ALLIANCE — The University of Mount Union avoided a roadblock and cleared a major hurdle in one gigantic step on Saturday.

The roadblock was provided by rival John Carroll. The hurdle was cleared by senior Louis Berry.

With Mount Union's usually prolific offense jammed in first gear most of the day, the defense did its best impression of an effective offense and led the Purple Raiders to an edge-of-your-seat 23-10 victory over rival John Carroll in front of an overflow crowd of close to 6,000 fans.

A pair of key defensive stands in the fourth quarter, including a stunning sack and strip for a touchdown by Berry with 34 seconds remaining, lifted Mount Union to its 18th consecutive victory and kept it on track for a 29th Ohio Athletic Conference championship.

The Raiders, whose offense did not resemble the performance of the first two games, were clinging to a 16-10 lead when JCU had the ball with a second down on its 43-yard line with 44 seconds remaining.

JCU quarterback Anthony Moeglin, a product of St. Thomas Aquinas, attempted a pass when Berry stormed into the backfield on a cornerback blitz.

He smashed into Moeglin and simultaneously ripped the ball away. He went 45 yards untouched for the score that kept Mount Union undefeated at 3-0 an 2-0 in the OAC.

Berry, a 5-7, 170-pound senior from Pittsburgh, could hardly believe his good fortune.

“It was great,” said Berry, a runnerup in the 60-meter dash in the NCAA national track championships in March. “I couldn’t believe I was in that position. I am definitely humbled to be there and thankful for it. It was kind of a blind-side hit. He was turned away from me.”

The Raiders, ranked first in the Division III poll by the American Football Coaches Association, had to be just as thankful.

Berry’s heroic play was the second scored by the defense when defense was the name of the game on both sides.

Massillon native Danny Robinson scored on a similar play in the second quarter when the Raiders had JCU (2-1, 1-1) backed to within spitting distance of its goal line.

Robinson, a senior linebacker, caused and picked up a fumble by Jake Floriea at the 13 and scored. It gave the Raiders a 12-7 lead it did not relinquish but had to scramble to protect.

“The guys up front forced [Floriea] inside,” said Robinson, who finished with eight tackles. “I don’t think he saw me coming. I just did what we are coached to do.”

JCU threatened to take the lead with a little more than three minutes to go when it faced a fourth down at the Mount Union 5-yard line.

The Streaks appeared to score the go-ahead touchdown but it was nullified by a holding penalty when Berry was dragged to the ground as Michael Canganelli swept the right side.

The penalty moved the ball to the 12 and Moeglin was unable to find a receiver on the repeat fourth down.

The Raiders once again had trouble moving the ball and punted with 1:53 left. JCU then moved from its 46 to the Mount Union 47 before Berry’s huge play.

The Raiders entered the game averaging 50 points and 558 yards. No such numbers in this one. The Raiders were held to 286 yards and one offensive touchdown, a 27-yard strike from D’Angelo Fulford to Jawanza Evans-Morris with 5:07 left in the second quarter.

The extra point attempt failed and the Raiders still trailed for the first time all season, 7-6.

Fulford completed 15-of-38 passes for 153 yards and was the team’s leading rusher with 60 yards on 13 attempts. Senior Luke Herrington and junior Justin Hill had four receptions each. Mount Union had 133 yards rushing.

JCU, ranked 15th in the national poll, only had 231 yards of offense as Canganelli ran for 116 yards on 24 attempts. Moeglin’s rushing totals were misleading as sacks and an intentional grounding penalty deducted from his totals. He completed 10-of-23 passes, many on third down, for 118 yards and accounted for his team’s only touchdown when he capped an opening drive by going the final five yards.

“We told our guys that it was going to be a four-quarter game and it was,” Mount Union coach Vince Kehres said. “We expected it.”