There’s something special about this team.
Well, actually, there’s something special about every Mount Union University football team, as the Purple Raiders have a tendency to win. Win big and win often.
But this year’s squad — 9-0 and ranked No. 3 in NCAA Division III after a 59-3 drubbing of Baldwin-Wallace Saturday — is special even by Mount Union standards, said senior right guard Pat Mahoney, a Jeannette native.
“This is the best team I’ve been on personally, for sure,” said Mahoney, a Greensburg Central Catholic graduate.
That’s saying something.
Mount Union is 52-2 with three appearances in the Division III national championship game, including one title, in Mahoney’s time with the program. Those teams were all very good, said Mahoney, but this one is different.
“Up front on the line, and the offense as a whole, we’ve got a lot of great chemistry,” he said.
Beyond Xs and Os, that cohesiveness is a big factor in this team’s success, said Mahoney.
“We all like playing for each other,” he said. “I like playing for Kevin (starting quarterback Kevin Burke). I like blocking for our running backs. It’s just great chemistry.”
Mahoney and his linemates certainly enjoyed their blocking assignments on Saturday, as they blasted open holes to allow Purple Raiders runners to gain 243 yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, Burke threw for 301 yards as Mount Union outgained Baldwin-Wallace 543 yards to 148.
“Our goal is to keep getting 100-yard rushers,” he said. “We want all of our backs to average more than five yards per carry. And we want to keep our quarterback healthy, keep him from not getting hit.”
All of those goals support the ultimate goal.
“Our main goal is to win the national championship,” said Mahoney.
The season has featured plenty of mismatches thus far for Mount Union, but that all changes this Saturday when the team wraps up the regular season in a home game against a quality foe in John Carroll.
The Blue Streaks are 9-0 overall, 8-0 in the Ohio Athletic Conference and ranked No. 6 in the nation.
Kickoff is 1:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast at athletics.mountunion.edu.
Praise for Cox
It was a tough weekend for Michigan State, which fell 49-37 to Ohio State on Saturday in a game that may have impacted the first-ever Division I playoff.
One silver lining in the loss, however, was Jeannette grad Demetrious Cox — a redshirt sophomore — who made the biggest play of his college career, a 14-yard quarterback sack.
Usually a safety, Cox played some corner back in the loss.
In his weekly news conference, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio praised the local product.
“I thought he played well … he’s been playing some corner for us,” said the coach. “He’s very balanced. He’s strong. And he’s been playing the star backer in our nickel package. So he’s done a nice job. So he is coming as a player. Expect to see more of him as we go.”
Michigan State had been cruising, looking like a team destined for one of the four coveted playoff spots. The loss leaves that in doubt, though it’s certainly not out of the picture.
The Spartans are 7-2 overall, 4-1 in the Big Ten Conference and ranked No. 12 in the country by the Associated Press.
The team hits the road to take on Maryland (6-3, 3-2) Saturday at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
St. Vincent Falls
St. Vincent lost to Geneva 34-30 on Saturday to fall to 3-6 overall and 3-4 in the Division III Presidents’ Athletic Conference.
Jeannette grad Shavonta Craft led the Bearcats in both rushing and receiving. The sophomore gained 101 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and caught a team-high seven passes for 49 yards.
Fellow Jeannette grad Darius Brown also had a big day, returning six punts for 81 yards and three kicks for 79 yards, to go along with four tackles.
The Bearcats close out the regular season in a road game at Bethany (6-3, 5-2) Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcast at athletics.stvincent.edu.
Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.