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#1 Mount Union eliminates Denison from NCAA playoffs

Jordan Lobel (94) | Photo by Keri Luchowski
Jordan Lobel (94) | Photo by Keri Luchowski

ALLIANCE, Ohio--  Denison suffered a 60-0 loss to No. 1 Mount Union in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Division III football playoffs.  This is Mount Union's 27th consecutive first round playoff victory and their 30th appearance, overall. Denison's North Coast Athletic Conference championship season comes to an end at 8-3.

The Denison offense entered the game averaging 43 points and 488 yards per game but the Purple Raiders boast one of their best defenses in program history. Mount Union held opponents to under 10 points per game and led the nation with 11 defensive touchdowns.

With Mount Union starting quarterback D'Angelo Fulford out with an injury, UMU turned to sophomore Jake Keeney, but with offensive stars like Josh Petruccelli and Jared Ruth flanking him, the controversy over who would be Mount Union's starting quarterback proved to be a moot point.

The Purple Raiders forced a three-and-out on Denison's first possession and on UMU's third play from scrimmage, Petruccelli went 54 yards for the first score of the game.

After another quick offensive possession, Mount Union took over with excellent field position on the Denison 34. A steady dose of Petruccelli put the home team on the doorstep allowing quarterback Ernie Burkes to call his own number on a 2-yard touchdown run.

Denison quarterback Canaan Gebele and running back Alex Minton came into the game with over 4,000 of the team's 4,800 yards of offense but the UMU defense led by standout linebacker Danny Robinson had all the answers. After Gebele gained nine yards on a rush for Denison's first, first down of the game, three stops forced Calvin Montgomery to punt.

On Mount Union's ensuing possession the Denison defensive line asserted themselves.  Sacks by Will Brady and Jordan Lobel resulted in a six-play -5-yard drive, forcing Mount to punt for the first time.

Denison took over near midfield and on the first play from scrimmage, Gebele went for the home run.  A long pass downfield for David Weimar was intercepted by Austin White on the 18-yard line, ending DU's spurt of momentum.

Early in the second, a combination of Keeney and Burkes took Mount Union on a 12-play, 82-yard drive that was capped off by a 16-yard touchdown catch by Ruth, his first of four on the day.

The Denison defense had another good series, holding the Purple Raiders to 13 yards but a 34-yard punt by Adam Snyder that was downed on the Big Red's 1-yard line.

On the second play of the drive, Gebele was trying to get his team out of the shadows but a quick out went off the hands of a DU receiver and Louis Berry picked it off and ran nine yards for the pick-six.  It was UMU's 12th defensive touchdown of the season.

Denison trailed 32-0 at halftime and three more touchdowns in the third quarter by Mount Union put the game out of reach.

Denison totaled 116 yards of total offense compared to 495 yards for the Purple Raiders. 

Ruth caught six passes for 209 yards and four TDs.  Petruccelli carried the ball 22 times for 128 yards and a touchdown and Keeney was 11-of-15 for 287 yards and four touchdowns. 

Gebele was 8-of-27 for 68 yards and Minton carried the ball 20 times for 77 yards.  Lobel had eight tackles, one sack, and four tackles-for-loss to lead a strong effort from the DU defensive line.

A 29-member Denison senior class leaves Granville with a career record of 30-11 (.731) highlighted by two eight-win seasons and one conference championship.  This is the winningest senior class at Denison in 32 years.

Mount Union advances to the second round and will face Centre on Saturday, Nov. 24.