November 6, 2013

At Mount, practice wins out over pressure

More news about: Mount Union
"I haven't really done anything different this year. I'm just doing a lot more of what I have done in the past," said Mount Union quarterback Kevin Burke.
Photo by Dan Poel, d3photography.com

Kevin Burke is the quarterback of Mount Union, the top-ranked team in the nation, a team that is the reigning Division III national champion and a team where championships are an expectation. 

All of it would seem to set the stage for Burke and his Purple Raider teammates to feel a ton of pressure as they attempt to live up to the expectations of a program that has set the standard for success.

Burke, however, points to a Peyton Manning quote about pressure.

"Peyton said pressure is what you feel when you don't know what the hell you are doing," Burke said. "We know what we are doing. We prepare all week, in practice and watching film and we are ready to go on game day. We play to win. We don't feel pressure."

Burke and the Purple Raiders have certainly played like they aren't under any pressure, their latest win a 44-34 victory over Heidelberg on Saturday in a matchup of unbeaten and nationally ranked OAC teams.

The win pushed Mount Union's overall win streak to 23 games, its regular-season win streak to 81 games and its regular-season road win streak to 114. The last one is a streak that dates back to 1991.

Burke was 16-of-22 for 310 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 91 yards. Just another day at the office for a signal-caller who in his second season as the starter and has thrown for 1,976 yards and 26 touchdowns. He has only been picked off four times and has rushed for 669 yards and five scores.

Burke has raised his game to another level for a team that lost offensive starters.

"I haven't really done anything different this year. I'm just doing a lot more of what I have done in the past," Burke said. "I watch a lot of film on the opponent and on myself to see what improvements I can make. I've put the time in to be a good quarterback."

What is interesting about Burke is that he considered not even playing football after high school. Turns out, deciding to continue his career at the college level was a good idea.

"I wasn't even sure if I was going to play football at first, and I didn't expect to have the success that I have had so far," Burke said. "I am very thankful for the opportunity to play for such a great team and I owe a lot of credit for my success to my teammates."

The numbers Burke has put up this season turn heads, and yet, he doesn't spend time admiring the sparkling statistics.

"I'm not too concerned with personal stats," Burke said. "All I care about is winning. That is what matters most to me at the end of the day."

Staying focused, though, week after week on a team where every opponent is going to take its best shot at an upset comes down to learning how to be a Mount Union football player.

"It's instilled in you how to be a Raider," Burke said. "We don't worry about looking ahead. We just focus on the next game. We stick to our routine and do what we need to do to be ready to play the next week."

Burke said he learned a lot last season from veteran players such as Jasper Collins and Chris Denton. They taught him a lot about what needs to be done to be ready to be at your best at this time of the year.

Although the playoffs are three weeks away, Burke said it's important that he does his job to the best of his ability, both in practice and in games, so that the Purple Raiders can be in a position to win another national title.

"I learned so much from the seniors on the team last year," Burke said. "The important thing is for me to lead by example and really just get after it on and off the field so that we are ready for the playoffs. But we still have two games to play and we can't look ahead. Our focus has to be on the next game. If we stay focused, everything will work out."

In the poll

No. 1 Mount Union and No. 10 Heidelberg played in one of the biggest games of the season, and despite being challenged, the Purple Raiders held on for a 44-34 road win over the Student Princes on Saturday.

Mount Union led 10-7 at the end of one quarter and 30-13 at halftime of this Ohio Athletic Conference showdown.  Heidelberg closed the gap to 37-27 heading into the fourth quarter but were unable to knock off the reigning national champion.

Kevin Burke threw for 310 yards and four touchdown passes while Bradley Mitchell rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown to help fuel a Purple Raiders (8-0, 7-0) offense that cranked out 654 yards.

Jack Nicholls and Luc Meacham each caught two touchdown passes. Nicholls finished with a career-high 125 receiving yards, and Meacham racked up 100 yards.

Mount Union was tough defensively as well, limiting Heidelberg (7-1, 6-1) to 20 points below its average. Josh Scott led the defense with 11 tackles and picked off a pass that helped Mount Union maintain its 10-point lead.

The Student Princes rolled up 425 yards and scored the most points against Mount Union in a regular season game since the Purple Raiders allowed 51 points in a triple overtime battle with John Carroll during the 1999 season.

Michael Mees threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns, including a 35-yard scoring strike to Dontae Dye early in the third that cut the Purple Raiders' lead to 30-20. An 11-yard run by Cartel Brooks trimmed the Mount Union lead to 30-27 with 5:23 to play in the third.

