TIFFIN, Ohio – The No. 9 Heidelberg University football fell from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday, losing to No. 1 Mount Union 44-34 in front of a record crowd at Mayer Field.
Quarterback Michael Mees threw for a season-high 327 yards on 17-of-34 passing with two touchdowns and an interception to lead the Student Princes offensively.
Mount Union (8-0, 7-0 OAC) struck first on a 14-yard touchdown from Kevin Burke to Jack Nicholls. Edward Ruhnke's extra point made it 7-0.
Heidelberg (7-1, 6-1 OAC) answered quickly. Mees found Cameron Vocke in the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown strike. The play was set up by a 64-yard completion to Donteea Dye on 3rd-and-9. Dan Kilger hit the extra point to tie the game.
Trailing 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, Mees scrambled for a 5-yard touchdown. The drive was aided by a 21-yard completion to Derek Hug. The point after hit the upright, which kept the score at 17-13.
On the ensuing drive, Heidelberg forced Mount into 4th-and-7 at their own 19. Ruhnke lined up in punt formation, took the snap and ran to the right side for a 50-yard gain. Three plays later, Burke hit Luc Meachem for a 27-yard touchdown. The score was part of a 13-point run for the visitors, who took a 30-13 lead into the locker room.
After a Mount Union punt on the opening drive of the third quarter, Mees and Dye connected for a 35-yard touchdown pass. Dye finished with four catches for 112 yards.
A quirky play on the next Mount possession yielded the game's first turnover. Burke dropped back to pass and slipped as he tried to step up in the pocket. In an attempt to avoid the sack, Burke tried to send a shovel pass to running back B.J. Mitchell. Heidelberg's Clay Staib picked up the loose ball and returned it 13 yards to the Mount Union 27. The officials conversed and ruled it a fumble.
Cartel Brooks turned the turnover into points, as the junior from Galion danced his way into the end zone from 11 yards out. Kilger's extra point made it 30-27. It was as close as Heidelberg would get.
Mitchell carried the ball six times on the next Purple Raider possession, including a 2-yard touchdown rush. Burke and Nicholls connected on a 64-yard completion.
The Student Princes drove the ball down to the 2-yardline on their next possession, thanks in large part to a 56-yard pass from a scrambling Mees to a wide open Brooks on the right side. Facing 4th-and-goal to start the fourth quarter, The Berg lined up for a 20-yard field goal attempt. The holder, Nate Hasse, took the snap, rolled to his left, but was hit and fumbled before he could get off a pass.
Mount Union recovered the fumble and scored five plays later. On 3rd-and-8, Burke found Meachem for a 56-yard touchdown. Burke finished 16-of-22 passing for 310 yards and four touchdowns, two to Nicholls and two to Meachem. Nicholls had 125 yards and Meachem had 100 yards.
Undeterred, Heidelberg turned up the intensity and scored again. Brooks started with a 17-yard pickup, followed by passes to Christian Dominguez and Hug for 22 yards and 32 yards respectively. Brooks scored his second touchdown on a 9-yard rush.
Despite allowing the two touchdowns, the Mount Union defense bottled up Brooks for most of the game. He was held to a season-low 68 yards on 26 carries.
Trailing by 10, the Heidelberg defense continued to get stops down the stretch, but the Student Princes could not strike again.
Despite giving up a season-high 654 yards of total offense, Heidelberg sacked the elusive Burke five times and had nine total tackles for loss.
The Berg offense tallied 425 yards. Their 34 points were the most given up by Mount Union in the regular season since 1999.
All is not lost for the Student Princes, who still have a shot at a conference title and a playoff bid. They face undefeated No. 15 John Carroll in University Heights next Saturday.