SALEM, VA – No. 1 ranked Mount Union won its record 11th NCAA Division III national football championship with a 28-10 win over No. 3 ranked St. Thomas (Minn.) at the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl Friday night in Salem, Va.
Sophomore quarterback Kevin Burke (Westlake/Lakewood St. Edward) completed 21-of-28 passes for 222 yards with a touchdown but it was two 80-plus yard drives he engineered in the second half that won him the game's most outstanding player award.
Burke ended the tournament with a record 1,522 passing yards.
Senior wide receiver Chris Denton (Plantation/South Plantation) had a career-best 11 catches with 83 yards and his 17-yard TD catch came after St. Thomas got within four points – 14-10 after a field goal midway through the third quarter.
Senior Jasper Collins (Geneva, N.Y./Geneva) had his sixth straight 100-yard receiving performance with eight catches for 120 yards.
Senior Jake Simon (Parma Heights/Holy Name) had a career-best 21 rushes for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
As it has been all season the offense was set up by the nation's top ranked defense which held St. Thomas to just 35 yards in the second half and 194 total yards for the game.
Three seniors led the unit as linebacker Charles Dieuseul (Winter Haven, Fla./Lake Region) blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdowns, safety Nick Driskill (Wabash, Ind./Southwood) had 11 tackles and defensive back Isaiah Scott (Hamilton/Fairfield) had a key interception in the second half.
The Raiders took the game's opening drive 82 yards in seven plays and Simon finished it off with a one-yard touchdown run. With the 3:37 left in the quarter, Dieuseul blocked a punt and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown to put Mount Union up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. It was the Raiders fourth block punt in their last three games and third that was returned for a touchdown.
St. Thomas answered with a special teams play of its own as lining up for a 27-yard field goal attempt ran a fake and Dan Ferrazzo raced to the corner of the end zone and cut the lead in half with 13:31 in the second quarter.
The Tommies defense got going as they held Mount Union to just 19 yards for the quarter while Mount Union's defense also did not bend or break keeping St. Thomas off the board on three possessions to leave the score at 14-7 at the break.
Paul Graupner got the first points of the third quarter with a 38-yard field goal as the Tommies took advantage of a Mount Union fumble on a punt return to close the gap to 14-10 with 6:27 left in quarter. On the ensuing drive Mount Union drove 81 yards in 12 plays and on fourth down Burke that extended the lead to 21-10 at the end of the third quarter.
Scott's interception came on the opening drive of the fourth quarter as the Tommies had drove to the Raiders' 33-yard line and his pick gave Mount Union the ball back on the 13-yard line.
Burke then led the Raiders on a 14-play, 87-yard drive including three third down conversions and the drive was completed with a Simon one-yard run to put the game away.
Mount Union, which wins its first national title since 2008, has now won 11 titles – the most in a playoff format and matches Notre Dame – 11 titles in a non-playoff format – for the most in college football.