Brooks scored twice but rushed for only 68 yards. Mees rushed for a touchdown as well.

Will Lance and Clay Staib led the Heidelberg defense with 10 tackles apiece. Staib recovered a fumble as well in this battle of unbeaten teams.

Ian MacDougall kicked his way into school history on Saturday for No. 13 Wabash, which rocked Hiram 66-0 in a NCAC game. MacDougall hit an extra-point late in the first half that gave him 118 in his career and breaking the old record of 117.

MacDougall has connected on 41 extra-points this season and is 12-of-14 on field goals.

The Little Giants dominated the Terriers as they rolled up 352 yard and allowed only 58. They forced six turnovers, including three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.

Houston Hodges returned a pick for 37 yards, while Justin Woods returned two interceptions for scores on runs of 38 yards and 69 yards. 

The three returns by the Little Giants sets a new mark for interception returns for touchdowns. The old record was set in 1996.

Michael Putko threw for 78 yards and a touchdown in the first half and Matt Gibson paced the ground game with 57 yards. Gibson scored the final two touchdowns of the game on runs of five yards and nine yards.

Nate Scola led the defensive effort with eight tackles. Chris Broecker came through with six tackles and Wabash has set the stage for its battle with Wittenberg for the conference championship next Saturday. 

John Carroll continues to dominate opponents defensively, and the story was no different against Wilmington on Saturday in an OAC road game.

The 14th-ranked Blue Streaks crushed the Quakers 63-3 and is now 8-0 overall and 7-0 in the conference. John Carroll has yet to give up more than nine points in a game.

Mark Myers played a pivotal role in the win as he threw for 363 yards and five touchdowns.  He completed 22 of his 26 passes and was just one touchdown pass shy of tying his own school record. 
Aramis Greenwood caught three of those scoring strikes and Jordan D'Orazio caught a touchdown pass and returned a punt 73 yards for a score.

The Blue Streaks churned out 586 yards and held the Quakers to 195 yards. Jimmy King paced the defense with 10 tackles and Brody Zangaro talllied seven tackles. Frank Pines also racked up seven tackles.

John Carroll is still in the hunt for the conference championship and playoff berth and its fate will be decided in the next two weeks. 

The Blue Streaks host Heidelberg on Saturday and play at Mount Union the following weekend to close out the regular season.

The Olde Skull trophy still belongs to Wittenberg after the 16th-ranked Tigers blasted Ohio Wesleyan 55-17 on Saturday in an NCAC game.

Wittenberg churned out 634 yards of offense and did not allow the Bishops to score in the second half. Wittenberg, which led 34-17 at halftime, gave up 376 yards.

Wittenberg (7-1, 7-0) has now scored 50 or more three times this season, and Reed Florence played a pivotal role in the success as he completed 23 of his 29 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns.  He has now thrown 62 touchdown passes in his career. Florence also rushed for a pair of scores and pushed his record career total to 83 touchdowns. 

Sean Gary rushed for 131 yards and a score and Brendon Cunningham caught six passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. Evan Killilea racked up 12 tackles to pace the defense. Spencer Leno came through with 12 tackles as well.

Inside the OAC

Patrick Angle hooked up twice with Justin Buenger on long passing plays for touchdowns and the duo helped lift Ohio Northern to a convincing 49-7 win over Muskingum on Saturday.

Angle threw for 198 yards and three scores, including throwing touchdown passes of 37 and 82 yards to Buenger, who finished with four catches for a career-high 138 yards. Angle also threw a scoring strike to Justin McCray that put the Polar Bears in front 14-0 early in the second quarter.

Devon Price put the special in special teams when he returned a kickoff 84 yards for a score in the second half. Justin Magazine rushed for a pair of touchdowns on a pair of 3-yard runs.

Ohio Northern (4-4, 3-4) rolled up 410 yards while Muskingum (1-7, 1-6) finished with 348. Dillon Kwiat led the Polar Bears defense with 12 tackles. Malcom Burrell added eight tackles.

Darell Jones and Zach Barry finished with eight tackles apiece to pace Muskingum. 

Wes Rataiczak's 30-yard run late in the fourth quarter helped the Muskies avoid the shutout. He finished with 53 rushing yards, and Cody Williams threw for 142 yards.

Otterbein still has a shot at a winning season after knocking off Capital 19-14 on Saturday.

The Cardinals secured the win when they stopped the Crusaders on a fourth-down play at the Otterbein 35-yard line with 51 seconds remaining in the game.

