Alliance, OH – The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team traded punches with the #1 team in the country all day, but in the end the Mount Union Purple Raiders hit the knockout blow in a 48-35 victory over the Cru Saturday in Alliance, Ohio. The loss in the Division III National Semifinals ends UMHB's season at 13-1. Mount Union improves to 14-0 on the season and advances to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl for the eighth straight season.
UMHB led 21-14 at halftime and stretched it to 28-14 when Brodrick Crain picked off a pass and returned it 42 yards down the Cru sideline for a touchdown with 11:08 left in the third quarter. It would stay that way until Julius Moore hauled in a 10-yard scoring pass from Kevin Burke on the opening play of the fourth quarter to cut it to 28-21. Mount Union tied the game at 28 when Hank Spencer blocked Chad Peevey's punt and Nyejel Thomas recovered in the end zone for another Raider touchdown with 12:50 remaining. The Cru forced a fumble on the next Mount Union possession and Lamar Seels recovered on the Raider 38-yard line. LiDarral Bailey scored on a three-yard keeper two plays later to put UMHB up 35-28. Mount Union answered with an 11-play, 77-yard drive capped by Blair Skilliter's two yard TD run to tie it at 35 with 3:42 to go. UMHB went three-and-out before the Raiders drove for the go-ahead TD on Jake Simon's 12-yard run with five seconds to go. UMHB's last-gasp lateral was intercepted and returned 25 yards for another TD by Matt Felchko as time expired to provide the final margin.
The Raiders drew first blood, scoring on the game's opening possession when Kevin Burke hit Jasper Collins with a 38-yard scoring strike just 1:53 into the game. UMHB would force a Mount Union fumble on the next Raider drive and Elijah Hudson converted it into a two-yard TD plunge to tie it up with 5:32 left in the first quarter. Burke found Collins again, this time from nine yards out to give Mount Union a 14-7 lead with 2:55 to play in the first. Another Raider fumble led to Hudson's ten-yard scoring run to even the game at 14 in the second quarter and the Cru took its first lead of the game on Bailey's two-yard dive with 17 seconds left in the first half.
UMHB forced five turnovers in the game while giving the ball away only once, on the game's final play. The Cru managed just 275 yards of total offense in the game while surrendering more than 200 yards in the fourth quarter.
Bailey finished 9-19 passing for 113 yards and he ran for 24 yards on 16 carries. Hudson ran for 76 yards and two scores on 18 attempts and Darius Wilson added 66 yards on 12 totes. Mike Maldonado recorded a team-high 11 tackles for the Cru and Javicz Jones and Cody Jones added 10 stops apiece.
Burke was 20-33 through the air for 268 yards and three touchdowns and he rushed for 89 yards on 18 carries. Collins caught 11 passes for 200 yards and two scores. Nick Driskill had 19 tackles to lead the Mount Union defensive effort. The Purple Raiders finished with 457 yards of total offense in the victory.
UMHB won 13 games for just the second time in school history, matching the mark set by the 2004 national runner-up team. The Cru was playing in the National Semifinals for the first time since 2008 and for the fourth time overall. Mount Union will face St. Thomas (MN) for the national championship Friday night in Salem, Virginia at 6:00 PM Central Time.