What: #1 Mount Union (13-0) vs. #5 UW-Whitewater (12-1) - NCAA Semifinals
When: Saturday, Dec. 12, 12 p.m.
Where: Mount Union Stadium -- Alliance, Ohio
TV: ESPN3 / WatchESPN.com - Michael Reghi (p-b-p); Dustin Fox (color)
Radio: 1310 AM WDPN (Alliance) - Sam Bourquin (p-b-p); T.J. Downing (color) / 91.1 FM WRMU (Alliance) - Mount Union student radio
The matchup: No. 1 ranked University of Mount Union plays No. 5 ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the national semifinals of the 2015 NCAA Division III Football Playoffs Saturday, Dec. 12 at 12 pm at Mount Union Stadium in Alliance, Ohio.
It will mark the 10th time in the last 11 years that the two teams have met in the playoffs with the previous nine meetings coming in the Stagg Bowl. Mount Union won the matchups in 2005, 2006 and 2008 while Whitewater won in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014. Mount Union also swept a pair of regular season meetings in 2002 in Wisconsin and 2003 in Alliance which makes the overall series 6-5 in favor of Whitewater.
The Purple Raiders are 13-0 overall and one of 25 conference champions to claim an automatic bid as Mount Union won its 24th straight and 27th overall Ohio Athletic Conference title. Mount Union is ranked No. 1 in both the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) and D3Football.com Top 25 polls and the Raiders have defeated St. Lawrence (N.Y.) 55-23 in the first round, No. 18 Albright (Pa.) 66-7 in the second round and No. 11 Wesley (Del.) 56-35 in the quarterfinals. The Raiders have an 89-15 record in NCAA Playoff games in a record 27 appearances and have advanced to the Stagg Bowl 18 times since 1993 with a record 11 National Championships.
Whitewater is 12-1 overall and in the tournament by means of one of the six national at-large bids. The Warhawks defeated St. Norbert (Wis.) 48-0 in the first round, No. 6 Wheaton (Ill.) 31-17 in the second round and No. 3 Wisconsin-Oshkosh 31-29 in the quarterfinals. Whitewater is making its 13th playoff appearance and has a 46-6 record in playoff games. The Warhawks have won six titles all since 2007 including the last two straight.
Up Next ... The winner takes on the winner of a game between No. 2 Linfield (Ore.) and No. 4 St. Thomas in the national title game -- Stagg Bowl Friday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m, in Salem, Va. The game will be broadcast LIVE on ESPNU.
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 the rankings: Mount Union's defense has posted six shutouts this season.Here are some highlights in the NCAA rankings in a variety of catagories.
No. 1 in total defense (183.3 yds/gm)
No. 1 in scoring defense (7.6 ppg)
No. 1 in scoring offense (55.0 ppg)
No. 1 in passing yds allowed (143.5 yds/gm)
No. 1 in first downs (367)
No. 1 in 3rd down defense (21.0%)
No. 1 in rushing defense (39.8 yds/gm)
No. 1 in sacks (60)
No. 2 in turnovers lost (7)
No. 2 in fumbles lost (2)
No. 2 in total offense (564.7 yds/gm)
No. 3 in rushing offense (318.5 yds/gm)
** Out of 241 NCAA Division III teams ranked
Scouting the Warhawks: New head coach Kevin Bullis served as an assistant coach for seven years during five of Whitewater's six national championships. That is about the only thing that has changed as Whitewater still has a physical and efficient offense paired with a strong defense. Whitewater's only loss was a 10-7 defeat at UW-Oshkosh who the Warhawks defeated 31-29 last week.
The offense runs through senior running back Jordan Ratliffe as the senior has 1,615 yards (6.2 per carry) with 23 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Chris Nelson is effecient as he completes 66-percent of his passes (167-for-252) for 2,381 yards with 20 TDs and just two interceptions. Both are behind an offensive line that has an average height of 6-4 and weight of 294. The top receiver is junior Marcus Hudson with 54 catches for 942 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Warhawks 4-3 defense has 92 tackles for loss, 36 sacks and 22 interceptions. Junior linebacker Paul Foster leads the unit with 80 tackles and has 4.0 sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Senior Ryan Winske and junior Vince Mason lead the secondary as each have five interceptions while junior defensive end John Flood has 5.0 sacks.
Leader of the sack: Mount Union has 25 sacks in the playoffs and now leads the country with 60 sacks on the season. All-American defensive tackle Tom Lally (Fairview Park/Lakewood St. Edward) has 17 sacks on the season which is 0.5 sacks away from the Mount Union single season record held by Lambert Budzinski in 2010. Lally already owns the school's all-time sack mark with 39.0.
Roman empire: Senior wide receiver Roman Namdar (Southlake, Texas/Carroll) leads the team with 931 yards receiving and his 18 TDs are second in NCAA Division III.
Captains: Alex Kocheff, Tom Lally, Taurice Scott and Hank Spencer are Mount Union's 2015 captains.
Logan's Run: Senior Logan Nemeth (McBain, Mich./McBain) ran for over 100 yards for the seventh time over the last nine games last week with a career-best 218 yards on 26 carries. His 1,523 rushing yards this season is currently the 10th highest single season total in school history. His 25 rushing TDs is second best and he is fourth in yards per carry 7.77 in NCAA Division III this season.
Mr. 300: Senior Taurice Scott (Alliance/Alliance) had his first career 300 yard passing game last week against Wesley as he went 25-of-36 for 330 yards with five TD passes. Scott has completed 66-percent of his passes (210-of-319) for 3,004 yards with 39 TD passes and five interceptions. He also had a rushing TD last week and is the team's second leading rusher with 755 yards on 93 carries with 11 scores on the ground. He is currently third in the nation in passing TDs (39) and passing efficiency (182.1).
Safe with Alex: Senior safety Alex Kocheff (Chagin Falls/Kenston) leads the team in tackles (71) and is a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy given to the top player in NCAA Division III football. A Mount Union player has won the award a record seven times.
Hank takes bite out of big apple: Senior Hank Spencer (Greencastle, Ind./North Putnam) will be in New York City Tuesday night for the National Football Foundation Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Spencer is the only Division III player part of the 2015 Scholar Athlete Class and is a finalist for the Campbell Trophy as the top scholar athlete in college football. A Computer Science major with a 3.99 GPA, Spencer gets an $18,000 post-grad scholarship as part of the festivities. He is the third Raider to be a NFF Scholar Athlete joining Greg Micheli in 2008 and Nick Driskill in 2012.
- Tickets are $8 each.
- Tickets can be picked up Friday from noon to 2 p.m. in the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex (The MAAC) lobby and at the will call window on gameday starting at 10:30 am.
- Advance tickets can only be ordered online at http://athletics.mountunion.edu/sports/fball/singlegametickets15-NCAASemifinal
- Tickets will be available for sale on gameday at the stadium starting at 10:30 a.m.
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