Football: #1 Mount Union Opens NCAA Playoffs Saturday Against Denison

Football: #1 Mount Union Opens NCAA Playoffs Saturday Against Denison

NCAA First Round
#1 Mount Union Purple Raiders
vs Denison Big Red

The Matchup: No. 1 ranked University of Mount Union hosts Denison University in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Division III Football Playoffs Saturday, Nov. 17 at 12 p.m. at Mount Union Stadium.
 
The Purple Raiders are 10-0 overall, and won their 29th Ohio Athletic Conference title to claim one of 26 automatic bids to the tournament.
 
Mount Union has an 99-16 record in NCAA Playoff games and the Raiders have advanced to the Stagg Bowl 20 times since 1993 with a record 13 National Championships.
 
Mount Union has now made the tournament a record 30 times and the last 27 years in row.
 
Denison, located in Granville, Ohio, is 8-2 and making its second-ever NCAA Playoff appearance after winning the North Coast Athletic Conference for the first since 1985.
 
In 1985, the Big Red played at Mount Union Stadium and lost 35-3 to the Raiders in Mount Union's first-ever NCAA playoff game.
 
Series History: This will be the 30th meeting between the teams with Denison holding a 19-9-1 lead in the series. 
 
Denison was a member of the OAC from 1907-1983.
 
The last time the teams played was a regular season non-conference series in 1988 and 1989. Denison won both of those meetings -- 41-27 in Granville in 1988 and a 24-21 win in Alliance in 1989. 
 
Bracketology: For the 14th 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 26 conference champions, one spot was for a team from a conference not granted an automatic bid and the final five spots are national at-large bids.
 
Each team is allowed to only dress a total of 58 players for a playoff game.
 
Team Captains: Mount Union has five team captains in wide receivers Luke Herrrington (Wintersville/Steubenville) and Jared Ruth (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike), safety Nick Brish (Milford, Mich./Brighton), linebacker Danny Robinson (Massillon/Massillon Washington) and defensive back Louis Berry (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shady Side Academy).
 
Up Next: The winner of this game plays the winner of a first round matchup between Washington & Jefferson (Pa.) and Centre (Ky.) next Saturday at noon at a site to be announced Sunday by the NCAA Football Committee.
 
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 563-999-3112.
 
Scouting the Big Red: Denison averages 43.7 points per game behind a balanced offense with 261.4 rushing and 227.0 passing yards per game. The defense has surrendered 329.0 yards and 21.4 points per game. 
 
The season turned on a Sept. 29 game at home against No. 11 Wittenberg. Trailing 35-10 at halftime, the Big Red rallied with a 28-3 in the second half to tie the game but ended up losing 68-66 in four overtimes. After that, Denison ripped off six-straight wins including a 34-10 win over No. 22 ranked Wabash. Denison, Wabash and Wittenberg finished as co-champions of the North Coast Athletic Conference and the six-game win streak by the Big Red was the tiebreaker that gave them the NCAA bid.
 
On offense, senior quarterback Canaan Gebele has thrown for just over 2,000 yards on 65-percent passing with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. He is Denison's career leader in passing yards (7,540), completions (626), and touchdown passes (66).  Gebele has racked up 10,004 yards of total offense (pass + rush).
 
Senior wide receiver David Weimar has 654 yards and nine TD's while junior Alex Minton led the NCAC in rushing gaining 1,291 yards.  Minton transferred to Denison from Division I Drake after the 2016 season. In two years with the Big Red he has totaled 2,292 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns.
On defense, junior end Nate Keirn, a St. Ignatius alum, leads the unit with 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss.  Kerin is the program's career leader in sacks with 24.5.
 
Sophomore linebacker Tristan Knoer leads the team in tackles with 55. 
 
Gimme Five: Sophomore running back Josh Petruccelli (Perry) rushed for 109 yards last week on 11 carries in just the first half against Marietta and now has five 100-yard rushing games on the season and eight in his 25 game career.
 
QB1: Junior quarterback D'Angelo Fulford (Miramar, Fla.) leads NCAA Division III in passer rating at 208.5 and in all of college football trails only Oklahoma's Kyler Murray at 212.9.
 
Fulford has completed 68.9-percent of his passes for 2,290 yards with 32 touchdowns and one interception.  
 
Three of a Kind: Three receivers lead the way for the Raiders in junior Justin Hill (Circleville) and seniors Jared Ruth (Indianapolis, Ind. / Pike) and Luke Herrington (Wintersville / Steubenville) with 39, 37 and 34 catches respectively. They are also close in touchdowns as Hill and Ruth both have 10 followed by Herrington with nine.
 
Sweet Lou: Senior defensive back Louis Berry (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Shady Side Academy) scored a pair of touchdowns on an interception and fumble return last week against Marietta. On the season, Berry has two interceptions and two fumble returns for touchdowns and has accounted for two other defensive scores as he blocked two field goal attempts that were taken back for touchdowns. 
 
Mount Union leads all of college football with 11 defensive touchdowns this season and the Purple Raiders have allowed opponents 12 touchdowns through the first 10 games.
 
Linebacker UMU: The Raiders top three tacklers are linebackers sophomore Mitch O'Hara (Avon / Lakewood St. Edward) with 59, senior Danny Robinson (Massillon / Washington) with 54 and junior Trey Williams (Cardington / Cardington-Lincoln) with 53.
 
Williams and junior lineman Andrew Roesch (Avon) are tied for the team lead with 7.5 sacks and the two have combined for 30 tackles for loss. 
 
Mount Union is second in the nation with 48 sacks and sixth in tackles for loss with 98.