BELTON, Texas – The road to return to a national championship game for a 12th straight year ended for No. 8 Mount Union in a 14-12 loss at No. 2 ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor in the NCAA Semifinals Saturday at Crusader Stadium in Belton, Texas.
The Crusaders (14-0) advance to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl for the first time since 2004 which was the last time the defending national Purple Raiders (12-2) did not play in the national title game.
The loss also ended a 114-game road winning streak for Mount Union that went back to the 1994 NCAA Playoffs in a 34-33 loss at Albion (Mich.).
Mary Hardin-Baylor will play Wisconsin-Oshkosh – a 10-3 winner over John Carroll in the other semifinal – next Friday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. in Salem, Virginia.
Blake Jackson threw a touchdown pass and ran for another as he passed for 159 yards and rushed for 77 yards to lead Mary Hardin-Baylor.
The Crusader defense got three interceptions including one from Ajay Fanene with under three minutes to go that put the game away. Linebacker Keith Reineke had a team-high 13 tackles and an interception.
Mount Union senior running back Bradley Mitchell (Detroit, Mich./South Lake) rushed for 137 yards on 31 carries while freshman quarterback Dom Davis (Akron/St. Vincent-St. Mary) rushed for 52 yards and his rushing touchdown with 4:24 to play brought the Raiders to with 14-12.
Mount Union's defense held the nation's highest scoring team to just 14 points as senior linebacker Charlie Dear (Massillon/Jackson) forced a fumble and had an interception while junior defensive tackle Adam Mihoci (Murrsyville, Pa./Franklin Regional) had 14 stops.
After a scoreless first quarter, Alex Louthan (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) hit a 30-yard field goal with eight minutes left in the second quarter to give Mount Union a 3-0 lead.
On the next drive, Mary Hardin-Baylor drove to the Mount Union 33-yard line and on a 3rd and 14 play, Jackson scrambled and threw a wild pass toward the end zone that was deflected and caught by Wykeyhe Walker gave the Crusaders a 7-3 lead with 3:47 left before the break.
Davis then responded as he engineered a 13-play, 58-yard drive and Louthan kicked a 32-yard field goal as time expired to make it 7-6 at the half.
Neither team made anything happen on its first two possessions of the second half before the Crusaders grinded out an 83-yard, 12-play drive that Jackson finished with a one-yard run that made it 14-6 at the end of the third quarter.
Both teams traded a pair of possessions in the fourth quarter before Davis engineered a 14-play, 66-yard drive that finished with his one-yard touchdown run.
Mount Union got a stop on defense and got the back with 2:32 to play but three plays later the Fanene interception gave Mary Hardin-Baylor the ball back to run out the clock.