December 5, 2012

There's a big D in Driskill

More news about: Mount Union
Nick Driskill has been playing at a high level in the playoffs as well for Mount Union, with an interception against Johns Hopkins and two punt blocks vs. Widener.
Photo by Dan Poel, d3photography.com

By Brian Lester
D3sports.com

Nick Driskill has been making plays all season for the Mount Union defense, hardly a surprise for a player who was recently named North Region Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row and was one of the ten finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy, which goes to the top all-around student-athlete in D-III football.

The senior defensive back made a few more plays on Saturday, most notably on special teams. He blocked two punts in a momentum-swinging second quarter in the national quarterfinal against Widener, including one that he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. The other set the stage for an eight-play scoring drive.

The top-ranked Purple Raiders went into the second quarter with a 7-3 lead. They ended it with a commanding 37-3 advantage and would go on to crush Widener, the team with the No. 4 scoring offense in the nation, 72-17.

And while Driskill was the one who was credited with the blocks, he won't hog the spotlight on the plays.

"I can't take all of the credit," Driskill said. "Charles (Dieuseul) was the one who allowed me to run free and get the blocks. I owe him a steak or two for that."

Dinner will come later. For now, Driskill and the Purple Raiders are focused on continuing their march toward a national championship.

In the win against Widener, Driskill racked up four tackles and has 71 on the season. He has 13.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, has picked off two passes, forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble.

He helped Mount Union shut down the Widener running game, holding it to minus-29 yards. The Purple Raiders gave up just 293 yards of total offense as they inched closer to ending a three-year national title drought.

Putting the D in defense

Safety Nick Driskill and linebacker Charles Dieuseul help anchor the back seven for the Mount Union defense, especially in the postseason:

Name Tkl-solo TFL sack int/ff blk pbu
Driskill 71-46 13.5 3 2/2 2 8
Postseason 15-7 0.5 0 1/0 2 2
Dieuseul 71-42 10.5 4.5 3/1 0 2
Postseason 22-16 5.5 2 1/0 0 1

"Each week we work on getting better and I thought we took another step last weekend," Driskill said. "We were able to make plays against a very good team and hopefully we can play even better this week."

The success Driskill has enjoyed this season isn’t by accident. The 2011 D3football.com Defensive Player of the Year and 2012 Capital One Academic All-American of the Year has worked hard to get to where he is today as an athlete and in the classroom. He also benefits from having solid football instincts.

“He reacts very quickly to what he sees with his quickness and he puts himself in position to finish plays,” Mount Union defensive coordinator Vince Kehres said. “Nick has a tremendous work ethic and has worked hard each offseason to make himself better as an athlete. His results on the agility, strength and jumping tests we measure in the offseason are always among the best on the team.”

Driskill said his success is linked to the fact that he spends a lot of time in the film room and he never allows himself to be satisfied with his performance.

"I know I'm never going to play a perfect game, and I am very hard on myself. It's hard for me to walk away from a game feeling completely happy with my play," Driskill said. "I study a lot of film and work hard on the field. I also go into every game as focused as possible."

Driskill is one piece of a defensive unit that has dominated the competition, and even dominated might not be the word that does the Purple Raiders’ defense justice.

Mount Union is giving up 174.6 yards per game and had a six-week stretch during the regular season in which it did not give up a point. The most points allowed this season is 17. That has happened twice. Eight teams have scored seven points or less.

Charles Dieuseul, who moved from defensive line after last season, has had a fantastic season at linebacker for Mount Union.
Photo by Dan Poel, d3photography.com

Dieuseul, a senior linebacker, has been huge to that success, racking up 71 tackles. He has also picked off three passes.

Freshman linebacker Hank Spencer has tallied 48 tackles and has recorded two interceptions while sophomore defensive lineman Ted Rosalva has come through with 45 tackles and five sacks.

Senior defensive back Isaiah Scott (45 tackles), senior defensive lineman Frank Orteca (43 tackles) and junior defensive lineman Matt Fechko (42 tackles) have also played key roles for the Purple Raiders, who are allowing 39.1 yards per game on the ground and 135.8 through the air.

So what has been the key to the success of the defense? Driskill said he and his teammates set high expectations for themselves before the season began.

"We went back and looked at the defensive stats of the 2006 team here. They were one of the best teams in program history," Driskill said. "We also looked at the defensive stats of Alabama from last year. We wanted to be as good as those teams. We set the expectations high."

The Purple Raiders will be aiming high again this week as they take on Mary-Hardin Baylor, the No. 2 team in the nation, in a national semifinal at Mount Union Stadium.

The Crusaders won the American Southwest Conference title and are 13-0.  Quarterback LiDarral Bailey has thrown for 2,529 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 937 yards and 13 scores.

