Defense powers Mount
ALLIANCE – There is no need to worry about the rain when Mount Union has sophomore running back Josh Petruccelli and the Purple Raider defense.
Petruccelli ran for a career-high 219 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries and the defense shut down No. 22 Muhlenberg (Pa.) for a 38-10 in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals on a rainy Saturday.
The Purple Raiders (13-0) won their 28th game in a row and advance to the semifinals for a 24th straight year. They are expected to host No. 13 Johns Hopkins next Saturday.
Cornerback Louis Berry had a 20-yard interception return for his fourth pick for a score this season and the 13th touchdown by Mount Union’s defense .
Mount Union limited Muhlenberg (11-2) to 152 total yards, including only 49 in the second half.
Austin White and Gabe Brown also came up with interceptions, while Adam Pastor recovered a fumble as Mount Union regrouped after a pair of early turnovers of its own.
Mount Union had its first postseason turnovers on each of its first two possessions – a fumble and an interception. The second of those turnovers the Mules went 18 yards and Michael Hnatkowsky tossed a 15-yard scoring pass to Thomas Murphy and Muhlenberg led 7-0.
Petruccelli tied the game with a 14-yard touchdown run on the Raiders next possession. Then the defense got its first turnover of the game when Ethan McComb sacked Hnatkowsky and forced a fumble that was recovered by Adam Pastor and two plays later D’Angelo Fulford threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hill and the Raiders took a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
As the rain intensified so did both defenses as the second quarter featured a combined five punts and an interception by White and it remained 14-7 at the half.
Petruccelli paved the way in the second half with 150 yards on 18 carries, most out the wildcat.
After forcing a Muhlenberg punt on the opening possession of the second half, Mount Union drove 55 yards on six plays and extended the lead to 17-7 on a 32-yard field goal from Cory Barnett.
Both teams exchanged punts before Berry’s interception return gave Mount Union a 24-7 lead.
Muhlenberg converted a Raider fumble into three points early in the fourth quarter with a Todd Sprit 36-yard field goal to make it 24-10.
The rest of the fourth quarter belonged to Petruccelli, who ran for 103 yards in the quarter with touchdowns from 3 and 2 yards to close out the scoring.
¯ The rain started five minutes before the noon kickoff and was steady the entire game. The teams combined for 235 total yards in the first half (131 for Mount Union and 104 for Muhlenberg).
¯ Leading receiver Jared Ruth did not play and the Purple Raiders missed him. Mount Union was limited to 69 yards passing and Justin Hill had four catches for 13 years while constantly double-teamed.
¯ Mount Union junior kicker Max Righetti from Salem averaged 53.0 yards on seven kickoffs.
¯ Muhlenberg finished the season at 11-2, including losses to Mount Union and Johns Hopkins.
¯ Johns Hopkins advanced with a 37-14 win over R.P.I. (N.Y.) on Saturday.
¯ Mount Union has played Johns Hopkins twice before with both times coming in the playoffs in Alliance. The Purple Raiders won 55-13 in 2012 won 28-21 in 2016 playoffs and
¯ In the other semifinal, Mary Hardin-Baylor (13-0) takes on Wisconsin-Whitewhater (12-0) next Saturday.
¯ The flag at Mount Union Stadium was at half-staff for President George H.W. Bush, who died the night before.