Another Raider rout: Mount Union defense subdues Washington
Girard's Randy Mason and Fitch's Ross Watson helped the Purple Raiders roll.
By ERIC HAMILTON
ALLIANCE -- After every starter in the offensive backfield on Mount Union College's 2004 NCAA Division III national semifinal team graduated, coach Larry Kehres wasn't sure exactly just how good his offense was going to be this season.
In the Purple Raiders' season-opener against visiting Washington University (Mo.) Saturday, the new starters showed flashes of promise but lacked the explosiveness and consistency of past offenses.
So, the Mount Union defense stepped into the spotlight and completely dominated the game in the Purple Raiders' 33-6 rout of the Bears Saturday afternoon at Mount Union Stadium.
"If I had to grade our performance, I'd say the defense was excellent, but the offense and kicking game were fair," said Kehres. "We were decimated at the skill positions from graduation so we're a team in transition right now. We need to get some game experience and figure out what we can and can't do."
Kehres rotated two new starters at quarterback, including Girard High graduate Randy Mason, in an effort to give both an opportunity to run the offense. Mason split time with fellow junior Mike Jorris, with both playing the equivalent of half the game.
Both were effective at times, but also made key mistakes in the red zone.
Mason finished 13-for-18 for 104 yards and threw the first two touchdown passes of his career. Jorris was 18-for-22 for 193 yards and a score. Both were intercepted once.
"We need to be patient with our two quarterbacks and let them develop," said Kehres. "They both made some good plays, but also made some critical mistakes that we can't have. We just need time to get them to where we need them to be."
While Mount Union's offense worked out the kinks, its defense looked to be in mid-season form. The unit limited Washington University to just 31 yards rushing on 20 attempts and 182 total yards. The Purple Raiders registered two quarterback sacks.
"I think our defensive line really controlled the game for us today," said Kehres. "We have some experience there and we had some seniors that played well. We played excellent defense."
Senior Mike Gibbons led the unit with 11 tackles. Senior defensive back Ross Watson, an Austintown Fitch graduate, added one tackle, one pass breakup and an interception.
After a shaky start, which included fumbling the opening kickoff and an interception, Mount Union finally got things going on its second offensive possession.
Mason, who didn't start, came in to direct a seven-play, 48-yard scoring drive. Running back Aaron Robinson did most of the work, piling up 34 yards in the series. The drive was capped by Kelechi Ideh's 8-yard touchdown run to put the Purple Raiders ahead 6-0.
Sophomore kicker Mike Zimmerman added a pair of field goals from 40 and 22 yards, respectively, in the second quarter to put Mount ahead 12-0 at halftime.
Wideout Pierre Garcon made his Mount Union debut memorable, hauling in a 21-yard scoring pass from Mason in the third quarter and a 17-yard score from Jorris in the fourth quarter. The latter put the Purple Raiders comfortably ahead 26-0 with 7:38 left in the fourth.
Mason padded the advantage to 33-0 with a 9-yard scoring toss to tight end Scott Campbell.
"They have a good team," said Washington University coach Larry Kindbom. "We were able to get a couple turnovers and play reasonably good defense, but we forgot to put the points on the board to give us a chance. We just couldn't get anything going offensively against their tough defense."