Purple Raiders advance to round of eight
By JEFFREY ZUPANIC
Mount Union starting quarterback D’Angelo Fulford returned from an injury for Saturday’s second-round playoff game against Centre.
The Purple Raiders did not herculean effort from him thanks to a dominating defensive effort in the first half in a 51-35 win in the NCAA Division III football playoffs at Mount Union Stadium.
Mount Union will face Muhlenberg (11-1) in the quarterfinals next weekend. Mount Union has reached the round of eight each of the last 27 seasons.
The Purple Raiders (12-0) surrendered a rare first-half touchdown then decided to turn up the defensive pressure against the Colonels.
Centre (10-2) cut Mount Union’s lead to 14-7 with its first-quarter score then proceeded to turn the ball over four times in six possessions.
The other two yielded a blocked punt and a punt that was returned 51 yards by Mount Union’s Jared Ruth.
Trevor Cox had two interceptions, Danny Robinson picked off a pass and blocked the punt that was returned to the 1 and Jalen Griffin made the other interception.
The four turnovers and two special teams plays gave the Purple Raiders a short field for most of the first half.
Mount Union had four scoring drives that took less than a minute and the longest possession of the game was 75 yards, which running back Josh Petruccelli took care of with a career long run that answered Centre’s lone meaningful score.
“That was big,” said Mount Union head coach Vince Kehres when asked about keeping the momentum going after the good start. “We got some momentum with some big plays and we had guys in the right spots [to get turnovers].”
Petruccelli needed just a quarter to record his seventh 100-yard game of the season. The sophomore carried the ball 18 times for 162 yards and scored four touchdowns. The yards and touchdowns are a career high, as was the 75-yard run.
“That’s due to the offensive line. I wasn’t touched until a safety brushed me a little at the end,” Petruccelli said.
Fulford returned after missing last week’s game and saw limited action due to Mount Union leading 51-7 at halftime. The junior completed 4-of-8 passes for 85 yards, and threw touchdowns to Ruth and Justin Hill.
Centre head coach Andy Frye said his team was taken aback by the Purple Raiders’ speed.
“We had to beat three playoff teams just to get here and none of them compare to Mount Union,” Frye said. “We haven’t seen that kind of speed all year. Nothing was even close to that.”
Centre’s starters scored four times against Mount Union’s second-and-third team defense in the second half. Things got chippy late in the game when the Colonels continued throwing the ball after the Purple Raiders started taking knees to end the game.
Centre ran 87 offensive plays to 51 for Mount Union and held a 471 to 313 yardage advantage.