/notables/2012/12/mount-union-wins-11th-national-title

Mount Union seniors get their championship

More news about: Mount Union | St. Thomas
Mount Union ended a three-year drought in Salem, defeating St. Thomas 28-10 for the national title.
Photo by Dan Poel, d3photography.com 

By Ryan Tipps
D3sports.com

SALEM -- This class of Mount Union seniors got themselves one kind of first and avoided another kind.

With the specter of being the only Purple Raiders football team in two decades to go four years without a national championship, the senior-laden squad battled its way to the Walnut and Bronze with a 28-10 win over St. Thomas.

Near the end of the fourth quarter, the mood of the stadium changed and the team knew – they knew they finally achieved that elusive goal. After St. Thomas’ final drive, All-American defensive back Nick Driskill stood on the 40-yard line, facing the Mount fans, and pointed to the sky.

Mount Union’s Stagg Bowl XL performance brought them all the way to the top.

“It’s very heartwarming” to be in this position, coach Larry Kehres said to a crowd of fans and players as the team accepted the championship trophy.

The national title was the 11th for the Purple Raiders in 16 trips to Salem.

It was also the first time in eight years that the Division III national championship didn’t feature Mount Union against UW-Whitewater. The Purple Raiders may not have had the chance to avenge their three straight losses against the Warhawks, but that in no way diminished the fulfillment that this team feels.

The spark was lit in the first drive, when Mount Union traveled 82 yards down the field, helped by a 41-yard reception by All-America wideout Junior Collins and capped by a 1-yard run by Jake Simon. But the Purple Raiders’ offensive momentum stalled for a large chunk of the game – though the scoreboard wasn't stagnant.

Late in the first quarter, defensive lineman-turned-linebacker Charles Dieuseul blocked a punt, picked up the loose ball and found the end zone, lifting Mount Union to a 14-0 lead from which it would never need to look back.  It marked the third playoff game in a row in which a blocked punt led to a Mount Union touchdown.

“I was going to score regardless, if I had to drag 20 people in there, I was going to get into the end zone,” Dieuseul said.

He said that practicing punt blocking was part of the team’s routine, and Kehres noted that he’s never hesitated from using his best players on the field in that aspect of the game.

“We practice special teams daily, more minutes probably than a lot of other teams. And we get the dividend of that,” Kehres said. “We’re not afraid to take risks.”

Though Mount Union owned the first quarter, in many ways, St. Thomas commanded the second and third quarters, but often couldn’t convert their spurts of momentum into points. A pivotal point in the game was in the middle of the third, when a flubbed Mount Union punt was recovered by the Tommies. But the Purple Raiders held the Tommies and forced them into kicking a 38-yard field goal. That closed the gap on the scoreboard to four points, injecting new drama into Salem Stadium.

Mount Union responded in the way that Mount Union often does, with forceful conviction. Twice then, the team strung together drives of more than 80 yards and further solidified their lead and the security of a victory.

“We had some flashes of excellence that showed up at times and that pulled us through,” Kehres said. “Our defense was consistent throughout.” (continues below)

“When they got us on our heels,” Tommies coach Glenn Caruso said, “they were able to bring pressure and get home. There were times when we had a decent answer to it, and we moved the ball a little bit. But there were more times that we did not have a good enough answer to it.”

Kehres lauded St. Thomas’ defense and special teams, along with some of the twists they threw in.

“It was a tough game,” Kehres said. “We had our up moments and our down moments. The pressure defense from St. Thomas does that.”

Before Friday night, Mount averaged 62 points a game over the first four playoff tilts. Instead on Friday, they were held to less than half that. The Purple Raiders, which throughout the season averaged 557.71 yards per game, was held to 344 yards.

In their toughest moments, sophomore quarterback Kevin Burke said he and his teammates “kind of buckled down, looked at where they were, and kind of realized this is it.”

“That hits you hard, and you have to step up at that point,” said Burke, who with 222 passing yards was named the Stagg Bowl’s Most Outstanding Player. “We’re not a perfect team by any means, but we got the job done.”

Chris Denton, an All-America wide receiver for Mount, said he and his teammates went in with the intent of always setting its own pace.  Opponents “like to change the game on us,” he said. Mount’s reply is not letting them do so.

