Football: #8 Mount Union Plays #15 Alfred in NCAA Quarterfinals Saturday

Football: #8 Mount Union Plays #15 Alfred in NCAA Quarterfinals Saturday

University of Mount Union Football

 #8 Mount Union Purple Raiders (11-1) vs #15 Alfred Saxons (12-0)

Dec. 3, 2016 - 12 PM - Yunevich Stadium - Alfred, N.Y. 

  • Radio: WDPN 1310 AM (Alliance), WRMU 91.1 FM (Alliance)

The Matchup: Mount Union makes its 25th straight appearance in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Playoffs playing Alfred.

#RoadRaiders: Mount Union is playing its team record ninth road game in a single season this week. Including this weekend, the Raiders have logged over 4,000 miles on the road in 2016.

The Purple Raiders are the only team in this year's playoffs to win back-to-back road games to get to the quarterfinals. Mount Union enters the week having won its last 113 road games dating back to a 34-33 loss at Albion (Mich.) in the second round of the 1994 NCAA Playoffs.

How They Got Here: Mount Union (11-1) earned one of the six at-large bids to the NCAA Playoffs and went on the road to beat Hobart (N.Y.), 38-21, in the first round and Johns Hopkins (Md.) 28-21 in the second round.

Alfred (12-0) earned an automatic bid the playoffs by winning the Empire 8 title. The Saxons beat Bridgewater State (Mass.) 33-27 in overtime in the first round then beat Western New England (Mass.) 30-24 in the second round.

Series History: This will be just the second all-time meeting between Mount Union and Alfred in football. The previous meeting was a 2010 NCAA quarterfinal game in which the Purple Raiders won 37-7 at Mount Union Stadium in Alliance.

Playoff History: Mount Union has won 12 NCAA Championships since winning its first in 1993. The Raiders have played in the national championship game 19 times since then and sport an all-time record of 93-15 in NCAA play. Mount Union has appeared in the tournament a record 28 times and appeared in the Stagg Bowl every year since 2005.

Alfred is makings its fourth playoff appearance (1981, 2009, 2010, 2016) and has a 4-3 record in playoff games. The Saxons are in the quarterfinals for a second time in school history.

Up Next: The winner of this game will play the winner of the Mary Hardin-Baylor versus Wheaton (Ill.) game in the national semifinals on Saturday, Dec. 10 with a time and location TBA.

Raiders in the Rankings: Mount Union is second in the nation in both scoring defense and defensive touchdowns. Here are some highlights in the NCAA rankings in a variety of categories.

No. 2 in defensive touchdowns (6)
No. 2 in first downs (309)
No. 3 in sacks (49)
No. 4 in scoring defense (11.6 ppg)
No. 4 in scoring offense (46.5 ppg)
No. 5 in red zone offense (91.9%)
No. 6 in pass efficiency (170.9)
No. 7 in third down offense (50.7%)
No. 7 in rushing defense (69.3 yds/gm)
No. 11 in blocked kicks (6)
No. 11 in blocked punts (3)
No. 12 in total offense (502.3 yds/gm)
No. 12 in third down defense (27.6%)
No. 13 in red zone defense (56.5%)
No. 15 in rushing offense (261.0 yds/gm)
No. 16 in total defense (277.7 yds/gm)

Bracketology: For the 12th year, 32 teams make up the NCAA Division III Football Playoffs. For perspective, in Mount Union's first playoff appearance in 1985, the field was 16 teams. This year's field includes 25 automatic bids given to 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.

Scouting the Saxons: Alfred has 13 senior starters on a veteran team that has won seven games this season by 14 points or less, including a pair of home playoff games. The Saxons also knocked off another playoff team in Husson (Me.) in its season opener 35-28.

The offense is led by one of the nation's most dynamic quarterbacks in senior Tyler Johnson. The Empire 8 Offensive Player of the Year has accounted for 44 total touchdowns as he has thrown 24 and ran for 20, which is first in the nation in points responsible for at 244. He has completed 63-percent of his passes (163-for-258) for 2,369 yards with just four interceptions. He is also the team's leading rusher with 965 yards on the ground on 176 carries. His top receiver is senior Brendan Buisch, who has 55 catches for 949 yards and 14 TD's.

The Saxons also feature one of the nation's top defensive players in junior linebacker A.J. LiCata. The Empire 8 Defensive Player of the Year has 140 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and is one of 10 finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy given to the top all-around player in NCAA Division III. Senior defensive lineman Charles Branwell has a 7.0 sacks and senior defensive back Liam Hobbins has three interceptions as the other top players on defense.

Gimmie Five: Freshman Dom Davis is the nation's fifth rated passer with a passer rating of 175.4. He is also fourth in the nation in passing yards per attempt at 9.99. He has started the last seven games and Davis has completed 64.5-percent of his passes for 1,829 yards with 18 touchdowns.

Dr. Detroit: Senior Bradley Mitchell is 12th in the nation in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns this season with 1,352 yards and 17 scores. A four-time All-OAC selection, he is third all-time at Mount Union with 4,699 yards.

Three of a kind: Junior defensive lineman Mike Vidal had 3.0 sacks all in the second half last week against Johns Hopkins. The Raiders are third in the nation this season with 49 sacks. Vidal has a team-best 12.5 sacks which is sixth-best in a single season at Mount Union. That is just 0.5 sacks behind the fifth place total of 13 in 2002 by current Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell.

Snyder Special: Sophomore punter Adam Snyder had his best day of the season at Johns Hopkins with seven punts with an average of 45.9 yards per punt. In the fourth quarter, he had a 59 yard punt that put Hopkins on its 20-yard line, which the defense forced a three-and-out and a punt into the wind that gave the offense the ball on the Hopkins 30-yard-line. Dom Davis then threw what turned out to be the game-winning TD pass to Jared Ruth on the next play. Later in the quarter, Snyder kicked a season-best 65-yard punt that forced Hopkins to start on its one-yard line and later in that drive Louis Berry got an interception.

On the Air: All Mount Union football games will be broadcast on the radio on WDPN 1310 AM and WRMU 91.1 FM and simulcast online along with a LIVE STATS game tracker. You can also hear the WRMU 91.1 FM feed on any phone by calling (330) 445-7900.

Captains: Charlie Dear, Mitch Doraty, Brian Groves, Tim Kennedy, Bradley Mitchell and Mike Vidal have been selected captains for 2016