12:00 PM ET, December 8, 2007
ALLIANCE, Ohio -- Quarterback Greg Micheli led Mount Union to a 62-14 victory over Bethel on Saturday that sent the Raiders to the Division III national championship game for the 11th time in 15 years.
Micheli was 16-for-19 passing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for 58 yards for the two-time defending champion Purple Raiders (13-0), who scored on their first seven possessions.
Tailback Nate Kmic rushed for three touchdowns and 104 yards, going over the 100-yard mark for the 22nd time in 33 career starts in helping Mount Union advance to the 35th annual Stagg Bowl next Saturday against Wisconsin-Whitewater. The Warhawks beat Mary Hardin-Baylor 16-7 in the other semifinal Saturday.
Mount Union needed only three plays to reach the end zone on its first possession, scoring when Micheli hit wide receiver Pierre Garcon for a 46-yard touchdown just over a minute into the game. Garcon finished with five catches for 111 yards en route to setting Mount Union's career record for receptions (198).
"Any time you can jump out to an early lead it's important," Micheli said. "[Bethel] had a long trip to get here as it was, so jumping on them quickly was key. I was real surprised Pierre was so wide open on that play."
After a 29-yard field goal by Mike Zimmerman on Mount Union's next possession, Micheli capped a short drive by hooking up with tight end Chad Reynolds to make the score 17-0.
After 14 weeks of play, Mount Union has outscored its opponents in the first quarter 284-6.
"They have unbelievable balance on offense," Bethel safety Brandon Carr said. "They have so many weapons and they executed early and often. It was very difficult to play them because you can't focus in on one player. They have a lot of guys that can hurt you."
The second quarter started in similar fashion with Mount Union scoring on Kmic's 2-yard run. That was soon followed by a 37-yard field goal by Zimmerman after Bethel fumbled deep in its own territory. Kmic scored from 9 yards out on Mount Union's next trip down the field, making the score 34-0.
On their final possession of the half, the Purple Raiders took the ball 86 yards on seven plays, capped by Micheli's 8-yard run that made the score 41-0.
The Royals (12-2) didn't get their first score of the game until quarterback Dan Einerson found tight end Nick Otto from 7 yards out with 7:48 left to play.
The Mount Union defense was led by safety Craig Nickoli, who had his first two career interceptions, returning the second 20 yards for a score.