November 27, 2013

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.

comments powered by Disqus
Oct. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 37, Gettysburg 14
Box Score Recap
Oct. 25: All times Eastern
Final
Hobart 35, at RPI 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Massachusetts Maritime 46, at Mass-Dartmouth 41
Box Score Recap
Final
Maine Maritime 62, at Nichols 43
Box Score
Final
at Alfred 14, Frostburg State 3
Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 32, Salisbury 7
Box Score
Final
Framingham State 38, at Plymouth State 0
Box Score
Final
Morrisville State 47, at Southern Virginia 23
Box Score
Final
at Wesleyan 35, Bowdoin 0
Box Score
Final
Middlebury 27, at Trinity (Conn.) 7
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 61, at Alfred State 0
Box Score Photos
Final - OT
at Bates 34, Colby 28
Box Score
Final
at Amherst 30, Tufts 3
Box Score
Final
Wesley 75, at Virginia-Lynchburg 12
Box Score
Final
Husson 47, at Castleton State 26
Box Score Recap
Final
Williams 21, at Hamilton 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 57, FDU-Florham 0
Box Score
Final
DePauw 59, at Allegheny 7
Box Score
Final
at Franklin and Marshall 42, Moravian 12
Box Score
Final
at Olivet 30, Kalamazoo 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Trine 51, Albion 45
Box Score
Final
Mount Ida 10, at Gallaudet 6
Box Score Recap
Final
Cortland State 21, at Kean 14
Box Score
Final
Wisconsin Lutheran 17, at Adrian 7
Box Score
Final
Hampden-Sydney 45, at Shenandoah 27
Box Score Photos
Final
at Emory and Henry 62, Catholic 28
Box Score
Final
Hope 33, at Alma 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Vincent 38, Carnegie Mellon 31
Box Score
Final
Dickinson 33, at McDaniel 28
Box Score
Final
Guilford 28, at Randolph-Macon 6
Box Score Recap
Final - OT
Methodist 42, at N.C. Wesleyan 39
Box Score
Final
at Ursinus 44, Susquehanna 14
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 49, Kenyon 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at Montclair State 20, Rowan 16
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at St. Lawrence 21, Springfield 7
Box Score
Final
at Delaware Valley 41, Misericordia 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wabash 70, Oberlin 10
Box Score
Final
Hiram 35, at Ohio Wesleyan 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at Lebanon Valley 46, Wilkes 0
Final
at Muhlenberg 42, Juniata 13
Box Score Recap
Final - OT
at Albright 24, King's 17
Final
William Paterson 21, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Millsaps 38, Sewanee 20
Box Score
Final
Endicott 14, at Coast Guard 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 74, Wilmington 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at John Carroll 71, Capital 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 41, Rose-Hulman 21
Box Score Photos
Final
at Thomas More 64, Grove City 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Widener 34, at Lycoming 17
Final
at Heidelberg 40, Marietta 20
Box Score
Final
at Union 16, Rochester 14
Box Score
Final
at Mount St. Joseph 63, Anderson 14
Box Score
Final
at Bluffton 24, Manchester 16
Box Score
Final
Otterbein 20, at Baldwin Wallace 9
Box Score
Final
Utica 31, at Buffalo State 21
Box Score Recap
Final
Brockport State 17, at Hartwick 12
Box Score Box Score
Final
at SUNY-Maritime 13, Becker 6
Box Score
Final
at Bridgewater (Va.) 24, Washington and Lee 13
Box Score
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Case Western Reserve 24
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Bridgewater State 27, at Westfield State 23
Box Score
Final
at Hendrix 38, Austin 28
Box Score
Final
at Benedictine 44, Concordia-Chicago 11
Box Score
Final
LaGrange 24, at Huntingdon 17
Box Score
Final
at Lakeland 14, Aurora 0
Final
at Birmingham-Southern 23, Berry 17
Box Score
Final
at Concordia (Wis.) 42, Rockford 14
Box Score
Final
at UW-River Falls 20, UW-Eau Claire 10
Box Score
Final
at St. John's 52, Carleton 3
Box Score
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Hamline 7
Box Score
Final
Augsburg 38, at St. Olaf 20
Box Score
Final
at Illinois College 49, Lake Forest 6
Box Score
Final
Loras 27, at Simpson 24
Box Score
Final
Buena Vista 44, at Dubuque 39
Final