Ben Sizemore helped pace the Cardinals (4-4, 4-3) as he threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Carpenter caught nine passes for 134 yards and caught two touchdown passes against the Crusaders (1-7, 1-6).

Zach Grieves led the Otterbein defense with nine tackles and a sack. Otterbein finished with 359 yards and allowed 328.

Capital was led by Alex Coleman, who rushed for 185 yards and a touchdown. Brent Walton churned out 88 yards and also rushed for a score. Jordan Blair led the defense with 10 tackles.

Inside the MIAA

Albion took a big step toward winning a conference championship as it beat Olivet 42-28 on Saturday. The Britons (6-2, 4-0) have won four consecutive games and can clinch a share of the MIAA title with a win over reigning champ Adrian this coming weekend.

Darrin Williams paved the way as he rushed for a career-high 211 yards and two touchdowns, including a 53-yard run with 45 seconds remaining in this conference showdown against the Comets (6-2, 2-2).

Albion finished with 517 yards in all and took a 21-14 lead into halftime. Dominic Bona threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns, including throwing two to Justin Losey. Losey caught three passes for a career-high 94 yards while Zachary Brewer caught a touchdown pass as well and finished with four catches for 106 yards. It's his second 100-yard game of the year. Brett McCarty paced the Albion defense with 24 tackles, and Shaquille Marshall racked up 12 tackles. Albion allowed 396 yards, including 112 to Tyler Lassic.

Lassic rushed for one touchdown while Braden Black threw for 203 yards and two scores. Kyle Bryson caught both touchdown passes. Trevor Garbow led the defense with nine tackles and a sack.

Brock Rucinski and Aaron McGuire each threw a touchdown pass in the first half and the Kalamazoo defense did the rest in a 14-10 win over Adrian.

Rucinski hit Josh Wise on a 7-yard touchdown pass and Alex Dietrich caught an 8-yard scoring strike from McGuire to put the Hornets up 14-0 at halftime.

The Hornets limited the Bulldogs to 73 yards of offense in the first half and 257 for the game. Kalamazoo finished with 269 yards. McGuire threw for 209 yards and Dietrich caught nine passes for 112 yards.

Dylan Zerki paced the Hornets with 13 tackles while Alan Mencer and Ian Good finished with seven tackles apiece.

Aaron Tenney threw for 110 yards and a score and Damon Brown rushed for 89 yards. Nathan Hartline caught the lone touchdown pass and Jack Carter tallied a team-best 11 tackles.

Inside the NCAC

Denison scored 13 points in the second quarter to give itself a little breathing room in a 27-14 win over Oberlin on Saturday. The Big Red (5-3, 4-3) was paced by Brandon Sklenar, who rushed for a pair of touchdowns and was 13-of-18 for 142 yards. He rushed for 69 yards against the Yeomen (2-6, 1-6).

Sklenar's first touchdown, a 1-yard run, came in the second quarter. Colin Morris' 3-yard touchdown run was also scored in the second. Denison led 20-7 at halftime.

John Wilson caught three passes for 48 yards and Josh Elliott paced the Big Red defense with 13 tackles. Teddy Kuntz and Riley Tight came through with eight tackles apiece. Matt Cochran recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the win.

Denison finished with 292 yards while Oberlin racked up 401 yards. Lucas Poggiali threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns, and Blake Buckhannon caught six of those passes for 143 yards and a score. 

Kyle Kessler led Oberlin with 13 tackles and Zach Kisley tallied 11 tackles.

Jake Velluci stepped up to lead Wooster to a 27-24 win over DePauw on Saturday. During the game-winning drive, Vellucci caught a big pass on fourth down and then made a 19-yard touchdown grab to give the Fighting Scots the lead for good at 27-24.

The lead changed hands five times in this wild battle between the Scots and Tigers. Wooster trailed 10-6 at halftime and was down 24-20 at the end of the third quarter.

But Vellucci came up big on the touchdown pass from Richard Barnes early in the fourth to help the Scots (5-3, 5-2) earn a road win over the Tigers (3-5, 3-4).

Wooster tallied 440 yards, with Barnes throwing for 186 yards and rushing for 105. Barnes rushed for one touchdown. Sean Hackel rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown as well and caught five passes for 40 yards. 

John Battaglia racked up 13 tackles to lead Wooster, while Brandon James finished with nine tackles. The Scots allowed 402 yards as Matt Hunt stepped up and threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns for the Tigers.

Hunt hit Barry Flynn on all three scoring strikes. Flynn finished with eight catches for 130 yards Flynn's 12-yard pass in the first gave the Tigers a 10-0 lead at the end of the quarter. 

