#2 Mount Union Advances to NCAA Football Playoff Semifinals For 16th Straight Year

The Mount Union defense forced four Alfred turnovers to get the Purple Raiders into the semifinals for a 16th straight year (Photo by JT Higgins).
The Mount Union defense forced four Alfred turnovers to get the Purple Raiders into the semifinals for a 16th straight year (Photo by JT Higgins).

ALLIANCE, Ohio -- Senior wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (Cleveland/Collinwood) made nine catches for 115 yards and one touchdown as the second-ranked Mount Union football team advanced to the NCAA Semifinals for a 16th straight season, claiming a 37-7 victory over Alfred (N.Y.) in an NCAA quarterfinal on Saturday at Mount Union Stadium.

Mount Union (13-0) will take on 14th-ranked Bethel (Minn.), a 12-7 winner over No. 4 St. Thomas (Minn.), next Saturday at noon in Alliance.

Sophomore running back Jeremy Murray (Martins Ferry/Martins Ferry) had 33 rushes for 122 yards and a touchdown while sophomore quarterback Neal Seaman (Louisville/Louisville) completed 20 of 36 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown.

Senior tight end Kyle Miller (Elida/Elida) added five catches for 59 yards.

The Purple Raiders struggled to find points early, collecting only 10 points on their first seven possessions, before answering Alfred's first touchdown with a nine-play, 61-yard scoring drive. Shorts finished the march with a 15-yard reception from Seaman as Mount Union took a 17-7 lead.

The Mount Union defense forced three turnovers on the Saxons' first four drives.

Junior defensive back Alex Ferrara (Independence/Walsh Jesuit) picked off a pass by Alfred quarterback Tom Secky on the game's first drive.

The visitors' second possession ended with a fumble forced by Raider junior defensive lineman Chris Favazzo (Blacklick/Columbus-St. Charles) and recovered by freshman defensive lineman Matt Fechko (Twinsburg/Twinsburg)

Mount Union then compiled a five-play, 22-yard drive to paydirt, finishing with a 1-yard run by Murray to take a 7-0 lead.

Junior linebacker Arthur Smith (Miami, Fla./Killian) put the Raiders in position for their next points. He intercepted a Secky pass and returned the ball 59 yards to the Saxons' 6-yard line, setting up a 25-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Tyler Almeida (Elyria/Elyria).

Facing a 10-0 deficit, Alfred responded with nine-play, 80-yard drive in the second quarter, which ended with a 34-yard hook-up from Secky to receiver Josh Phillips.

Shorts then scored his first touchdown and Almeida gave the Raiders a 20-7 advantage with a 25-yard kick just before intermission.

Mount Union's defense continued its strong performance on its first play of the second half.

Sophomore defensive lineman Charles Dieuseul (Winter Haven, Fla./Lake Region) sacked Secky and forced a fumble. Sophomore defensive back Nick Driskill (Wabash, Ind./Southwood) picked up the loose ball, returning it 17 yards for a touchdown.

Almeida hit his third field goal -- this time from 20 yards out -- to open the fourth quarter, helping the Raiders to a 30-7 lead.

Junior running back Wes Ryder II (Dayton/Belmont) added a 20-yard touchdown and to cap the scoring for Mount Union.

For the Raider defense, Dieuseul finished with 1.5 sacks while freshman defensive lineman Nyejel Thomas (Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic) had a half-sack.

Senior defensive lineman Lambert Budzinski (Canton/Massillon Jackson) led Mount Union with five tackles.