December 20, 2008

It took all 60 for Purple Raiders' 10th

More news about: Mount Union



SALEM, Va. – A fourth-quarter interception that was returned 78 yards for a touchdown likely scarred UW-Whitewater's momentum more than any other play on Saturday.

“I think I was just in the right place at the right time,” Mount Union strong safety Drew McClain said of the pick, which helped usher in a 31-26 victory and a 10th championship for the Purple Raiders. “Lucky enough that the receiver tipped it up in the air, and [I] happened to be there. The ball kind of bounced our way. When that happens, you have to take advantage of the opportunity.”



The 2008 national champions

Mount Union poses with its tenth Walnut and Bronze, following a 31-26 win against UW-Whitewater in Stagg Bowl XXXVI.
Photos by Lou Rabito for D3sports.com

The Warhawks had been slowly chipping away at a lead Mount Union built in the opening minutes of Stagg Bowl XXXVI after quarterback Greg Micheli twice connected with wideout Cecil Shorts for long touchdown passes.

“It was a very hard-fought game, MUC coach Larry Kehres said. “We got a quick start, which we needed. Whitewater fought back. They're powerful and very physical. I think they wore us down a little bit.”

Micheli, the Gagliardi Trophy winner and Stagg Bowl most outstanding player, proved he was a man of vision – one that allowed him to both scramble for big gains and find his receivers deep. Those kinds of performances were lacking from Whitewater, which didn't have a gain of more than 20 yards all day.

“We didn't give up any big plays,” Kehres noted. “We had to play defense a lot. We were on the field almost the whole fourth quarter, and we got tired; you get tired when you have to make that many plays. We shortened the fourth quarter enough to hang onto the victory by not giving up any big plays.”

Aside from a calm breeze that started in the second half, the weather channeled a calm that belied the intensity of the field. Days of rain walking up to the Stagg Bowl subsided at game time, and a comfortable chill hovered in the air. Still, the overcast skies meant that this was technically a game under the lights even if it wasn't that way in spirit.

And for four quarters, the purple-laden stands surrounding Willis White Field did not fall silent.

But 60 minutes was all they got.

“I thought that, you know, if we had a little more time, it would've been a little more interesting, that's for sure,” said Jeff Donovan, the Warhawks' quarterback. “I thought it's not necessarily that we had a slow start. … They just came out of the gates like we preach all year. They did to us what we have prided ourselves on doing.”

UW-Whitewater coach Lance Leipold saw his team fall short at times during the day, but still was happy that the game didn't end early – or at least the intensity didn't end early.

He said he was “proud of our young football team today and the way they competed. With the quick scores and their backs to the wall throughout the game, they never quite got over the hump in some situations where we had some opportunities. This team competed for 60 minutes, and I'm awfully proud of that.”

Mount Union opened the game with three series that were built around massive forward momentum.

“That's one of things we talked about all week, getting a quick start,” Micheli noted.

Falling behind on the scoreboard was compounded by other troubles for Whitewater. Among the team's most significant difficulties was the kicking game, which bookended two missed field goals around halftime.

Yet Whitewater controlled much of the game. The Wisconsin school outgained the Purple Raiders on offense and posted the day's final two touchdowns, all the while keeping Mount Union's offense out of the end zone for the final 49 minutes. Jace Rindahl, a UW-Whitewater linebacker and D3football.com's defensive player of the year, was a key factor in that.

“I'm just down there telling [the defense] … that we're going to be playing all four quarters. Let's just keep fighting, keep fighting every chance you got,” said Rindahl, who had five tackles and a sack. “And you know, that fourth quarter comes around, and it's a ball game, let's make it happen. And that's exactly what happened. We were right in there in the fourth quarter.”

Nestled in the mountains of the Roanoke Valley, the Stagg Bowl pitted two teams that had mountains of their own to climb.

“We had a lot of questions coming into this season,” Micheli said. “We really answered, I think, all of them throughout the year. And to see these young guys grow, I'm really proud of everything they've done.”

Kehres praised his seniors, noting that it was because of them that Mount Union was able to return to Salem and again hoist the Walnut and Bronze.

“The way this worked out, even though we didn't have as many seniors, they led a bunch of younger guys to a championship, more than the coaching staff did,” he said. “Nate by having a contagious energy at practice, it's kind of like the measles, other guys can catch it and learn how to practice effectively. … And Greg through preparation. We've had lots of good quarterbacks, and I don't rank them, but I would say in terms of preparation, no one prepared harder than he did for games.”

Whitewater was in a similar situation, having barely a handful of seniors on this year's team. And it took some easing into difficult roles for the team to finally reach its stride.

“I thought we drove the ball every time we had it, you know, taking the clock up, moving the chains,” said Donovan, who passed for 257 yards. “Our defense settled in and made some key stops. They really got us back in the game and gave us a chance to win it.”

The newly crowned champions have been here before, but not necessarily as this unique group.

Cecil Shorts

Winning the Stagg Bowl, “as a senior, this is the most unbelievable feeling,” said Mount Union running back Nate Kmic, who rushed for 88 yards Saturday. Kmic was named D3football.com's offensive player of the year and, with 8,074 yards in his career, has more than any other player in NCAA history. “I would trade in all the individual awards and all the stuff that's happened in my career for this moment right now. I'm honored to be on this football team.”

After the clock hit 0:00 and the trophies were presented, Mount Union players waved and celebrated in front of their fans, who remained on their side of the stadium long after Whitewater's stands had thinned.

