ALLIANCE, Ohio – Down 28-14 entering the fourth quarter, top-seeded Mount Union rallied to defeat Mary Hardin-Baylor 48-35 in the Division III playoffs to advance to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl for the 16th time.
Jake Simon’s 12-yard touchdown run with five seconds left gave the Purple Raiders the go-ahead touchdown while Matt Fechko’s 25-yard fumble recovery on Mary Hardin-Baylor’s (13-1) final play rounded out the 48-35 final.
Mount Union (14-0) wins its 68th consecutive home game and will meet St. Thomas (Minn.) in the national championship game next Friday in Salem, Va.
Mount Union’s Kevin Burke went 3-for-3 on the final drive with a 15-yard rush as the Raiders covered 71 yards in six plays with just over two minutes left in the match for the game-winner.
In the fourth quarter, the Raiders scored 34 points. Burke was 9-for-11 passing for 125 yards and receiver Jasper Collins had 83 yards in the quarter. Mount Union’s offense went 5-for-5 on third down in the final quarter of play.
Burke connected with Julius Moore on the first play of the quarter to bring Mount Union within seven points. On the ensuing possession, the Raiders tied the game when freshman linebacker Hank Spencer blocked a punt that Nyejel Thomas recovered in the end zone to tie the game.
Mount Union’s defense forced a three-and-out and the offense appeared on the march again when a fumble – the fifth turnover of the game for the Raiders – gave the ball back to the Cru.
Two plays later, LiDarral Bailey had his second rushing touchdown of the game to put Mary Hardin-Baylor back up 35-28 with 7:39 to play.
Burke then engineered an 11-play, 77-yard drive that ended with Blair Skilliter running in from two yards out with 3:42 left to tie the game at 35.
On the next drive, Mount Union’s top-ranked defense held Mary Hardin-Baylor to just four yards to force a punt and set up the game-winning drive.
The Raider defense held the high-powered Mary Hardin Baylor offense – ranked No. 4 in the nation in total offense – to just 275 total yards including a fourth quarter where the Cru managed just 79 yards and minus-1 yard rushing.
All-American safety Nick Driskill had a season-high 19 tackles, fellow All-American linebacker Charles Dieuseul had 12 stops while Fechko added two sacks.
Burke finished with 268 yards passing with three touchdowns along with 89 yards rushing. Two of his touchdowns went to Collins, who had 11 catches for 200 yards and extended his NCAA playoff record total to 11 receiving touchdowns.
Collins’ two TDs came in the first quarter that saw Mount Union run out to a 14-7 lead before Mary Hardin-Baylor got touchdown runs from Elijah Hudson and Bailey to lead 21-14 at the half.
The Cru scored all 35 of its points off five Mount Union turnovers. They had a 42-yard interception return for a touchown by Brodrick Crain in the third quarter to go up 28-14.
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