Football: On the Road Again, Mount Union at Mary Hardin-Baylor For NCAA Semifinals

Elijah Berry and Louis Berry (Photo by Christopher Cecere)
Elijah Berry and Louis Berry (Photo by Christopher Cecere)

University of Mount Union Football

 #8 Mount Union Purple Raiders (12-1) vs #2 Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders (13-0)

Dec. 10, 2016 - 4:30 PM (Eastern) - Crusader Stadium - Belton, Texas

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

The Matchup: Mount Union makes its 22nd straight appearance in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III Playoffs playing at Mary Hardin-Baylor.

#RoadRaiders: Mount Union is playing its team record 10th road game in a single season this week. Including this weekend, the Raiders have logged over 6,600 miles on the road in 2016.

This year Mount Union has played its first-ever games in the states of North Carolina, Maryland and now Texas.

The Purple Raiders are the only team since the playoff went to 32-teams to win three straight road games to get to a semifinal game. Mount Union enters the week having won its last 114 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 (12-1) earned one of the six at-large bids to the NCAA Playoffs and is the only team in history to win three straight road games to get to a semifinal game. The Purple Raiders went on the road to beat Hobart (N.Y.), 38-21, in the first round, Johns Hopkins (Md.) 28-21 in the second round and Alfred (N.Y.) 70-45 in the quarterfinals.

Mary Hardin-Baylor (13-0) won its 12th straight American Southwest Conference title and earned the one bid into the tournament reserved for independents or teams from a non-automatic qualifying conference (pool B). The Crusaders beat Redlands (Calif.) 50-28 in the first round, Linfield (Ore.) 27-10 in the second round and Wheaton (Ill.) 38-16 in the quarterfinals.

Series History: This will be the third all-time meeting between the teams after a pair of memorable NCAA semifinal playoff meetings.

In 2004, Mary Hardin-Baylor rallied from a 35-21 deficit in the fourth quarter to win 38-35 in an NCAA semifinal game at Mount Union Stadium.

In 2012, Mount Union scored 34 points in the fourth quarter to rally from being down 28-14 and won 48-35 in an NCAA semifinal game at Mount Union Stadium.

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 94-15 in NCAA play. Mount Union has appeared in the tournament a record 28 times and appeared in the Stagg Bowl every year since 2005.

In just its 19th season of football, Mary Hardin-Baylor is in the tournament for a 15th time with a record of 30-14. The Crusaders have made the national title game once in 2004.

Up Next: The winner of this game will play the winner of the John Carroll versus Wisconsin-Oshkosh game in the national championship game - Stagg Bowl - Friday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. in Salem, Va.

Raiders in the Rankings: Here are some highlights of Mount Union in the NCAA rankings.

No. 1 in first downs (309)
No. 2 in defensive touchdowns (7)
No. 3 in scoring offense (48.3 ppg)
No. 4 in sacks (51)
No. 4 in rushing defense (66.8 yds/gm)
No. 5 in red zone offense (92.8%)
No. 5 in pass efficiency (171.9)
No. 8 in third down offense (50.3%)
No. 9 in total offense (507.7 yds/gm)
No. 12 in scoring defense (14.2 ppg)
No. 13 in rushing offense (265.7 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.

Scouting the Cru: An explosive offense with an aggressive defense that is stout against the run ... sound familar.

Mary Hardin-Baylor has scored at least 56 points in 10 of its 13 games and has the nation's highest scoring offense. Senior quarterback Blake Jackson was the American Southwest Conference Offensive Player of the Year and he has completed 66-percent of his passes for almost 3,000 yards with 34 touchdowns. He has only been sacked nine times this year as ASC Offensive Lineman of the Year Broderick Jenkins anchors an offensive line that also opens holes for sophomore running back Markeith Miller, who has rushed for 1,444 yards with 20 TDs. T.J. Josey is the top receiver with over 1,000 yards and eight scores.

The Cru defense is No. 4 in the nation in tackles for loss and No. 6 in rushing defense. Senior defensive end Teidrick Smith won ASC Defensive Player of the Year honors for a third straight season and has 22 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. Baylor Mullins has six interceptions while linebacker Keith Reineke has a team-best 99 stops.

Double D: Freshman Dom Davis is the nation's fifth rated passer with a passer rating of 175.0. He has started the last eight games and Davis has completed 66-percent of his passes for 2,080 yards with 21 touchdowns. Last week at Alfred, he threw for three scores and rushed for a score marking the third time this season he accounted for four TDs in a game.

BJ is a Bear: Senior Bradley Mitchell is 7th in the nation in rushing yards this season with 1,475 yards. Last week he ran for 125 yards for his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season and 19th of his career. He also has 20 TDs on the year. A four-time All-OAC selection, he is third all-time at Mount Union with 4,824 rushing yards.

Sack Attack: Mount Union is fourth in the nation in sacks with 51 on the season. Junior defensive tackle Mike Vidal has 12.5 sacks and 15.0 tackles for loss. Defensive end Elijah Berry and linebacker Charlie Dear each have 11.5 tackles for loss. Berry forced a fumble then scooped it up and scored last week.

Something Special: Sophomore punter Adam Snyder continued his great punting this post-season as he had three punts with an average of 47.0 yards per punt. In three post-season games, he is averaging 42.7 yards per punt. The Raiders also scored a special teams touchdown last week when Brian Groves returned an onside kick attempt 55 yards for a score. Place kicker Alex Louthan is also 81-of-82 on extra points this season and his 81 made extra points is the sixth-best single season total in school history.

Catching Kennedy: Senior Tim Kennedy had 105 yards receiving last week and has had over 100 yard games in two of the three playoff games. He now has six career 100-yard receiving games.

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