Football: Familiar Foes Meet in NCAA Quarterfinals as #1 Mount Union Hosts #11 Wesley
December 03, 2015
What: #1 Mount Union (12-0) vs. #11 Wesley (11-1) - NCAA Quarterfinals
When: Saturday, Dec. 5, 12 p.m.
Where: Mount Union Stadium -- Alliance, Ohio
Radio: 1310 AM WDPN (Alliance) - Sam Bourquin (p-b-p) T.J. Downing (color) / 91.1 FM WRMU (Alliance) - Mount Union student radio
The matchup: No. 1 ranked Mount Union plays No. 11 ranked Wesley in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Football Championship Saturday at noon at Mount Union Stadium.
It is the fifth time in the last seven seasons that the teams have met in the playoffs.
It is also a meeting of the nation's top rated total defense (Mount Union at 159.5 yards allowed per game) versus the top rated offense (Wesley at 602.4 yards per game).
Game preview: The Purple Raiders are 12-0 overall and one of 25 conference champions to claim an automatic bid as Mount Union won its 24th straight and 27th overall Ohio Athletic Conference title.
Mount Union defeated St. Lawrence (N.Y.) 55-23 in the first round, Albright (Pa.) 66-7 in the second round and has an 88-15 record in NCAA Playoff games. The Raiders have advanced to the Stagg Bowl 18 times since 1993 with a record 11 National Championships.
Wesley is 11-1 overall and co-champions of the New Jersey Athletic Conference. The Wolverines are in the tournament by means of one of the six national at-large bids. Wesley is making its 12th playoff appearance -- all of them since 2000 -- and the Wolverines are 27-11 in the tournament.
The series: This will be the fifth meeting of the teams, which have all happened in the playoffs since 2009 and in Alliance. Mount Union has won all four of the previous meetings including three times in the national semifinals in 2009, 2011 and a 70-21 win last year. The teams met in the quarterfinals in 2013 with Mount Union scoring a 62-59 win.
Up next ... The winner takes on the winner between No. 3 UW-Oshkosh and No. 5 UW-Whitewater in the national semifinals Saturday, Dec. 12 at a time and location to be announced. The game will be broadcast LIVE on ESPN3.com.
Bracketology: For the 11th straight 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 25 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.
Raiders in the rankings: Mount Union's defense has posted six shutouts this season.Here are some highlights in the NCAA rankings in a variety of catagories.
No. 1 in total defense (159.5 yds/gm)
No. 1 in scoring defense (5.3 ppg)
No. 1 in scoring offense (54.9 ppg)
No. 1 in passing yds allowed (123.9 yds/gm)
No. 1 in first downs allowed (118)
No. 1 in first downs (336)
No. 1 in 3rd down defense (19.0%)
No. 1 in rushing defense (35.6 yds/gm)
No. 1 in sacks (59)
No. 2 in turnovers lost (6)
No. 2 in fumbles lost (2)
No. 2 in pass efficiency defense (84.7)
No. 2 in total offense (561.5 yds/gm)
No. 3 in rushing offense (322.3 yds/gm)
** Out of 241 NCAA Division III teams ranked
Scouting the Wolverines: Wesley is no stranger to the playoffs as the Wolverines .710 winning percentage in NCAA games trail only Whitewater (.882) and Mount Union (.854). Wesley has an explosive offense led by a senior quarterback with strong play on both sides of the line of scrimmage and an agressive defense ... sound familiar.
All-American quarterback and Gagliardi Trophy finalist Joe Callahan is at the controls of an offense that generates 602.4 yards and 47.8 points per game. Callahan leads the nation in passer rating (192.8), passing TDs (51), passing yards (4,689) and total offense (422.0 yds/gm). Juniors Bryce Shade (76-1,369) and James Okike (70-1,283) each have 17 touchdown catches while junior Jamar Baynard has 1,315 yards rushing with 16 TDs.
The defense is led by sophomore linebacker Samer Manna, who has 120 tackles with three forced fumbles. Junior Andre Connally and senior Craig Pettit lead the secondary as each have five interceptions. Up front junior Roderick Caine has 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks and sophomore Isaiah Ingram has 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks.
Leader of the sack: Mount Union has 23 sacks in the last two games and now leads the country with 59 sacks on the season. All-American defensive tackle Tom Lally (Fairview Park/Lakewood St. Edward) has 17 sacks on the season which is 0.5 sacks away from the Mount Union single season record held by Lambert Budzinski in 2010. Lally already owns the school's all-time sack mark with 39.0. Lally is tied for the team lead in tackles this season (61) with Alex Kocheff (Chagrin Falls/Kenston). Kocheff is an All-American safety that is a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy.
Captains: Alex Kocheff, Tom Lally, Taurice Scott and Hank Spencer are Mount Union's 2015 captains.
Logan on the run: Senior Logan Nemeth (McBain, Mich./McBain) ran for over 100 yards for the sixth time over the last eight games last week with a career-best 185 yards on 21 carries. Nemeth became the seventh back in school history to run for over 2,500 career yards as he now stands at 2,501 yards. Another one of those seven is his teammate -- junior Bradley Mitchell(Detroit, Mich./South Lake) with 3,157 career yards.
Special K: Junior Tim Kennedy (Hudson/Hudson) is second in all-purpose yards for the Raiders this season with 1,233 yards (855 receiving + 378 punt returns). Kennedy had a career-high 10 catches for 140 yards receiving last week. Kennedy is the school's all-time leader in punt return yards at 1,024.
Great Scott: Senior Taurice Scott (Alliance/Alliance) is the quarterback of the nation's top scoring team (54.9 points per game) and No. 2 rated total offense (561.5 yards per game). Scott has completed 65.4-percent of his passes (185-of-283) for 2,674 yards with 34 TD passes and four interceptions. He also is the team's second leading rusher with 723 yards on 85 carries with 10 scores on the ground. Against Wesley a year ago, Scott -- a wide receiver then -- caught 10 passes for 160 yards with two scores.
Spencer for Hire: Senior Hank Spencer (Greencastle, Ind./North Putnam) has been named the Academic All-American of the Year in Division III Football by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Spencer, with a 3.99 grade point average in Computer Science, is the third Raider to win the award (Greg Micheli, 2008 and Nick Driskill 2012).