|North Central celebrated after the Cardinals intercepted D'Angelo Fulford in the end zone with two seconds left.
Photo by Ed Hall, Ohiosi.com
Broc Rutter and North Central knocked 13-time champion Mount Union out of the playoffs prior to the national semifinals for the first time since 1994 with a 59-52 win in Alliance, while defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor cruised into the quarterfinals and a matchup with UW-Whitewater, Salisbury won a shootout and Muhlenberg, Wheaton, St. John's and Delaware Valley won big in second-round action.
- Full second-round scoreboard
- Chapman continues into uncharted territory
- Muhlenberg family keys off brothers
- Bounceback year has Huntingdon in second round
- Playoff headlines
- Playoff bracket
- Playoff team capsules: UMHB bracket | Mount Union | Salisbury | Wheaton
The Purple Raiders entered Saturday's game as the No. 1-ranked team in the country featured the nation's most-efficient passer, senior D'Angelo Fulford; the No. 5 Cardinals countered with the second-best passer, Rutter. The quarterbacks and their supporting casts delivered an all-time great shootout that was in doubt until Jake Beesley intercepted Fulford on a fourth-and-goal pass from the 15 with two seconds left. Rutter, a Gagliardi Trophy semifinalist, threw for a career-best 522 yards and five touchdowns, four of them to Andrew Kamienski, who caught 12 passes for 256 yards. Fulford threw for a career-high as well, completing 23 of 35 passes for 549 yards and four scores. He fumbled the ball twice and threw the one interception.
"I've never been part of a game like that one," said North Central coach Jeff Thorne. "That was unbelievable. ... I'm just beyond elated with the way our guys played. These two guys here (Rutter and Kamienski) just refused to let us lose."
"It sucks," Mount Union wide receiver Justin Hill said after the game. "We lose one game and you think it's the end of the world, because we win so much." Hill caught seven passes for 221 yards and one touchdown.
The Purple Raiders outgained the Cardinals, 713-699. Each team punted once, and North Central forced three turnovers to Mount Union's one.
It was a monumental upset, considering that the Purple Raiders have played in all but five of the 26 Stagg Bowls since they won their first national championship in 1993, including 13 of the past 14. The last time Mount Union won only one playoff game was 1994, when it lost to eventual national champion Albion, and the last time it wasn't at least a quarterfinalist was 1991, which was also the last time it missed the playoffs. Meantime, Saturday's results mean either North Central, Delaware Valley, Muhlenberg or Salisbury will play in the Stagg Bowl on Dec. 20 in Shenandoah, Texas. Of those teams, only Salisbury, which lost to Augustana in 1986, has been before.
The Sea Gulls on Saturday handed Union its first loss, 62-41, in a shootout that featured six first-quarter touchdowns. Salisbury, which was playing at home, broke a 21-all tie with three straight second-quarter scores. But Union wouldn't fold, scoring on a Will Bellamy-to-Andre Ross Jr. touchdown pass with 20 seconds left in the half, and a Bellamy-to-Griffin Beal strike four plays into the third quarter to narrow the gap to 42-34. Union again closed the deficit to one score when Ike Irabor plunged in from 1 yard out to cap a 14-play drive and make it 48-41 with 9:49 left. But the Sea Gulls scored on a clock-killing drive, and once more after that to prevent any dramatics. Salisbury rushed for 305 yards and passed for 215, quite a feat for its run-heavy option attack. Bellamy passed for 456 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions for Union.
The sixth-ranked Sea Gulls will host No. 4 Muhlenberg, which made quick work of Brockport in a 42-0 win in Allentown, Pa. Ryan Curtiss and Mitch Daniel each caught two of Michael Hnatkowsky's five touchdown passes. The Mules have shut out each of their first two opponents, which is a first in the history of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Ninth-ranked Delaware Valley forced six turnovers and got four touchdowns from tight end Dan Allen in a 45-10 victory at No. 10 Wesley, avenging the quadruple-overtime loss to the Wolverines in Week 2. The Aggies took a 24-3 lead on a trick play where they snapped the ball directly to wide receiver Juwan Manigo who pitched it to backup quarterback DaQuan Bohannan who then hit a wide-open Allen for the score, his second of the day. First-string quarterback Anthony Fontana connected with Allen early in the fourth to put Delaware Valley up 31-10 and then Rashiek Harvard scooped up a Wesley fumble on the ensuing kickoff to tack on another touchdown.
Allen finished with 128 yards and three receiving touchdowns on six catches and one rushing touchdown. Wesley turned the ball over six times, including three interceptions from freshman quarterback Drew Fry. The Wolverines also had 182 yards of penalties.
The Aggies will face North Central next week at a site to be announced on Sunday. The winner of that game likely goes on the road to face the Salisbury/Muhlenberg winner on Dec. 14.
The other side of the bracket features Wheaton and three teams with national championship pedigree — St. John's won Stagg Bowls in 1976 and 2003, and lost in 2000. UW-Whitewater played in nine Stagg Bowls in 10 seasons from 2005-14, and Mary Hardin-Baylor has played in the past three national championship games, winning twice.
Jonel Reed had 10 catches for 253 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday for UMHB, and the Crusaders defense forced four turnovers to beat Huntingdon, 42-6 in Belton, Texas. No. 2-ranked UMHB will next face No. 7 UW-Whitewater, a 41-28 winner in Whitewater, Wisconsin, against Wartburg. Max Meylor, making his second start for the Warhawks at quarterback, led UW-W to a 31-7 halftime lead. The Warhawks intercepted four Noah Dodd passes and recovered a fumble, which meant they only needed to generate 236 yards to reach 41 points.
North Central, which lost a semifinal in Alliance 41-40 in 2013, advanced on the same day the only team it lost to, CCIW rival Wheaton, cruised past Central, 49-13. The third-ranked Thunder scored on its first five possessions and built a 35-0 first-quarter lead. Luke Anthony was 12 of 18 for 265 yards and five touchdowns, two to Phillip Nichols. Wheaton ran for more than 200 yards and its defense limited Central to just 53 rushing yards and 11 first downs, total.
St. John’s survived two early turnovers before putting on an offensive clinic, racking up 647 yards in a 55-26 win at No. 12 Chapman in Orange, Calif. Jackson Erdmann, the reigning Gagliardi Trophy winner, passed for 458 yards and five touchdowns in just more than three quarters of play. T.J. Hodge, Ravi Alston, and Henry Trost each eclipsed 100 receiivng yards for the Johnnies. Dillon Keefe was again outstanding for Chapman, forcing a fumble and blocking two kicks for the Panthers.
The eighth-ranked Johnnies will travel to Wheaton for a quarterfinal clash on Saturday. The winner of that game plays the Mary Hardin-Baylor/UW-Whitewater winner in the semifinals.