NCAA Division-III Playoffs: Mount Union vs. Hobart
The No. 8 ranked Mount Union Purple Raiders will welcome the No. 18 ranked Hobart Statesman on Saturday in the first round of NCAA Division-III football playoffs. The Purple Raiders enter the playoffs as an at-large bit after suffering a surprise loss against John Carroll on the final weekend of the season. That dropped them to second in the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) with a 9-1 record, 8-1 in the conference. The Hobart Statesman won the Liberty League (LL) with a 6-1 in conference record and an overall record of 9-1.
How They Got Here:
Mount Union was the No. 1 team for much of the season, cruising for the first nine-games of the season. The Purple Raiders were putting on an offensive showcase not seen north of Mary-Hardin Baylor by scoring at least 38-points in every one of those wins. Four times they scored at least 50, and their defense proved to be quite impressive as well, pitching three shutouts. They were dominating opponents with their closest margin of victory being 17. They looked like a clear No. 1 seed, however, John Carroll downed them on the final weekend, 31-28, to capture the OAH title.
Hobart rolled out to five straight wins, as the team won three of those contests by less than a touchdown. They were playing well, but a 21-17 loss to RPI on October 8 dropped them to 5-1. However, the statesman rebounded, winning their last four games of the season, including a 34-18 victory over St. Lawrence which gave them the conference title.
Mount Union 49.2 PPG, 274.4 Rushing/Game, 241.5 Passing/Game, 515.9 Yards/Game
Hobart 32.5 PPG, 89.0 Rushing/Game, 317.0 Passing/Game, 406.0 Yards/Game
Mount Union 9.7 PPG, 69.5 Rushing/Game, 185.4 Passing/Game, 254.9 Yards/Game
Hobart 22.0 PPG, 158.3 Rushing/Game, 178.8 Passing/Game, 337.1 Yards/Game
Players to Watch
With three freshman quarterbacks taking snaps under center, the big safety net for Mount Union has been senior running back Bradley Mitchell, who rushed for 1,198-yards and 15-touchdowns. Dom Davis took most of the snaps at the QB position and will likely do so on Saturday. He completed 64.8 percent of his passes and threw for 15-touchdowns with 5-interceptions. Tim Kennedy led the receivers with 42-catches for 487-yards and 5-TDs.
Senior Charlie Dear leads the Purple Raiders defense, who made 59-tackles and had 4-sacks. Mike Vidal continues to be a dominant force on the defensive line, recording 8-sacks, and Austin White led the team with 4-interceptions.
The Statesman have no real running attack, so if they are going to win it is going to have to be through the air. Shane Sweeney put up impressive numbers this season, passing for 3,145-yards and 33-TDs with just 4-picks. He completed a solid 61.6 percent of his passes as well. Brandon Shed was the team’s top receiver with 70-catches for 17-TDs and 1,241-yards. He also had a gaudy 17.7 yards per catch average. Jack Pfohl is a perfect complement to Shed, making 53-receptions for 668-yards and 9-touchdowns. Five other receivers had at least 11-catches.
Almamy Conde and Jedh Downey are the top playmakers on defense for this team, with Almamny recording 89-tackles and Downey 81. AJ McFarlane and Brandon Ball each had 5-sacks.
The Purple Raiders have been notorious for crushing out their early round opponents to get some momentum going and there is no reason to think this year will be any differently. Mount Union does not allow many rushing yards, which does not matter to Hobart, because they like to throw. If the Statesmen’s defense can rattle the Mount Union QB early they have a real shot, but no one should count on that. The Purple Raiders will roll to victory, 66-13.
By Robert Pannier