ALLIANCE: The lopsided final score would seem to indicate that Mount Union put on another offensive display in its second-round Division III playoff game Saturday.
Once the Purple Raiders got rolling, that was certainly the case. But a couple of big early defensive plays stood out, back when a competitive game appeared to be brewing.
Two first-quarter interceptions led directly to Mount Union’s first two touchdowns and a 14-0 lead.
After that, the rout was on in a 55-13 victory over visiting Johns Hopkins (Md.) before 1,458 chilled spectators who endured snow flurries and gusting winds.
The win sends the No. 1-ranked Purple Raiders into a quarterfinal game against Widener (Pa.) at noon Saturday, probably at Mount Union Stadium. The site will be announced today.
Kevin Burke threw five touchdown passes, all to Jasper Collins, to pace the offense, which enjoyed another record-setting day which included 453 passing yards.
“I think we started throwing it well and we just kept it up,” said coach Larry Kehres. “The totals you’re seeing in games are a reflection of it’s playoff time and [Burke] is playing a little bit more.”
Johns Hopkins (10-2), a school more noted for medical studies and successful lacrosse teams, announced its presence by stopping Mount Union (12-0) on its first two possessions, the second time when Mike Zikoski and John Arena stuffed Burke on a fourth-down play at the Blue Jays’ 6-yard line.
Two plays later, the Raiders grabbed the upper hand. An interception by senior linebacker Charles Dieuseul, who ripped the ball away from intended target Brendan Hartman at the 10, set up a first-and-goal.
Burke promptly found Collins on a fade in the left corner of the end zone and Isaac Spearman’s extra-point kick made it 7-0 with 5:38 left in the period.
On the first play after the kickoff, senior Nick Driskill picked off another Robbie Matey pass and Mount Union got the ball at the Johns Hopkins 26. Four plays later, Burke hit Collins on a 9-yards completion and it was 14-0.
“Next play, next series, Nick gets a pick, too,” Dieuseul said. “It’s bang, bang. Anytime you get turnovers, especially to shorten the field for the offense, it keeps us off the field and lets them have the ball again.”
Burke and Collins would hook up for three more scoring plays before the end of the third quarter. A 6-foot senior, Collins set a Division III playoff record with a career-high five touchdown receptions in one game. He equaled the school playoff record for touchdowns in one game set by Dan Pugh against John Carroll in 2002.
Burke, a 5-10 sophomore in his first season as the starter, matched his career high for touchdown passes.
“Playing in the snow is fun,” Burke said. “It’s a lot better than rain or anything. When a lot of teams come in here, they complain about the snow. It could be a lot worse, and I just take advantage of it.”
Burke said the wind affected some deep passes, but wasn’t a concern on the short patterns. He completed 25-of-36 for 388 yards, added 49 rushing. Collins caught 12 passes for 228 yards. The Raiders had 653 total yards.
“Kevin’s a great quarterback,” Collins said. “In practice, we go against our defense every day and we always have that connection. He can read the defense well. He sees the blitzes and knows what he wants us to do, and we gotta just be there.”
Blair Skilliter capped an eight-play drive with his first of two rushing touchdowns from 6 yards to make it 21-0 early in the second quarter.
It only took one play for Johns Hopkins to answer. Senior Jonathan Rigaud raced 75 yards for a score, cutting it to 21-7.
The Raiders scored on their next two possessions — Burke to Collins twice more, for 28 yards and then 9 yards — and it was 34-7 at the half.