Division-III Football Playoffs: Round 2 Preview: Mount Union vs. Washington & Jefferson
Match-Up: On Saturday at noon Eastern Time the Mount Union University Purple Raiders will play host to the Washington & Jefferson College Presidents. This is a matchup of the No. 3 Purple Raiders vs. the No. 19 Presidents in the latest D3Football poll.
How They Got Here:
The Minor League Sports Report took Washinton & Jefferson in a slight upset over Wittenberg and they delivered. The Presidents set the tone early with 14 first quarter points on their way to a 41-25 win. Peter Coughlin’s pass to Daniel Lis for 4-yards on the team’s opening drive made it 7-0, and when Coughlin hit a streaking Jesse Zubik for a 45-yard strike it was quickly 14-0.
The game got real exciting in the fourth quarter with the Presidents up 27-13. Coughlin was sacked for a safety to pull the Tigers within 12, but Coughlin immediately responded with a 7-yard touchdown run to put his team up by 19. The Tigers attempted to rally late, but Zack Jenkins pass with 1:18 left in the game was picked off by Billy Kellley to seal the game. It was the eighth interception of the game by the Presidents’ defense.
Wittenberg put up 536 yards of offense, but the 8 interceptions and one fumble lost were the keys to the loss. Kelley and Alec Schram each had three picks and Jared Pratt made 11 tackles. The Presidents got no running game and were held to just 81 yards, but Coughlin was 22-40 for 236 yards and 2 touchdowns. His favorite target was Zubik, who made 5 catches for 113 yards.
At one point the Adrian Bulldogs kicked a field goal to make it 14-3. After that Mount Union put up 49 unanswered points to win 63-3. It was 56-3 at half before the Purple Raiders let their foot off of the gas.
Mount Union punted on their first drive of the game, then scored on four successive possessions. They put up 650 yards of offense while yielding just 197. They were an equal opportunity offense on the day, gaining 329 yards through the air and 321 on the ground. Kevin Burke had 286 yards passing and threw 4 touchdown strikes. Logan Nemeth had 105 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 9-carries and Jamal Johnson gained 104 yards on 10-carries. Tim Kennedy led the team with 127 yards receiving and 2 scores.
When a team averages 601 yards of offense per game and 61 points, it is easy to see why they are pretty good. Add to that they give up just 199 yards on average and 7.8 points a game, and it is easy to see why they are really good.
Burke is as good a quarterback as anyone is going to find at this level. He has a 66.1 completion percentage and 2975 yards passing. He has thrown for 32 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. His favorite targets have been Taurice Scott who has 51 catches for 758 yards, and 8 TDs and Roman Namdar who caught 46 passes, but for 871 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is incredibly quick and is very difficult to catch as his 18.9 yards per catch average testifies to.
The Purple Raiders defense is a wall. They only allowed 111 yards per game passing, and had 31 sacks and 15 interceptions. They play quick and they play smart.
The Presidents are very tough defensively. They averaged just 228 yards and 20.3 points per game on average. It is true that they gave up 523 to Wittenberg, they also showed that they can hold a team and frustrate them enough into making mistakes. They proved they are for real. Their offense is led by running back Ryan Ruffing who is a load to take down. The junior has gained 1603 yards now on 301 carries and he leads the country with 25 touchdowns. He takes a pounding and just keeps going.
If Ruffing wasn’t scary enough on his own, Coughlin has 3159 yards passing and 31` touchdowns. He has thrown just 5 interceptions and has an outstanding completion percentage of 67.9 percent. Jesse Zubik (54 catches, 879 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Daniel Lis (76, 837, 8) have continued to be his favorite targets.
Jared Pratt remains the leader on this defense, making 114 tackles. 3 interceptions and 7 pass breakups. Overall the defense has proven that they can get after opponents, recording 30 sacks, 21 interceptions and 12 fumbles.
What must be disillusioning is that a team can play an absolutely perfect game against the Mount Union Purple Raiders and still lose. They are just that good. The Presidents should have some success moving the ball, especially on the ground, but they just cannot matchup with the size and speed of Mount Union. Look for the Presidents to be impeached in a 49-17 Mount Union win.
By Robert Pannier