By JEFFREY ZUPANIC | Alliance Review
Another week, another Mount Union senior stepping up with a big game.
Two weeks ago, linebacker Charles Dieuseul wrecked havoc on Christopher Newport's offense.
Last week, Jasper Collins broke out with five receiving touchdowns against Johns Hopkins.
On Saturday, the quarterfinal round belonged to Nick Driskill, who had a "special" game. The All-American safety blocked two punts, recorded a tackle for loss on another and scored a touchdown when he recovered the ball in the end zone during Mount Union's 72-17 win against Widener at Mount Union Stadium.
The win for Mount Union advances the team into the natinoal semifinal for the 18th consecutive season. They will face Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday, with the site of the game to be announced today.
"There was miscommunication in our protection on the punts. We didn't protect our 'A gap' and they were able to get in there," said Widener head caoch Isaac Collins. "Once you get something like that, then you start to overthink with snapping the balls and blocking and it gets worse."
Driskill is one of eight finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy for the best all-around player in Division III football, which will be announced on Dec. 12.
Driskill's first punt block set up a touchdown and his tackle on the punter set up another score during a 30-point, second-quarter explosion by Mount Union, which led 7-3 after the first quarter. The touchdown was the fifth score by Driskill and third block of his career.
"It was part of the scheme we had been working on during practice this week," Driskill said. "It was very similar to the one we ran last year against Wabash (in the playoffs), where I was able to get the block. They all just happened so fast. I got my hand on the one, and I was looking for the ball and I wanted to get to it in the end zone before anybody else could."
Driskill's plays might have been the momentum snatchers, but they were hardly the only big plays by the Purple Raiders on this day.
Sophomore quarterback Kevin Burke had a career high 115 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns, while also throwing for 337 yards and two more touchdowns. His big game came three years from the very weekend he led Lakewood St. Ed's to the Division I state football championship against Huber Heights Wayne.
"Teams are making adjustments to our receivers and keying on them, so I have to find the right play to make," said Burke. "If my guys are covered, then I just have to pull it down and I am fortunate I can use my feet to make plays."
Collins had 102 yards receiving and two touchdowns to give him nine TDs in three playoff games. Senior running backs Blair Skilliter and Jake Simon combined for three rushing touchdowns for the Purple Raiders, which gained 753 yards of total offense. It marks the third straight playoff game Mount Union has surpassed the 600-yard mark and Mount Union was an impressive 9-of-9 in the red zone.
"That's because of Kevin," said Mount Union head coach Larry Kehres. "They were mostly zone-read plays, and he read them right."
The 72 points ties the school record for a playoff game from two weeks ago in a 72-14 win against Christopher Newport. The 199 points in three games is also the most for the Purple Raiders.
Meanwhile, after Widener gained 67 yards to take a 3-0 lead, the Pride gained just nine yards the rest of the half.
"We didn't really make any adjustments (after trailing)," said Driskill. "They made some plays, but I thought we played well overall."
MOUNT UNION 72, WIDENER 17
WIDENER 3 0 14 0 -- 17
MOUNT UNION 7 30 21 14 -- 72
WID -- McFadden 21 field goal
MTU -- Collins 10 pass from Burke (Almeida kick)
MTU -- Almeida 27 field goal
MTU -- Burke 4 run (kick failed)
MTU -- Burke 10 run (Almeida kick)
MTU -- Skilliter 3 run (Almeida kick)
MTU -- Driskill recovery in end zone (Almeida kick)
MTU -- Simon 10 run (Almeid kick)
WID -- Ragona 2 pass from Haupt (McFadden kick)
MTU -- Burke 8 run (Almeida kick)
MTU -- Collins 36 pass from Burke (Almeida kick)
WID -- Marrero 36 pass from Haupt (McFadden kick)
MTU -- Simon 2 run (Almeida kick)
MTU -- Minnich 1 run (Almeida kick)