Denton hauled in his team’s third-quarter touchdown, a 17-yard strike that might very well have swung the momentum back to Mount after several minutes of pressure from the Tommies. It was fourth down and five yards to go, and Mount could have settled for a field goal. Instead, the Purple Raiders showed what being a championship team is all about.

Experience has helped make this team so good. Only one starter on the offense isn’t a senior, and seven starting defenders are seniors. Collins had some of the game’s biggest receptions and notched his sixth-straight 100-yard game. Running back Jake Simon had 87 yards and two touchdowns. The front five opened some big holes. Strong safety Nick Driskill and cornerback Isaiah Scott made plays.  

Because of what these players meant to him, the effort to bring home a title for the first time since 2008 had a renewed sense of urgency for Kehres.  

He said while it would have been easy for this senior class to get down on itself or angry, this team showed great resolve amid its past three season-ending losses.

“It was a difficult three years, to see the seniors experience loss in the final game I felt for them,” Kehres said. But “this group inspired me. … They were such a dedicated group.”

What do the seniors have to say about it?

Dieuseul answered: “It’s the greatest feeling in the world. We worked all summer long … and all the work we did in offseason ball at 5 o’clock in the morning, 6 a.m. lifting, practices in the snow, it paid off tonight.”

Burke, the only non-senior among the offensive starters, will help carry the momentum and drive into next year. The quarterback who is as dangerous on his feet as he is with his arm offered his secret:

“We just played Mount Union football.”

