Game 555: Mt. Union shuts down Mary Hardin-Baylor for D-3 title, 12-0
Salem, Virginia – On a cold, blustery evening with temps in the 30s and winds around 18 mph, two defenses dominated high-scoring offenses as the Purple Raiders of Mt. Union defeated UMH-B’s Crusaders, 12-0, for their 13th national title in our Game 555. Defending D-3 champ, UMB-H, also known as The Cru (14-1), came in averaging 38.1 ppg on offense. The Purple Raider defense allowed 13.8 ppg on the season and shut them down holding them to only 144 yards of total offense.
The offensive styles of both squads mirrored one another as both teams relied on their QBs to run as well as pass. The Raiders (15-0) averaged 53.3 ppg, but the Crusader defense allowed 10 points – three points more than their seasonal average allowed. MU gained 299 yards, 137 through the air on D’Angelo Fulford’s 12 of 21 passing for one TD and two INTs. For Game 555 in Collegefootballfan.com history, we attended our second Stagg Bowl, our first since 2007, also won by Mt. Union in Salem. With the Purple Raiders’ title intact, the possibility exists where we may have seen three 2017 NCAA college football champions play this season – if Clemson and James Madison win the FBS and FCs respectively.
The first quarter ended with no score and the second seemed headed for a deadlock as well. Late in the period, CB Gabe Brown picked off UMB-H’s Paul Robinson to start a Mount Union drive from their 47. With 1:15 left in the half, the Raiders put points on the board with Alex Louthan’s 31-yard FG to take a 3-0 lead into the warm locker rooms.
At halftime, people from Salem, Virginia were honored at the 25th NCAA D-3 football championship game played in the small city near the Appalachians. These honorees brought this game here 25 years ago and have managed it very well ever since. The city of Salem has hosted 86 NCAA D-3 championships in several sports over the years. Give these people a lot of credit. Driving down through a snowstorm in Pennsylvania and sitting it the cold, windy confines of Salem Stadium in December to attend Game 555, it makes one wonder why the NCAA hasn’t considered moving this some place warmer with a variety of other attractions? But the city thrives on it and evidently the D-3 schools are satisfied. Before Salem, the games were played in Bradenton, Florida for three years. Not bad, but not within driving distance for us despite the snow. And take a look at ticket prices on-line for the CFP game in Atlanta! Try $1500/each plus fees! I paid 1000 times less for this ticket and parking was free. What a bargain for a championship. Prior to Bradenton, the championship game was played in Phenix City, Alabama. On a sad note, the first featured Wittenberg defeating the Alma Mater dear, Juniata College, 41-0.
The score remained 3-0 through the third. The teams exchanged interceptions and Mount Union got stopped short on fourth and one which was so short, it amazed everyone in the crowd when the officials measured. It looked like we may see a record-breaking low score in Game 555 for the annals of our history. Both defenses held the other’s scoring machines in check. Would either break?
In the final period, a short punt on this windy night put Mount Union at the Cru’s 46. QB D’Angelo Fulford fired a long pass from the 42-yard line close to the hands of two Cru defenders to WR Justin Hill who caught it and took it a few yards into the end zone for a 10-0 lead. UMB-H started its next drive from its seven. Defender Nick Brish, the game’s MVP, sacked Robinson in the end zone for a safety to extend the lead, 12-0. The Purple Raiders could not mount any more scoring drives, but with the wind to his back, P Adam Snyder placed his punts away from dangerous return man Bryce Wilkerson and set the Cru back on their four and on the two on his subsequent punts. On Mount Union’s next possession, they used the clock to hand the ball over on downs with only 49 seconds remaining. As all night long, the Raider defense stuffed the Crusader offense in its tracks.
Congratulations to Head Coach Vince Kehres, his coaching staff, and all the Purple Raiders! They go back to Alliance, Ohio with their 13th NCAA D-3 football championship since 1993 – the first ever played in Salem. We at collegefootballfan.com stay overnight to drive up to Harrisonburg, Virginia Saturday afternoon to see James Madison (13-0) defend it 2016 National Championship in a semi-final game against the South Dakota State Jack Rabbits (11-2). We look forward to a great game and our first game ever at JMU.