November 27, 2013

The rare Ohio showdown

More news about: Mount Union | Wittenberg
Spencer Leno considered purple, but ended up in red.
Wittenberg athletics photo

By Brian Lester
D3sports.com

When Spencer Leno was looking at his options to play college football, Mount Union was on his list of potential places to continue his athletic career.

"Mount Union was in my top three," Leno said. "I didn't grow up too far from Alliance and knew a lot about the school. I definitely considered going there."

But decisions are not made quickly by an athlete, and after a visit to Wittenberg, Leno knew the school was the right fit for him.

"I went on a couple visits and just fell in love with the place," said Leno, a star linebacker for the Tigers. "I liked the team and the coaching staff and they were looking for linebackers. It felt like a good fit.

Reed Florence is the starting quarterback for the Tigers and he said he never considered Mount Union. A couple of Division II schools did offer him an opportunity to be a preferred walk-on, but he chose to play for Wittenberg instead.

Still, even though the Purple Raiders weren't on his radar, everyone in Division III is aware of the reputation Mount Union has in the small-college football world.

"They have a great football program. They have great playmakers on both sides of the ball and they have a great tradition.

But the stories of what might have been are irrelevant at this point. Leno and Florence have become standout players at Wittenberg and have the No. 12 Tigers poised for a run at the national championship.

But if that run is to continue, No. 12 Wittenberg will have to get past No. 1 Mount Union on Saturday afternoon in a matchup of the two winningest programs in NCAA Division III history.

Although Mount Union has won 26 consecutive games and is the defending national champion, first-year head coach Vince Kehres does not expect anything to come easy against the Tigers.

The winner moves one step closer to Salem and a shot at a championship. The other will begin making plans for the offseason and the 2014 campaign.

"Wittenberg is a very successful, veteran team with talented players," Kehres said. "They can do a lot of different things very well. We will have to play well to be successful."

What is interesting about Mount Union and Wittenberg is that despite combining for more than 1,450 wins --- the Purple Raiders have 725 wins and the Tigers have 727 --- and despite being two of the most dominant teams in the state, the programs have only faced each other 28 times.

Wittenberg leads the series 18-10 but Mount Union has won seven of the last eight, including the 2001 NCAA quarterfinal battle by a score of 49-21 in Alliance.

No one would commit to a reason why the former Ohio Athletic Conference foes haven't met more regularly during the season: Wittenberg played Division I FCS non-scholarship Butler as its only non-conference opponent this season, while Mount Union played Franklin. One thing is for sure, the Tigers aren't going to allow themselves to be intimidated by the challenge and lose the game mentally before they even step on the field physically.

"Obviously, Mount Union is a very well-respected program and they have had a lot of success. It's going to take a great effort on our part to win it. But we are going to prepare the same way we have all year. It's not bigger than any other game. We have to go out with the mindset that we will be successful."

Florence echoed those thoughts.

"We aren't going to change much at this point," Florence said. "We will play the game the same way we have played it all year. We are treating this like any other game. Mount Union is a great team, the best in Division III, but we have to be ready to play our best and believe in each other."

Spencer Wilkinson caught three touchdown passes for Mount Union in the playoff opener vs. Washington and Jefferson.
Photo by Dan Poel for d3photography.com

Belief can be tough to generate when one thinks about the challenges Mount Union presents. The 11-time national champions and winners of 22 consecutive OAC championships feature an explosive offense and a defense that can be downright unforgiving at times.

Kevin Burke has thrown for 2,745 yards and 35 touchdowns while only getting picked off six times. Bradly Mitchell has rushed for 949 yards and six scores and Jack Nicholls has made 59 catches for 903 yards and nine touchdowns. Four other receivers have caught at least five touchdown passes, including Luc Meacham, who has made 10 touchdown grabs. Sherman Wilkinson had a breakout game for the Purple Raiders last week, adding a deep threat that Mount Union has not had as much this season.

The Purple Raiders are averaging 539 yards per game and the defense is giving up 232.7 yards per game. Tom Lally leads the defense with 64 tackles and nine sacks.

Alex Kocheff has racked up 63 tackles and four sacks. He has also recovered four fumbles.

In their playoff opener, the Purple Raiders (11-0) took down Washington & Jefferson 34-20. Kehres was pleased with the effort.

"On offense, I thought we he hit some big plays early to get off to a good start, then later when the weather turned, we were able to run the ball effectively to control the clock," Kehres said.  "On defense, we were able to limit them from running the football.”

Wittenberg has quite a bit of momentum heading into this game. The Tigers have rattled off 10 consecutive wins after a season-opening loss to Butler, their latest victory a 59-17 drubbing of Lebanon Valley where the Tigers scored on nine of 10 possessions en route to the convincing win.

Leno said the success of the Tigers (10-1) is a credit to the work of the team in the offseason, particularly the seniors.

comments powered by Disqus
Sep. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Christopher Newport 31, at N.C. Wesleyan 28
Box Score
Sep. 19: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Framingham State at Fitchburg State
Live Stats Video
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
RPI at Castleton State
Preview Live Stats Video Tickets
12:00 PM
Maine Maritime at Massachusetts Maritime
Preview 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 Video 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 Video
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 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
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Ursinus at Franklin and Marshall
Preview Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Endicott at Kean
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Coast Guard at Hampden-Sydney
Preview 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 Video Audio 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
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Capital
Preview Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Franklin at Anderson
Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Carnegie Mellon at Washington and Jefferson
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at John Carroll
Preview Live Stats Video Video Audio 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
Preview 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
Live Stats Video 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.)
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Tickets
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at St. John's
Preview 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
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Stetson at Birmingham-Southern
Preview 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
Preview Live Stats Video
3:00 PM
Plymouth State at Western Connecticut
Live Stats
3:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Wayland Baptist
Live Stats Video 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
Live Stats Video
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
Preview 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.)
Preview 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.)
Live Stats Video
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 Audio
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Brockport State
Audio Tickets
6:00 PM
DePauw at Wittenberg
Preview 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.)
Preview 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 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
Preview Live Stats Video Video Audio 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
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Wabash at Denison
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Thiel
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Hartwick at Ithaca
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Hobart at Curry
Live Stats Live Stats Video Audio 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.)
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Tickets
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at Simpson
Live Stats Video

What We're Reading