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Stout 23, UW-Stevens Point 17
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Eureka 37, at MacMurray 20
Video Box Score
Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
Video Box Score
Final
Nebraska Wesleyan 14, at Buena Vista 13
Video Box Score
Final
Lakeland 48, at Wisconsin Lutheran 0
Video Box Score
Final
at Aurora 28, Rockford 21
Video Box Score
Final
at Concordia-Chicago 37, Concordia (Wis.) 17
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Olaf 29, Carleton 26
Video
Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
Video Box Score
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
Video Box Score Photos
Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Westminster (Mo.) 24, at Greenville 14
Video Box Score
Final
at Loras 44, Coe 38
Video Box Score
Final
Monmouth 61, at Cornell 10
Video
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 56, at North Park 0
Box Score Recap
Final
Northwestern (Minn.) 30, at Martin Luther 14
Video Box Score
Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
Box Score Photos
Final
at Lake Forest 70, Grinnell 6
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Millikin 56, Carroll 35
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Macalester 47, Ripon 31
Video Box Score
Final
at St. Norbert 38, Lawrence 6
Video Box Score Recap
Final
St. Scholastica 49, at Crown 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Iowa Wesleyan 24, Minnesota-Morris 17
Box Score
Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at WPI 41, Merchant Marine 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Centre 42, Rhodes 35
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Hanover 49, at Earlham 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Chicago 55, Beloit 12
Box Score Photos
Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
Video Box Score Recap
Final - OT
at Dubuque 28, Simpson 27
Video Box Score Live stats Audio
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at East Texas Baptist 68, Louisiana College 35
Box Score Recap
Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Western Connecticut 27, at Bridgewater State 20
Box Score Recap
Final
Chapman 38, at La Verne 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Pacific 17, at Lewis and Clark 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Pacific Lutheran 27, at Willamette 14
Video Box Score
Final
at Whitworth 38, Puget Sound 23
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Redlands 42, at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 25
Video Box Score
Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
Video Box Score
Final
Sul Ross State 52, at Howard Payne 15
Video
Final
at Castleton 17, Dean 14
Video Box Score
Final
N.C. Wesleyan 21, at Averett 15
Video Box Score
Final
at Otterbein 37, Baldwin Wallace 29
Box Score
Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
Video Box Score
Final
Carnegie Mellon 42, at Thiel 10
Video Box Score
Final
at Illinois College 23, Knox 13
Video Box Score
Final
at Cal Lutheran 60, Whittier 34
Video Box Score
Cancelled
Occidental at Pomona-Pitzer
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
Video Video Box Score Recap
Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
Video Video Box Score
Final
at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
Video Video Box Score Recap
Final
Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
Video Box Score
Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
Video Box Score
Final
at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
Video Box Score Live stats Audio Audio
Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
Box Score Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
Video Box Score
Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
Video Box Score
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
Video Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
Video Box Score
Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
Video Box Score