And for 15 minutes, it looked as if

By Chuck Condley Record-Courier staff writer Published:

And for 15 minutes, it looked as if the Yellow Jackets might pull it off. But top-ranked Mount Union tightened up its defense, unleashed its running game and finished the season unbeaten with a workmanlike 26-7 Ohio Athletic Conference victory.

The Purple Raiders (10-0, 9-0 OAC) completed their fifth straight 10-0 regular season, won their 52nd game in a row and captured their seventh OAC title in the last eight years.

Baldwin-Wallace (6-4, 6-3) took a 7-0 lead just five minutes into the game on a 27-yard TD pass from Kenny Leonard to Matt Andreas.

Facing a 15-mph wind that hampered the passing game, the Purple Raiders were unable to move the football on their first two possessions.

An aggressive, blitzing Baldwin-Wallace defense held the Mount Union offense to just 43 yards and a pair of first downs.

In the meantime, the Yellow Jacket offense continued to move the ball, driving to the Mount Union 20-yard line the next two times they had the ball.

However, the Purple Raiders defense dug in and forced Baldwin-Wallace into field-goal tries both times.

But Brian Hegnauer missed from 37 and 43 yards. The two blown scoring opportunities proved fatal to the Yellow Jackets as they never again threatened the Purple Raiders goal line.

With the wind at his back in the second quarter, Mount Union quarterback Gary Smeck got the Purple Raiders offense moving with a 60-yard pass to Adam Marino to set up an 8-yard scoring pass to Dave Hassey.

However, Rodney Chenos' PAT was wide right and the Yellow Jackets still held a 7-6 lead.

Then with 1:38 left in the first half, Smeck hit Marino on a 3-yard TD pass to give the Purple Raiders a 12-7 lead at intermission.

In the second half, Mount Union used its powerful ground game, led by Chuck Moore, to control the football and the clock.

Moore racked up 159 yards in 33 carries and a pair of touchdowns. The former Mogadore star finished the regular season with 1,114 yards to become the first Mount Union 1,000-yard rusher since Jim Gresko in 1993.

Moore scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter and added a 26-yard scoring burst in the fourth quarter to tie a school record with 22 touchdowns for the season.

"We felt like, with the wind, that we were going to have to get our running game going," said Moore. "The win really knocked down our passes.

"We knew we had to run the ball and control the clock in the third quarter and we were able to do that. I think we've shown all year that we are able to run the ball when we have to.

"It was one of my goals (1,000 yards) and it was the goal of our offensive linemen to get it for me. A running back is only as good as his offensive line and the line has done a great job all year opening holes ... they make my job easier."

The Mount Union defense never let the Yellow Jackets cross the Purple Raiders' 40-yard line in the final two quarters.

"We had a hard time on offense, especially in the first quarter," said Mount Union head coach Larry Kehres.

"We wanted to pass, but (Baldwin-Wallace) was getting a lot of pressure on our quarterback. We had two good drives in the second quarter, but when we began to run the ball in the third quarter, I think that's when we started to take control of the game."

The three-time defending national champion Purple Raiders will await the results of today's Division III playoff pairings to determine when and who they will play in playoff action. Most likely Mount Union will receive a bye and play in two weeks at Mount Union Stadium.

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