By then, the proof had been delivered ... and with authority.
The Mount Union football team layed unequivocal claim to its second consecutive Division III national championship by thoroughly disecting and dismantling an overmatched Lycoming squad 61-12 in front of 5,777 fans and a national television audience Saturday afternoon at Salem Stadium.
The Purple Raiders (14-0) rolled up a Stagg Bowl-record 697 yards of total offense and held the Warriors (12-1) to a mere 183 yards to claim their third national title of the decade in highly impressive fashion.
"This was our most impressive (Stagg Bowl) performance," said Mount Union coach Larry Kehres. "We dominated this game from the first quarter on."
Lycoming coach Frank Girardi couldn't argue with that statement.
"That's the best team we've ever played," said Girardi, who has coached Lycoming for the past 26 years. "We didn't play particularly well, but we could have played our very best and still not have won. That's just an outstanding football team. The best in the country, without a doubt."
Not a single skeptic remained after Saturday's performance.
The Purple Raiders' vaunted offense put seven points on the board just 1:49 into the contest when Ryan Gorius (7 carries, 86 yards) took a handoff and raced 20 yards straight up the middle of the field for a touchdown.
And their defense made it stand up by corralling elusive Lycoming quarterback Jason Marraccini when it mattered most.
"Bill Borchert is an exceptional quarterback and their offense is obviously outstanding," said Girardi. "But I don't think enough is said about their defense. They just controlled so many things we were trying to do."
That defense made an important first-quarter stand after the Warriors drove into enemy territory following a Mount Union fumble. Linebacker Matt Shenigo poked away a fourth-down pass intended for Tim Dumas to give the ball back to Borchert and company.
Eleven plays and 67 yards later, the Purple Raiders led 14-0 after Borchert floated a pass to running back Marc Lantos, who then sprinted nearly untouched into the end zone for a 23-yard score.
Lycoming threatened briefly to make a game of it, trimming the lead to 14-6 after Marraccini's pass bounced off his intended receiver right into the arms of Joe Spang for a five-yard touchdown.
But Borchert answered immediately by heaving a 36-yard bomb to wide receiver Reiko Gollate to put Mount Union on top 21-6.
Borchert then hit tight end Brian Tyla from 3 yards out to give the Purple Raiders a 28-6 halftime cushion.
But they still didn't feel comfortable.
"Lycoming has been a second half team all year," said Mount Union defensive tackle B.J. Payne. The Warriors overcame a 20-0 halftime deficit to defeat Rowan in the semifinals. "So we wanted to get off to a good start and make a big play right away in the third quarter."
And that, they did.
Mount Union's defense forced Lycoming to punt, and a bad snap forced punter Steve Hill to scramble to his right. Vince Kehres chased him down and blocked Hill's attempted punt on the run, giving Mount Union the football at Lycoming's 10-yard line.
"That was the nail right there," said Girardi. "Things were very difficult after that."
And Borchert immediately drove the spike home when he scrambled into the end zone for a 10-yard score that gave Mount Union an insurmountable 35-6 lead.
Borchert tossed TD strikes to to Gorius (14 yards) and Gollate (11 yards) before he exited early in the fourth quarter, having completed 24-of-40 passes for 411 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Mount Union defense completely stifled Lycoming in the final 30 minutes. Marraccini, who successfully scrambled away from pressure several times in the first half, was smothered by waves of Purple Raiders in the second half.
The Warriors actually had minus-1 yards of total offense in the second half before backup quarterback Andy Showalter threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Tim Dumas with 2:07 remaining.
"We played an excellent game and it all started with our defense," said Kehres. "We felt it was very important to play good third-quarter defense and that set the tone for the second half. I'm very happy with our performance."
Mount Union finished the season with 752 points, the highest single-season output since the NCAA officially began keeping records.
But records were the last thing on the minds of the triumphant group of Mount Union seniors afterward.
"No offense to Lycoming, but no one was going to stop us today," said Borchert. "We were determined to go out as national champions, so there was a lot of emotion on that field today. We weren't going to be denied."
NCAA Division III Championship
Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl
Mount Union 61, Lycoming 12
(At Salem, Va.)
MtU_Gorius 20 run (Andrea kick), 13:11
MtU_Lantos 23 pass from Borchert (Andrea kick), 3:47
Lyc_Spang 5 pass from Marraccini (kick failed), 10:30
MtU_Gollate 36 pass from Borchert (Andrea kick), 8:00
MtU_Tyla 3 pass from Borchert (Andrea kick), 4:48
MtU_Borchert 10 run (Andrea kick), 12:50
MtU_Tyla 18 pass from Borchert (Andrea kick), 8:05
MtU_Gorius 14 pass from Borchert (Andrea kick), 4:33
MtU_Gollate 11 pass from Borchert (kick failed), 12:06
MtU_Evans 2 run (kick failed), 5:30
Lyc_Dumas 34 pass from Showalter (pass failed), 2:07
Yards gained rushing141286
Yards lost rushing7428
Net yards rushing67258
Net yards passing116439
Total offensive plays5985
Total net yards183697
Average gain per play3.18.2
Nunmber of punts-yards10-3131-43
Average per punt31.343.0
Punt returns: number-yards1-165-38
Kickoff returns: number-yards7-1242-24
Fumble returns: number-yards2-00-0
Time of possession31:2828:32
Third down conversions2 of 147 of 10
Fourth down conversions1 of 20 of 1
Sacks by: number-yards1-56-64
Rushing_Thompson, 19-80; Love, 2-3; Hill, 2-2; Selvenis, 1-(minus 3); Marraccini 19-(minus 15).
Passing _ Marraccini 6-14-1-82; Showalter 1-1-0-34; Heintz 0-1-0-0.
Receiving _ Dumas, 4-69; Maskerines, 1-28; Regenski, 1-14; Spang 1-5.
Punting _ Steve Hill, 9-313-34.8.
Field goals _ None.
Punt returns _ Spang, 1-16.
Kickoff returns _ Love, 3-45; DAvis, 4-79.
Interception returns _ None.
Rushing _ Gorius, 7-86; Evans, 13-63; Borchert, 8-42; Lantos, 6-37; Pollock, 8-29; Gollate, 1-3; Smeck, 1-(minus 2).
Passing _ Borchert, 24-40-0-411; Zeppernick, 1-1-0-28.
Receiving _ Tyla, 7-102; Knestrick, 6-163; Gorius, 3-34; Gollate, 2-47; Kershner, 2-41; Lantos, 2-27; Evans, 2-17; Pollock, 1-8.
Punting _ Andrea, 1-43-43.0.
Field Goals _ Andrea, 0-1.
Punt returns _ Kershner, 2-15; Prevesk, 2-4; Kehres, 1-19.
Kickoff returns _ Kershner, 1-14; Lantos, 1-10.
Interception returns _ Cicchinelli, 1-18.