Some on the winning team were seniors, perhaps playing in the last football game of their lives. Their drive was rooted in that, in a desire to go out on top. Others, such as Shorts, may have had additional things on their minds. Shorts, a star of the 2008 championship game, sat in the conference room, his helmet off, proudly displayed the words “Happy B-Day Dad” perfectly painted in his eyeblack.

comments powered by Disqus
Sep. 18: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
Christopher Newport at N.C. Wesleyan
Live Stats Video
Sep. 19: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Framingham State at Fitchburg State
Live Stats Video
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
TBA
TBA at Emory and Henry
12:00 PM
RPI at Castleton State
Live Stats Video Tickets
12:00 PM
Maine Maritime at Massachusetts Maritime
Live Stats Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Gallaudet at Rochester
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Alfred State at Husson
Preview Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Randolph-Macon
Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Moravian at Johns Hopkins
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Frostburg State at Utica
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Alfred at Buffalo State
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Newport News Apprentice at Catholic
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Becker at Nichols
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Wesleyan at Middlebury
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Worcester State
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Hamilton at Tufts
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Bates at Amherst
Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Colby at Trinity (Conn.)
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Salve Regina at William Paterson
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Stevenson
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Allegheny at Hiram
Live Stats Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Merchant Marine
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at St. Vincent
Preview Video
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Thiel
Video
1:00 PM
Ursinus at Franklin and Marshall
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Endicott at Kean
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Coast Guard at Hampden-Sydney
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Averett
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Albright at Widener
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Hobart at Curry
Live Stats Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
LaGrange at Greensboro
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Dickinson
Video Audio
1:00 PM
Rowan at Wesley
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
FDU-Florham at Misericordia
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Juniata at Gettysburg
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Lincoln (Pa.) at Montclair State
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Wabash at Denison
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Bethany at Westminster (Pa.)
1:00 PM
Mount Ida at Springfield
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Hartwick at Ithaca
Live Stats
1:00 PM
WPI at Norwich
Live Stats Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Iowa Wesleyan at Minnesota-Morris
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at Methodist
Video Video
1:30 PM
Ohio Northern at Baldwin Wallace
Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Capital
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Franklin at Anderson
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Carnegie Mellon at Washington and Jefferson
Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at John Carroll
Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
King's at Lycoming
Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
Geneva at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Muskingum
Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Defiance
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Earlham at Manchester
Live Stats Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Bowdoin at Williams
Video
2:00 PM
Muhlenberg at McDaniel
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at TCNJ
Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Marietta at Otterbein
Audio
2:00 PM
Hope at Lakeland
Audio
2:00 PM
Olivet at Aurora
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Trine at Rockford
Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Albion at Concordia (Wis.)
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
North Park at Washington U.
Preview Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Kalamazoo at Wisconsin Lutheran
Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Eau Claire at Wheaton (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio Tickets
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at St. John's
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Bethel
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Augsburg at Carleton
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Hamline at Gustavus Adolphus
2:00 PM
Stetson at Birmingham-Southern
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at Sul Ross State
Audio
2:00 PM
Occidental at Austin
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Howard Payne
Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Central
2:00 PM
Grinnell at Luther
Video
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at Coe
Audio
2:00 PM
Eureka at Greenville
2:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at MacMurray
2:00 PM
Loras at Augustana
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Texas Lutheran at Louisiana College
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at Simpson
Live Stats Video
2:30 PM
Rose-Hulman at Hanover
Live Stats Video
3:00 PM
Plymouth State at Western Connecticut
Live Stats
3:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Wayland Baptist
Live Stats Audio
3:00 PM
Lewis and Clark at Whittier
Live Stats Video
3:00 PM
Willamette at Cal Lutheran
Live Stats
3:30 PM
Alma at Concordia-Chicago
3:30 PM
Carroll at Lake Forest
Live Stats Video
3:30 PM
Whitworth at La Verne
Live Stats Video Audio
4:00 PM
Westfield State at Mass-Dartmouth
Live Stats Video
4:00 PM
Crown at St. Scholastica
Live Stats Live Stats Video
6:00 PM
DePauw at Wittenberg
Live Stats Video Audio
6:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Brockport State
Audio Tickets
6:00 PM
UW-River Falls at South Dakota Mines
7:00 PM
Guilford at Southern Virginia
@ Salem Stadium
Live Stats Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Wooster at Oberlin
Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
Ferrum at Shenandoah
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
Centre at Washington and Lee
Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
Kenyon at Ohio Wesleyan
7:00 PM
Wilkes at Delaware Valley
Live Stats Audio
7:00 PM
Pacific at Dubuque
Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Platteville at North Central (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Chicago at Elmhurst
Preview Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
Mary Hardin-Baylor at UW-La Crosse
7:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at South Dakota State
Live Stats Video Audio
7:30 PM
Adrian at Benedictine
Live Stats Video Audio
8:00 PM
UW-Stout at Wartburg
Audio
8:00 PM
Martin Luther at Northwestern (Minn.)
8:00 PM
Southwestern at East Texas Baptist
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
10:00 PM
Rhodes at Pomona-Pitzer
Preview Live Stats Video
10:00 PM
Linfield at Redlands
Live Stats Video Audio
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Brockport State
Audio Tickets
6:00 PM
DePauw at Wittenberg
Live Stats Video Audio
8:00 PM
UW-Stout at Wartburg
Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at South Dakota State
Live Stats Video Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Platteville at North Central (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Mary Hardin-Baylor at UW-La Crosse
10:00 PM
Linfield at Redlands
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at TCNJ
Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Muskingum
Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at John Carroll
Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
King's at Lycoming
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Rowan at Wesley
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Coast Guard at Hampden-Sydney
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Wabash at Denison
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Thiel
Video
1:00 PM
Hartwick at Ithaca
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Hobart at Curry
Live Stats Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Moravian at Johns Hopkins
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Bethel
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-Eau Claire at Wheaton (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio Tickets
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at Simpson
Live Stats Video

What We're Reading