Mitch Dwenger tallied 11 tackles to lead the Tigers' defensive effort.

Inside the PAC

Thomas More earned its fourth shutout of the season on Saturday with a 31-0 win over Saint Vincent. The shutout total is the most in program history, and the Saints remain in first place in the standings.

Jensen Gebhardt threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns, while Domonique Hayden rushed for 123 yards and scored the final touchdown of the game. The Saints (7-1, 6-1) scored all of their points in the opening half and rolled up 351 yards while limiting the Bearcats (0-8, 0-6) to 149 yards.

Ryan Winkler caught four passes for 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Erick Butler led the defense with seven tackles and two sacks. Adam Rauch came through with seven tackles. Austin Copeland tallied six tackles and forced a fumble.

Andy Borgen threw for 41 yards and rushed for 27 for the Bearcats. RLaRue-Holloman tallied 13 tackles and Nick Revis added eight tackles.

Waynesburg remained in contention for a share of the conference title with a 38-19 win over Westminster on Saturday.

The Yellow Jackets (7-2, 5-2) rolled up 406 yards of offense, forced six turovers and Dontae Gibson returned a punt 15 yards for a score.

Carter Hill delivered a record-setting performance as he broke three single-season records. Hill completed 22 of his 33 passes for 265 yards and three scores in the win. He has now completed 237 passes on 361 attempts for 2,606 yards and 26 touchdowns. His completion, attempts and touchdown totals are all records for a season.

Bernie Thompson caught seven passes for 93 yards, while Mike Ferraro caught two passes for 36 yards and a pair of scores. Thomas Paulone rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown.

Brandon Fedorka racked up six tackles, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. John Sikora came through with seven tackles and Marvin Sampson racked up five tackles and picked off two passes.

Dak Britt led Westminster (3-5, 2-4) as he threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns. Collin Wallace and Cody Alward each caught a touchdown pass. Nate Moot came up with 10 tackles to lead the Titans on defense.

Quick look at Tartans and Spartans

Despite a phenomenal defensive effort by Malcom Guya, Carnegie Mellon was beaten 9-7 as Washington scored on a game-winning field goal with eight seconds to play in the UAA opener for both teams.

Guya finished with 11 tackles and forced a fumble. Eric Rolfes tallied nine tackles. Ryan Jok added eight tackles and recovered a fumble.

The Tartans (3-5, 0-1) allowed 245 yards racking up 208 yards and led 7-6 at halftime thanks to Bryce Pardoe's 7-yard touchdown catch. It was Pardoe's only catch of the game.

Rob Kalkstein threw for 85 yards while Zach Erra-Hernandez rushed for 68 yards. Kalkstein rushed for 22 yards.

Case Western Reserve forced four turnovers and blocked two punts as it opened UAA play with a 16-3 win over Chicago on Saturday. The Spartans (4-3, 1-0) held the Maroons to only 141 of offense, including just 10 yards on the ground. 

The stellar defensive effort was fueled by Aaron Weisberg and Scott Campbell. Each player tallied nine tackles apiece, with Campbell hitting a career-high mark in tackles.

Eric Dishong came through with four tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Erik Olson led the Spartans on offense as he threw for 109 yards and two touchdowns. However, his streak of 126 passes without an interception ended. Olson threw touchdown passes to GeorgeDarany and Manny Sicre.

The Spartans rolled up 209 yards in the win. They have won their last three games.

Notes: Isaac Reed III rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns to help Baldwin Wallace knock off Marietta 31-7 for its fourth consecutive win. Reed scored on runs of 13 yards and 4 yards as he helped the Yellow Jackets roll up 255 yards on the ground and 313 overall...Shawn Jackson became the 13th running back in Hope history to rush for 1,000 career yards in the Flying Dutchmen's 35-7 win over Trine on Saturday. Jackson carried the ball 11 times for 54 yards and now has 1,034 yards in his career. He is averaging 114.9 yards per game on the season and has 12 rushing touchdowns...Josh Wannamaker made his first collegiate start and rushed for 248 yards and two touchdowns in Thiel's 30-28 win over Bethany on Saturday. Wannamaker scored on runs of 33 and 45 yards as the Tomcats won at Bethany for the first time since 2007. It was Thiel's first road win of the season

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Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Findlay, Ohio. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending the last 10 at The Courier in Findlay. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois and lives in Ottawa with his wife and daughter.

2011 columnist: Dean Jackson
2007-10 columnist: Matt Florjancic

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