at St. Norbert 29, Beloit 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Carroll 48, at Ripon 14
Final
at Macalester 33, Lawrence 0
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 72, at Texas Lutheran 16
Box Score Recap
Final
Augustana 31, at Carthage 26
Final
Elmhurst 29, at Illinois Wesleyan 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at North Park 26, Millikin 7
Box Score
Final
Central 45, at Coe 21
Box Score
Final
at Wartburg 52, Luther 7
Box Score
Final
at Monmouth 38, Cornell 21
Box Score
Final
Martin Luther 13, at Minnesota-Morris 12
Box Score
2:00 PM
Crown at MacMurray
Final
at Greenville 52, Iowa Wesleyan 32
Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 24, Northwestern (Minn.) 13
Box Score
Final
Grinnell 21, at Knox 18
Box Score
Final
at UW-Whitewater 24, UW-Oshkosh 7
Box Score
Final
at UW-Stevens Point 24, UW-La Crosse 17
Final
Concordia (Mich.) 62, at Maranatha Baptist 0
Final
at Bethel 35, St. Thomas 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Centre 47, Rhodes 35
Box Score
Final
Defiance 45, at Earlham 21
Box Score
Final
at Chicago 44, Washington U. 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Norwich 28, at Anna Maria 20
Box Score
Final
UW-Platteville 21, at UW-Stout 0
3:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Howard Payne
Live Stats Live Stats Audio Audio
End of OT
17 WPI
17 Merchant Marine
Live Stats Video
Start 4th
56 Linfield
7 Lewis and Clark
Live Stats Video Audio
4:00 PM
Willamette at Pacific Lutheran
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
13:35 4th
50 Redlands
21 La Verne
Live Stats Video Audio
1:20 3rd
23 Puget Sound
56 Whitworth
Live Stats Video Audio
4:00 PM
Pacific at George Fox
Live Stats Video Audio
Halftme
28 Western New England
14 MIT
Live Stats Video
5:00 PM
Worcester State at Western Connecticut
Preview Live Stats
5:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Louisiana College
Audio
6:00 PM
Ferrum at Averett
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Waynesburg at Thiel
Video
7:00 PM
Muskingum at Ohio Northern
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Wooster at Denison
Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Christopher Newport
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Bethany at Geneva
8:00 PM
Eureka at St. Scholastica
Live Stats Live Stats Video
8:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Wheaton (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio
10:00 PM
Chapman at Cal Lutheran
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
10:00 PM
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at Occidental
Live Stats Video Audio
10:00 PM
Whittier at Pomona-Pitzer
Live Stats Video
Oct. 25: All times Eastern
8:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Wheaton (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio
10:00 PM
Chapman at Cal Lutheran
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Case Western Reserve 24
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Thomas More 64, Grove City 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 74, Wilmington 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at John Carroll 71, Capital 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Wesley 75, at Virginia-Lynchburg 12
Box Score
Final
Hampden-Sydney 45, at Shenandoah 27
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wabash 70, Oberlin 10
Box Score
Final
St. John Fisher 61, at Alfred State 0
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 49, Kenyon 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at Delaware Valley 41, Misericordia 7
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 21, at UW-Stout 0
Final
at Bethel 35, St. Thomas 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Hobart 35, at RPI 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at UW-Whitewater 24, UW-Oshkosh 7
Box Score
Final
at Wartburg 52, Luther 7
Box Score
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 72, at Texas Lutheran 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Hamline 7
Box Score
Final
at UW-Stevens Point 24, UW-La Crosse 17
Final
at St. John's 52, Carleton 3
Box Score
Start 4th
56 Linfield
7 Lewis and Clark
Live Stats Video Audio
Oct. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 37, Gettysburg 14
Box Score Recap

What We're Reading