Like the Purple Raiders, Mary Hardin-Baylor also has a stellar defense. The Crusaders have racked up 36 sacks and have forced 40 turnovers, putting them plus-19 in the turnover margin.

Yet, Mount Union is confident its defense will rise to the occasion just as it has so many times before as it takes aim at advancing to the Stagg Bowl and having a shot to win its first national title since 2008.

“We have been able to have a good year because of our overall quickness as a defense,” Kehres said. “Our ability to get off blocks and tackle as a unit and our ability to play smart has also been big. We react quickly because our players are focused in practices and meetings on their keys and assignments as well as our opponents’ tendencies. That is a credit to our seniors and captains who lead by example.”

Driskill has been one of those leaders and he is hoping to end his career with a title.

"We don't want to be a senior class that doesn't win a championship," Driskill said. "All of us came to Mount Union to win one. We are playing a good opponent this week, but if we play our game, we'll have a chance to move on."

Sep. 1: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Coast Guard at Anna Maria
7:00 PM
Defiance at Baldwin Wallace
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Johns Hopkins
7:30 PM
Trine at Manchester
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
Sep. 2: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Mount Ida
6:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
7:00 PM
Muhlenberg at Wilkes
7:00 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Stevenson
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Becker
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Albright at Salisbury
7:00 PM
WPI at MIT
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Salve Regina at Worcester State
7:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Curry
7:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
10:00 PM
Adrian at Pacific
Sep. 3: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Endicott at Framingham State
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Washington U. at Carnegie Mellon
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Chicago at Case Western Reserve
12:00 PM
Husson at Alfred
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Cortland at Heidelberg
12:00 PM
Otterbein at Buffalo State
12:00 PM
Ursinus at Bethany
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Kenyon
1:00 PM
King's at Moravian
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Kean at Christopher Newport
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Catholic
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton
Live Stats
1:00 PM
RPI at Norwich
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Dickinson
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Kalamazoo
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
1:00 PM
Wooster at Washington and Jefferson
1:00 PM
Alfred State at William Paterson
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Alma
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Olivet at St. John Fisher
1:00 PM
Rowan at Widener
1:00 PM
Hobart at Brockport
1:00 PM
Union at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Utica at Misericordia
1:00 PM
The Apprentice School at Methodist
1:00 PM
TCNJ at UW-Whitewater
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Bluffton
1:30 PM
Monmouth at Hope
1:30 PM
Bridgewater at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
2:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Trinity Int'l
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Austin at Hendrix
2:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Martin Luther
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Millikin at Greenville
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
Live Stats
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Rockford
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Westminster (Mo.)
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Luther
2:00 PM
Beloit at Lake Forest
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Jamestown
2:00 PM
Crown at Hamline
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
2:00 PM
Bethel at Dubuque
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at St. John's
Live Stats
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Grinnell
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at Mayville St.
2:00 PM
Simpson at UW-Stout
2:00 PM
Aurora at Carthage
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at Coe
2:00 PM
Ripon at Concordia-Chicago
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Loras
2:00 PM
Huntingdon at Louisiana College
2:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Robert Morris-Chicago
2:00 PM
Benedictine at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
John Carroll at UW-Oshkosh
2:30 PM
Southern Virginia at Earlham
Live Stats
2:30 PM
Lawrence at Presentation
4:00 PM
UW-Platteville at George Fox
4:00 PM
La Verne at Puget Sound
Video Live Stats
4:00 PM
Central at Whitworth
5:00 PM
Hartwick at Western Connecticut
Live Stats
6:00 PM
Wabash at Albion
6:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Berry
6:00 PM
Augustana at Mount St. Joseph
6:00 PM
Thomas More at Franklin
Live Stats
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Averett
7:00 PM
Denison at Marietta
7:00 PM
Hiram at Westminster (Pa.)
7:00 PM
Thiel at Allegheny
7:00 PM
Capital at Wittenberg
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Shenandoah at Gallaudet
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Illinois College at Rose-Hulman
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Geneva at Frostburg State
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Guilford
Live Stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Southwestern
7:00 PM
Anderson at North Park
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Mary Hardin-Baylor
7:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Texas Lutheran
7:10 PM
St. Thomas at UW-Eau Claire
Video Live Stats
7:30 PM
Hanover at Centre
8:00 PM
Willamette at Rhodes
8:00 PM
Cornell at Iowa Wesleyan
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Augsburg at Northwestern (Minn.)
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Howard Payne
8:00 PM
Sul Ross State at UT-Permian Basin
8:30 PM
Redlands at Trinity (Texas)
Dec. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 49, at St. Thomas 35
@ Salem, Va.
Box Score Recap Recap Photos