Football: #1 Mount Union Opens Playoffs Saturday at Home vs St. Lawrence (N.Y.)

Photo by Dan Poel, OhioSI.com
Photo by Dan Poel, OhioSI.com

What: #1/1 Mount Union (10-0) vs. St. Lawrence (N.Y.) (8-2)  - NCAA First Round

When: Saturday, Nov. 21, 12 p.m.

Where: Mount Union Stadium -- Alliance, Ohio

Radio: 1310 AM WDPN (Alliance) - Sam Bourquin (p-b-p) T.J. Downing (color) / 91.1 FM WRMU (Alliance) - Mount Union student radio

Online Coverage: Live stats | LIVE WDPN Audio | LIVE WRMU Audio

Complete Notes in PDF Format

The matchup: No. 1 ranked Mount Union plays St. Lawrence (N.Y.) in the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship Saturday at noon at Mount Union Stadium.

Game Preview: The Purple Raiders are 10-0 overall and after a 36-3 win at No. 14 John Carroll last week claimed an NCAA automatic bid by winning their 24th straight and 27th overall Ohio Athletic Conference title.

Mount Union, ranked No. 1 in both the AFCA and D3Football.com Top 25 polls, has an 86-15 record in NCAA Playoff games and the Raiders have advanced to the Stagg Bowl 18 times since 1993 with a record 11 National Championships.

St. Lawrence, 8-2 overall, scored a 21-14 win over Merchant Marine at home last week to win the title and NCAA automatic bid from  the Liberty League.

St. Lawrence is making its fifth ever NCAA Playoff appearance (1976, 1978, 1982, 2010) and are 2-4 in playoff games.

The series: This is second meeting between the teams.  The first was in the first round of the NCAA Playoffs in 2010 where Mount Union scored a 49-0 win in Alliance.

Up Next ... The winner takes on the winner of a matchup between Albright (Pa.) and Norwich (Vt.) Saturday, November 28 at noon at a location to be announced.  

Bracketology: For the 11th year, the NCAA Division III Football Championship consists of a 32-team field. For perspective, in Mount Union's first appearance in the playoffs in 1985, the field was 16 teams. This year's field breaks down like this: Automatic bids were given to 25 conference champions, one spot was for a team that was an independent or in conferences not granted automatic bids and the final six spots are national at-large bids.

Each team is allowed to only dress a total of 58 players for a playoff game.

Raiders in National Rankings: Mount Union's defense has posted six shutouts this season while surrendering just 34 points in the regular season. Here are some highlights in the NCAA rankings in a variety of catagories.

    No. 1 in total defense (136.3 yds/gm)
    No. 1 in scoring defense (3.4 ppg)
    No. 1 in passing yds allowed (91.6 yds/gm)
    No. 1 in first downs allowed (83)    
    No. 1 in turnovers lost (4)
    No. 1 in 3rd down defense (18.3%)
    No. 1 in pass efficiency defense (76.9)
    No. 1 in rushing defense (44.7 yds/gm)
    No. 2 in scoring offense (53.8 ppg)
    No. 2 in first downs (278)
    No. 4 in total offense (558.2 yds/gm)
    No. 4 in rushing offense (312.3 yds/gm)
    No. 5 in pass efficiency (177.5)

** Out of 241 NCAA Division III teams ranked

Scouting the Saints: St. Lawrence went 8-2 with both losses by eight points or less to win the Liberty League title.

The Saints are led by senior quarterback Mike Lefflbine who has set school single season records for completions (204), yards (2,267) and TDs (26) and is also the school's career leader in attempts, completions, yards and TDs. Lefflbine's favorite targets have been junior tight end Mitch Gallagher (49 catches for 499 yards and seven TDs) and sophomore wide receiver Vincenzo Ferraro (45 receptions for 565 yards and five TDs). Seniors Maurice Irby and Jake Gnieser are the top runners combining for 158 carries and 761 yards and four TDs.

Defensively, the Saints are led by sophomore linebacker Skyler Williamson with 93 tackles and is coming off a career-high 18 stops against Merchant Marine. Chyron Brown-Wallace is next with 66 tackles, 22 for loss and 11.5 sacks. His tackles for loss and sack totals are among the nation's best in each category.

James Holley-Grisham leads an experienced defensive backfield that includes Simmon and freshman Isreal Squires. The trio has combined for 15 interceptions and 17 pass breakups.

Captains: Alex Kocheff, Tom Lally, Taurice Scott and Hank Spencer are Mount Union's 2015 captains.

Mr. T: A stiff wind did not keep senior quarterback Taurice Scott (Alliance/Alliance) from completing a career-best 26 passes for a career-high 276 yards at John Carroll last week.  On the season, he has completed 66.2-percent of his passes for 2,309 yards with 29 TDs and two interceptions. Scott has nine rushing touchdowns on the season and the team's longest run from scrimmage this season at 74 yards.
   
Leader of the sack: Senior Tom Lally (Fairview Park/Lakewood St. Edward) had 1.5 sacks at John Carroll last week to become Mount Union's all-time sack leader with 33.0 sacks.  He also grabbed the school record for career tackles for loss at 57.0.  Lally and fellow senior Alex Kocheff (Chagrin Falls/Kenston) are tied for the team lead in tackles this season with 50.

Over land and air: A Mount Union running back and a wide receiver both had career days at John Carroll last week.  Senior runinng back Logan Nemeth (McBain, Mich./McBain) made his third straight start and had 22 carries for 182 yards rushing at John Carroll   His last 51 yards came on a touchdown run on a fake punt. He has had over 100 yards in four of his last five games. Junior wide receiver Jordan Hargrove (Akron/St. Vincent-St. Mary) had a career-best seven catches for 94 yards with two touchdowns and it marked fourth straight game he caught a TD pass.

Busy Day on Campus: Get to campus early and stay late this weekend as Mount Union is hosting the M-Club Classic women's basketball tourney with games at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, the men's and women's swimming and diving teams host Baldwin Wallace in the OAC opener at 6 p.m. while the 10-team Mount Union Duals wrestling tournament is Saturday at 10 a.m. in Peterson Fieldhouse.  All this means parking will be a premimun.