Oct. 19: All times Eastern
Final
Martin Luther 21, at Northwestern (Minn.) 6
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Oct. 20: All times Eastern
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at Stevenson 33, Wilkes 21
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at RPI 31, Hobart 24
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at MIT 13, Coast Guard 0
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Norwich 15, at Maine Maritime 7
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at Moravian 31, Juniata 14
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at Dean 53, Gallaudet 21
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Endicott 45, at Becker 13
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Frostburg State 24, at Montclair State 17
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SUNY-Maritime 68, at Castleton 41
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at Trinity (Texas) 28, Sewanee 14
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Johns Hopkins 51, at Gettysburg 14
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N.C. Wesleyan 29, at Brevard 21
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at Misericordia 37, FDU-Florham 33
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Union 29, at St. Lawrence 7
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at Ithaca 28, Rochester 3
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at Colby 23, Hamilton 21
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at Middlebury 35, Bates 34
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Trinity (Conn.) 48, at Bowdoin 6
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Springfield 23, at Catholic 11
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Amherst 33, at Wesleyan 3
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at Plymouth State 17, Massachusetts Maritime 14
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at Husson 54, Anna Maria 14
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TCNJ 13, at Kean 8
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Carnegie Mellon 41, at Thiel 7
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Salve Regina 30, at Curry 21
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King's 37, at Albright 26
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Trine 31, at Finlandia 0
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Susquehanna 41, at Ursinus 35
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Delaware Valley 52, at Lebanon Valley 7
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at Western New England 70, University of New England 13
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Franklin and Marshall 35, at Dickinson 14
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at Wittenberg 38, DePauw 23
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at Emory and Henry 52, Shenandoah 50
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at Wabash 32, Oberlin 7
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at Westminster (Pa.) 27, Washington and Jefferson 20
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at Hampden-Sydney 38, Guilford 35
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at Randolph-Macon 44, Bridgewater 41
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Cortland 56, at Hartwick 3
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at Denison 27, Ohio Wesleyan 10
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Waynesburg 12, at St. Vincent 10
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Salisbury 33, at Southern Virginia 0
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at Methodist 42, Greensboro 6
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Christopher Newport 39, at William Paterson 10
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Albion 49, at Adrian 42
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Thomas More 35, at St. Scholastica 0
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at Westminster (Mo.) 25, Minnesota-Morris 7
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Lake Forest 24, at Grinnell 0
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at Greenville 41, Crown 14
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at Merchant Marine 25, WPI 24
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at John Carroll 27, Marietta 24
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at Tufts 28, Williams 21
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Ohio Northern 49, at Capital 46
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Baldwin Wallace 35, at Wilmington 33
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at Mount Union 54, Heidelberg 0
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at Lycoming 52, Alvernia 0
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at Rose-Hulman 44, Anderson 6
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at Franklin 64, Earlham 20
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Hanover 48, at Manchester 14
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Mount St. Joseph 20, at Defiance 0
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at Utica 30, Alfred 22
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Maryville (Tenn.) 37, at LaGrange 17
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Framingham State 27, at Westfield State 2
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Morrisville State 35, at St. John Fisher 7
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at Muskingum 21, Otterbein 14
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at Berry 28, Millsaps 21
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at Muhlenberg 42, McDaniel 18
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at Rowan 28, Wesley 27
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at Wooster 28, Hiram 21
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Allegheny 54, at Kenyon 10
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at Nebraska Wesleyan 23, Luther 15
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Wheaton (Ill.) 20, at Augustana 3
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at Eureka 50, Benedictine 20
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Mary Hardin-Baylor 49, at Belhaven 0
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at Hardin-Simmons 58, Texas Lutheran 14
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Chicago 63, at Beloit 0
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at Concordia (Wis.) 45, Concordia-Chicago 34
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Aurora 25, at Rockford 7
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at Bethel 41, Concordia-Moorhead 13
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Lakeland 38, at Wisconsin Lutheran 12
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at St. John's 57, St. Olaf 7
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at Gustavus Adolphus 42, Augsburg 0
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Dubuque 38, at Buena Vista 7
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North Central (Ill.) 26, at Carthage 14
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at Ripon 58, Macalester 34
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at Monmouth 51, Cornell 0
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at Simpson 38, Loras 33
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at Knox 20, Illinois College 6
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UW-Stout 31, at UW-Stevens Point 27
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Millikin 14, at Elmhurst 13
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at MacMurray 20, Iowa Wesleyan 13
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UW-Eau Claire 40, at UW-Platteville 16
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at St. Thomas 68, Carleton 0
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at Mass-Dartmouth 41, Worcester State 27
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at Wartburg 47, Central 20
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at UW-Oshkosh 24, UW-La Crosse 13
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at UW-Whitewater 44, UW-River Falls 7
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at Birmingham-Southern 47, Austin 35
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Centre 41, at Rhodes 14
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at Carroll 23, North Park 0
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at Kalamazoo 17, Alma 10
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at Pacific Lutheran 33, Willamette 20
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at Brockport 65, Buffalo State 7
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at Averett 45, Huntingdon 17
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Washington and Lee 38, at Ferrum 35
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at Pacific 54, Lewis and Clark 22
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Redlands 35, at La Verne 17
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Whitworth 47, at Puget Sound 13
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Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 27, at Occidental 7
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Linfield 14, at George Fox 0
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at Hope 35, Olivet 30
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at Western Connecticut 50, Bridgewater State 48
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Case Western Reserve 27, at Geneva 14
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at Sul Ross State 28, Howard Payne 27
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East Texas Baptist 48, at Louisiana College 27
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Illinois Wesleyan 27, at Washington U. 21
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St. Norbert 46, at Lawrence 0
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3 Whittier
21 Pomona-Pitzer
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19 Chapman
7 Cal Lutheran
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Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
Frostburg State 24, at Montclair State 17
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at RPI 31, Hobart 24
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Trine 31, at Finlandia 0
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at Wittenberg 38, DePauw 23
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at Westminster (Pa.) 27, Washington and Jefferson 20
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Final
Delaware Valley 52, at Lebanon Valley 7
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Johns Hopkins 51, at Gettysburg 14
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at Mount Union 54, Heidelberg 0
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at John Carroll 27, Marietta 24
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Final - OT
at Berry 28, Millsaps 21
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at Rowan 28, Wesley 27
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at Muhlenberg 42, McDaniel 18
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Wheaton (Ill.) 20, at Augustana 3
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Mary Hardin-Baylor 49, at Belhaven 0
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at St. John's 57, St. Olaf 7
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at Hardin-Simmons 58, Texas Lutheran 14
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North Central (Ill.) 26, at Carthage 14
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at St. Thomas 68, Carleton 0
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at UW-Oshkosh 24, UW-La Crosse 13
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at UW-Whitewater 44, UW-River Falls 7
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at Brockport 65, Buffalo State 7
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Whitworth 47, at Puget Sound 13
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Linfield 14, at George Fox 0
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Case Western Reserve 27, at Geneva 14
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Illinois Wesleyan 27, at Washington U. 21
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