NCAA Football

December 6, 2018, 1:00 pm

For Johns Hopkins, path to Division III NCAA football title runs through 'legendary' Mount Union

The Johns Hopkins football game team made educational institution past by reach the NCAA Division III tourney semifinals for the archetypal time. Their reward? The unenviable task of knock off No. 1 and 13-time political unit prizewinning Mount Union on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Mount Union Stadium in Alliance, Ohio.

For Johns Hopkins, path to Division III NCAA football title runs through 'legendary' Mount Union
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The Johns Hopkins football game team made educational institution past by reach the NCAA Division III tourney semifinals for the archetypal time. Their reward? The unenviable task of knock off No. 1 and 13-time political unit prizewinning Mount Union on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Mount Union Stadium in Alliance, Ohio.

But if the Blue Jays (12-1) are worried, they’re not screening it.

“In my opinion, they’re one of the best NCAA teams out there,” elder moving back Stuart Walters said. “They’re known like Alabama. So to be able to vie with them, it’s a once in a life opportunity. If we want to be the best, we have to beat the best. I wouldn’t want it any different way. I was praying for this, and everybody else craved this.”

In the past 25 years, wish for the Purple Raiders has usually been folly. Their 13 NCAA crowns and 20 Stagg Bowl appearances are both Division III records, they have captured 29 Ohio Athletic Conference statute titles, and they have gone undefeated in 12 of their 13 political unit prizewinningship seasons.

“They’re the kings of Division III, there’s no inquiry astir that,” said ESPN body football game expert and former Buffalo Bills linebacker Ray Bentley, who was part of the network’s crew that broadcasted Mount Union’s 12-0 shutout of Mary Hardin-Baylor in the 2017 statute title game. “It’s about gotten to fabulous proportions, but as it continues to grow, it’s truly an astonishing thing. Sometimes you’ll see dynasties, and they’ve got to fail eventually. This one just keeps rolling.”

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    Expectations are so high for Mount Union, which has won 28 sequent games and is 13-0 this season, that manager Vince Kehres acknowledged that any result that falls short of the crown is disappointing.

    “It just is what it is,” he said. “There’s no sense in trying to maneuver around it. We own that, and we’re going to try to measure up with that.”

    The Purple Raiders archetypal qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs in 1985, but failed to get out of the second round three times until 1992, when that squad advanced to the semifinals. As heartbreaking as a 29-24 loss to eventual prizewinning Wisconsin-La Crosse was, it set the tone for the program, according to Kehres, whose father Larry was the educational institution ’s second head manager until he gave the reins to his son after the 2012 season.

    “They believed that they could win the political unit prizewinningship, and then in 1993, they won their archetypal political unit prizewinningship, and from there, it’s been the expectation of every Mount Union team to not only win the Ohio Athletic Conference prizewinningship and make the Division III playoffs, but also win the political unit prizewinningship,” Kehres said. “The precedent had been set.”

    Kehres and all five of his full-time assistant manageres are former Purple Raiders players, and all but one of their managering interns is a graduate, too. Kehres said that continuity has helped the staff identify and pursue the characteristics they seek in potential recruits.

    One of those recruits was elder linebacker Danny Robinson, who lived only 20 minutes away in nearby Massillon, Ohio. But what struck him was a culture in which the players, not the manageres, policed themselves and administered discipline.

    Robinson, a semifinalist for the Gagliardi Trophy awarded to the top all-around player in Division III, said players who are guilty of on-field infractions, such as committing a person foul, or off-field offenses, such as skipping classes, might have to run sprints after practice or push a weighted sled in the weight room.

    “Coming out of high educational institution , it was usually the manageres who did that — disciplining and holding players accountable,” Robinson said. “But when I stepped onto campus, it was different. The players are the ones who hold you accountable, and it was just a completely different culture from the one in high educational institution . It was a big wake-up call because in high educational institution , you can kind of get away with things, but here, every player is going to hold each different accountable and make sure that you’re doing the right thing, that you’re where you need to be, that you’re doing what you need to do.”

    After losing to Mary Hardin-Baylor in the 2016 semifinals — marking the program’s archetypal absence from the Stagg Bowl since 2004 — Mount Union earned a measure of revenge by shutting out the Crusaders in the 2017 statute title game under Kehres’ motto “Good to Great.” This season, the slogan was tweaked to “Great to Elite: The Campaign Continues” by Kehres in an ode to a video game one of his children received for Christmas.

    “It’s harder to stay good than get good, I will tell you that,” said Kehres, whose team is seeking to be the educational institution ’s archetypal repeat prizewinning since the 2005-06 squads won back-to-back crowns. “It’s certainly a challenge and you have to constantly be evaluating what you’re doing and make subtle changes to the process to continue to be as successful as we’ve been. But that’s our goal. That’s what we want to continue to do.”

    For more than two decades, the Purple Raiders have carried a large target, but Robinson said that pales in comparison to matching the standard by previous teams.

    “Being at Mount Union is a pressure test, and that’s bigger than anything,” he said. “We know we’re going to get teams’ best shots, and we know we’re the team to beat in the nation. So we can’t truly take anything lightly. We can’t get complacent or scale down at all.”

    Bentley, the ESPN expert , said that drive makes the Purple Raiders heavy favorites to add a 14th prizewinningship to their trophy case.

    “I think at this time of year, anybody who plays Mount Union is going to be a considerable underdog,” he said. “Take nothing away from Johns Hopkins. That’s a truly strong program, too, but you’ve got to consider Mount Union the favorite.”

    The Purple (Raiders) Standard

    Since 1993, the Mount Union football game program has won 13 NCAA Division III prizewinningships and played in seven more statute title games. Here is how the Purple Raiders have fared at the Stagg Bowl.

    Year; Opponent; Result

    1993; Rowan; Won, 34-24

    1996; Rowan; Won, 56-24

    1997; Lycoming; Won, 61-12

    1998; Rowan; Won, 44-24

    2000; Saint John’s (Minn.); Won, 10-7

    2001; Bridgewater; Won, 30-27

    2002; Trinity; Won, 48-7

    2003; Saint John’s (Minn.); Lost, 24-6

    2005; Wisconsin-Whitewater; Won, 35-28

    2006; Wisconsin-Whitewater; Won, 35-16

    2007; Wisconsin-Whitewater; Lost, 31-21

    2008; Wisconsin-Whitewater; Won, 31-26

    2009; Wisconsin-Whitewater; Lost, 38-28

    2010; Wisconsin-Whitewater; Lost, 31-21

    2011; Wisconsin-Whitewater; Lost, 13-10

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