ALLIANCE — Washington and Jefferson head coach Mike Siriani already knew all about Mount Union’s postseason dominance, having won three national championships at the school as a player (1993) and assistant coach (1996-97).
On Saturday, he experienced what it feels like to be on the other sideline.
The Purple Raiders scored on all six offensive possessions in the first half and the defense held the Presidents to zero first downs in the opening half, as Mount Union earned a 55-0 victory in front of a crowd of 2,243.
“We thought we were ready to come into this environment and compete, but obviously we weren’t,” said Siriani. “I guess we weren’t prepared and that goes back to me. I was embarrassed by the way we played in the first half and Mount Union had a lot to do with that.
“We talked all week about just trying to get to halftime, but the execution just wasn’t there today and we backed down a little bit. We are a good team, but we ran into a great team today.”
Mount Union was dominant on both sides of the football and about the only thing that went wrong for the Purple Raiders was a missed extra point.
Quarterback Kurt Rocco, starting his first career playoff game, completed 14 of 19 passes for 251 yards and two scores. Cecil Shorts caught both TD passes and finished with seven receptions for 160 yards.
There are so many more stats that illustrate Mount Union’s dominance, but none is perhaps more telling than this one: The Purple Raiders scored 42 points in the first half, but none came as a result of a Washington and Jefferson turnover.
“That is the amazing part,” said Siriani. “They just held us to three-and-out every time, then just shoved the ball down our throat and scored.”
While the Mount Union offense piled up 581 yards and got touchdowns from Shorts (two), running backs Scott Panchik (three), Terrance Morring (two) and Zac Lemmon (one), the defense was stellar.
Washington and Jefferson did not gain a first down in the first half, punting seven times and being outgained 400-18 after two quarters.
The Presidents earned their first new set of downs with 14:00 left in the third quarter. They finished with just two first downs, 127 total yards and minus 6 yards rushing.
“We hoped for that kind of start, but I can’t say that we expected it to be quite that good of a defensive start in a playoff game,” said Mount Union coach Larry Kehres. “We have lots of seniors, so we really should start well with the veteran players we have.”
Senior defensive end Joe Millings, who played in his 58th career contest at Mount Union, said the defense set the tone for a solid performance early in the game.
“We really did that in the very first series,” said Millings, who finished with three tackles for loss and two of Mount Union’s five sacks. “They tried to run and we stopped them, then they tried to pass and we stopped them. We were just excited to play and get things rolling.”
Mount Union will host its 20th home playoff game since 2004 next Saturday when it takes on Montclair State (NJ) for a noon kickoff. The two programs have never met.