The Gators (6-4 in 1999), ranked No. 11 in the country in Street & Smith's preseason Division III poll, return 20 starters and 40 letterwinners overall this fall for head coach Blair Hrovat (14-6, 3rd year).
Allegheny will likely feature tailback Shane Ream (152 carries, 841 yards, 10 TDs), who averaged over 150 yards per game the second half of last season. Tailback Jeremy Snyder (699 yards, 9 TDs) also returns.
Quarterback Adam Hobaugh (49-of-105, 666 yards, 5 TDs) was 4-1 as a starter in '99 after taking over in Week 6. Joe Cowart could also see some time as the Gator signal-caller.
The offensive line is tabbed as one of the strongest in team history, as it returns two-time, first-team All-NCAC center Bill Andrews, first-team All-NCAC guard Ken Achenbach and second-team all-conference selection Bernie McGuiness.
Defensively, the Gators feature a pair of two-time, first-team All-NCAC tackles in Joe Rossi (16 tackles for loss, 8 sacks) and Josh Six (21 hurries).
A pair of All-NCAC defensive backs also return _ cornerback Derek Vikara (2 INTs) and free safety Jim Lorber (4 INTs). J.P. McFeeley (78 hits), the team's third leading tackler in '99, will anchor the linebacking corps.
Mount Union enters the contest riding a 54-game regular-season winning streak. Overall, the Purple Raiders have won 79 of their last 80 regular-season contests and eight consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference crowns. They return 16 starters and 37 letterwinners this fall.
Offensively, Mount Union will feature quarterback Gary Smeck (131-of-199, 2,273 yards, 30 TDs, 3 INTs), who led the nation in passing efficiency (208.6) last year, running back Chuck Moore (184 carries, 1,115 yards, 22 TDs), who tied a school mark for TDs in a season in '99, and wide receiver Adam Marino (73 catches, 1,456 yards, 19 TDs), who set single-season school records for TD receptions and receiving yards. All three players earned All-American status a year ago.
Defensively, the Purple Raiders will be led by linebackers Jesse Pearson (5 defensive TDs) and Matt LaVerde, tackle Ryan Belaney (6 sacks), strong safety Brian Cassidy (9 tackles for loss) and cornerback Brooks Greenleaf (15 passes broken up).
"Obviously, we are playing an outstanding football team in our opener," said head coach Larry Kehres (150-17-3 career record), who enters his 15th year in charge at Mount Union. "Allegheny has excellent talent returning on both sides of the ball. This will be a real test for our squad, playing a very experienced team this early in the season on the road. We will need to play very well in order to come away with a win."
The Purple Raiders have a bye next week before returning to action at Otterbein College on Sept. 16.