SALEM, Va. – Mount Union capped a perfect 15-0 season winning the 43rd Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl 49-35 over St. Thomas to capture its record 12th NCAA Division III national championship Friday at Salem Stadium in Salem, Virginia.
The Purple Raiders rode stellar performances from game MVP quarterback Taurice Scott (Alliance/Alliance) and running back Logan Nemeth (McBain, Mich./Mich.) on offense and a swarming, clutch defensive effort to win their first national title since 2012 when the Raiders beat St. Thomas 28-10.
Scott threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 78 yards and one touchdown. Nemeth rushed for 220 yards on 30 carries and scored two touchdowns to lead the offense as Mount Union offense amassed 531 yards, 330 on the ground and 201 in the air.
The defense, led by 12 tackles by Jonathan Gonell (Pembroke Pines, Fla./University School) limited the Tommies to 328 total yards and forced two turnovers.
The Tommies got on the board first when, on their second possession, went 48 yards on eight plays aided by a fourth down interference call against the Raiders. The 24 yard touchdown pass from John Gould to Charlie Dowdle, initially called incomplete, was ruled a catch for touchdown with 5:03 left in the first quarter. Paul Graupner's extra point gave St. Thomas a 7-0 lead, Mount Union's largest deficit of the season.
Mount Union ran 18 plays and was held to 31 yards in that first quarter running into a stiff 25 mph wind. The Tommies had 60 yards of offense on 15 plays with the wind.
St. Thomas got excellent field position to begin the second quarter and marched 34 yards in eight plays in 4:11 capped by a fourth-down one-yard touchdown run by Jordan Roberts. Graupner's PAT extended Mount's deficit to 14-0.
The Raiders responded during their first drive of the second quarter with the wind, driving 82 yards in nine plays capped by a third-down seven-yard touchdown pass from Scott to tight end Lane Clark (Perryville, Ind./North Vermillion). Jake Antel (Lakewood/Lakewood) hit the PAT cut the lead in half 14-7. The big play in the drive was a 40-yard run by Nemeth setting up the score.
After the defense held the Tommies to a three and out, the Raiders marched 47 yards in three plays capped by a 29-yard touchdown pass at the 5:18 mark from Scott to Roman Namdar, who caught his 20th TD of the season. Antel's PAT tied the game at 14.
The two teams exchanged possessions without a threat in the closing minutes of the half and the score remained 14-14 at the half. Three of the four touchdowns were scored at the south end of the field with the wind advantage.
Nemeth rushed for 94 yards on 14 carries in the first half and Scott threw for 72 yards and two touchdowns on 7 of 13. Namdar and Kennedy each had three catches in the first half.
The Tommies grabbed the lead on their first possession of the second half on a 58 yard touchdown pass from Gould to Nick Waldvogel on a fourth and two from their own 42. The PAT gave STA a 21-14 lead with 12:44 remaining in the third quarter.
Mount Union answered, scoring a TD at the 11:07 mark of the third quarter to tie it on a 13-yard TD strike to Clark, who caught his fifth pass of the season, three of which have been for touchdowns. The big play in that 83 yard drive was a 63-yard pass from Scott to Namdar.
With 10:54 left in the third quarter, Gonnell forced a fumble and Josh Stewart recovered at the Tommy 39. Three plays later, Bradley Mitchell (Detroit, Mich./South Lake) scored from six yards out with 9:47 left in the quarter. Antel's PAT gave the Raiders a 28-21 lead, their first lead of the game.
After starting a drive from its own 24, the Raiders drove 76 yards in four plays capped by an 18 yard run by Scott and with 7:36 remaining the Raiders took a 35-21 lead.
The Tommies battled back when, on a bizarre offensive fumble recovery as quarterback Gould rambled 56 yards for a touchdown with 4:13 left in the third quarter to stop a 21-0 run by the Raiders and shave the lead to 35-28. The Tommies threatened again at the end of the third quarter but gave up the ball on downs at the Mount Union 29 to end the third quarter.
On the Raiders first possession of the fourth quarter, Mount Union drove 71 yards in eight plays capped by a two yard run by Nemeth. Antel's PAT made it 42-28 with 11:52 remaining.
The Raiders took advantage of excellent field position and went 50 yards in 5 plays capped by a 36 yard TD by Nemeth with 8:40 remaining. Antel's PAT made it 49-28.
The Tommies weren't done though. Jack Gilliland returned a kickoff 58 yards to set up shop at the Mount Union 40. Seven plays later, Roberts took it in from the four yard line and with the PAT, the score was 49-35 with 6:23 left.
St. Thomas kicker Graupner executed an onside kick and the Tommies recovered on their 45 yardline with 6:23 left. On the first play however, Louis Berry (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shadyside Academy) picked off his fifth pass of the season and returned it to the Mount Union 35. The Raiders were then able to run out the clock.
The win gives head coach Vince Kehres his first national title in three years as the head coach of the Purple Raiders. Kehres is 43-2 in his first 45 games.