Mount Union remains the definition of dominance in Division III football.
The Purple Raiders won their ninth national championship in the sport December 16 by defeating Wisconsin-Whitewater, 35-16, in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, Virginia.
So dominant were the 15-0 Raiders that they played with the lead the entire season until Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Jeff Schebler kicked a 25-yard field goal with 2:14 left in the opening quarter for the championship game’s first points.
But Mount Union quarterback Greg Micheli, the game’s most outstanding player, made sure his team didn’t play from behind for long by tossing a 2-yard scoring pass to tight end Anthony Antonucci to give Mount Union a 7-3 lead with 13:50 remaining in the second quarter.
"We played our best game of the season," said Mount Union coach Larry Kehres, whose program also won national titles in 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2005. "We played more aggressive. I think we defeated a great team. We felt we had to play that way because Whitewater is a great team, and they brought out the best in us."
Micheli broke several tackles on a 12-yard scoring run to give Mount Union a 14-3 advantage.
"I was known as a runner, and the defense is going to adjust to someone who runs more. I think that opened up the passing game," said Micheli, who threw for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
He also set a Stagg Bowl record by completing 81.8 percent of his passes (18-for-22).
The Warhawks, 14-1, lost the Stagg Bowl for the second straight season to Mount Union.
"I really feel for our team," said Warhawks coach Bob Berezowitz. "We had a slogan of ‘Unfinished Business’ for this season, and we would have liked to complete that, but our players have accomplished something the last two years that no other Whitewater football team has done."
But as Kehres said, Wisconsin-Whitewater went down with a fight. After falling behind, 14-3, the Warhawks scored the final 10 points off the first half on a 1-yard scoring run by Justin Jacobs and a 24-yard field goal by Schebler.
Micheli, who came off the bench as part of a two-quarterback system, increased his team’s one-point halftime lead to 21-13 by throwing a 46-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon.
"Pierre basically took a 5-yard route and used his explosion through the opening by virtue of his great speed to cover the distance," Kehres said.
Then it was time for the Raiders’ special teams to shine.
Safety Matt Kostelnik blocked a Wisconsin-Whitewater punt — his third of the year — and Matt Rees returned the loose ball 34 yards for a 28-13 lead with 2:44 remaining in the third quarter.
Wisconsin-Whitewater managed another drive that produced a 36-yard field goal by Schebler, who set a Division III championship-game record with three made kicks.
Garcon and Micheli ended the scoring by combining on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 10:59 left in the game. Garcon finished with 116 yards on eight catches.
"We did a good job against the run, as we have pretty much all season long, but we had no answer for Garcon," said Berezowitz, who is retiring after running the Warhawks’ program for 22 years. "He took those underneath routes and used his athleticism to make plays."
Mount Union’s defense, which never allowed more than 17 points in a game this season, kept the Warhawks off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
"Going out on top is something that you dream about since you were a kid," said Mount Union senior defensive lineman Justen Stickley. "It’s a great feeling, and it is something that I will always remember."
Wis.-Whitewater 3 10 0 3 — 16 0 14 14 7 — 35
3 — 16
7 — 35
WW — Jeff Schebler 25 field goal, 2:14.
MU — Anthony Antonucci 2 pass from Greg Micheli (Mike Zimmerman kick), 13:50.
MU — Greg Micheli 12 run (Zimmerman kick), 6:52.
WW — Justin Jacobs 1 run (Schebler kick), 5:46.
WW — Schebler 24 field goal, :33
MU — Pierre Garcon 46 pass from Micheli (Zimmerman kick), 5:30.
MU — Matt Rees 34 blocked punt return (Zimmerman kick), 2:44.
WW — Schebler 36 field goal, 14:46.
MU — Garcon 10 pass from Micheli (Zimmerman kick), 10:59.
Announced attendance: 6,051.
Wis.-Whitewater First downs 16 20 Rushes-yards 36-87 39-161 Passing 148 202 Comp.-Att.-Int. 18-27-1 Return yards 171 164 Punts-Avg. 6-34.0 4-36.5 Fumbles-Lost 4-1 1-1 Penalties-Yards 5-45 5-55 Time of Possession 26:39 33:31
Time of Possession
Rushing: Wis.-Whitewater — Justin Beaver 23-87, Lance Douglas 1-11, Trevor Hunt 1-5, Justin Jacobs 11-minus 16. Mount Union — Nate Kmic 25-111, Greg Micheli 9-42, Pierre Garcon 2-11, Mike Jorris 3-minus 3.
Passing: Wis.Whitewater — Justin Jacobs 12-27-0-148. Mount Union – Greg Micheli 18-22-0-202, Mike Jorris 0-5-1-0.
Receiving: Wis.Whitewater — Derek Stanley 6-82, Neil Mrkvicka 4-40, Pete Schmitt 2-26. Mount Union — Pierre Garcon 8-116, Justin Wray 5-43, Anthony Antonucci 4-30, Terrance Morring 1-13.