SALEM, Va. -- Greg Micheli knew his reputation was as a
running quarterback, and that Wisconsin-Whitewater would be gearing
up to stop him.
So the sophomore left-hander and Mount Union surprised the
Warhawks by taking to the air Saturday night, and Micheli's best
day led the Purple Raiders to a 35-16 victory and their ninth
Division III national championship in 14 years.
"I think that helped, the fact that I've been known as a
runner," Micheli said after throwing for three touchdowns and
running for another.
His 18-for-22 performance throwing set a completion percentage
record for the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.
The Purple Raiders, who also beat the Warhawks in last year's
Stagg Bowl, became the second team to finish a season 15-0. They
joined Grand Valley State, which did it a few hours earlier in
winning the Division II national title.
Wisconsin-Whitewater (14-1) failed to send coach Bob Berezowitz
into retirement with a championship. Berezowitz is retiring after
22 years at his alma mater, and said he and Mount Union coach Larry
Kehres had an "unbelievable" chat before the game.
"He said, 'If I have to get beat, I wouldn't mind getting beat
today,'" Berezowitz said, clearly touched by the sentiment. "It
shows you the kind of person he is."
For more than a half, it looked like Whitewater might make it
happen. But after Purple Raiders starting quarterback Mike Jorris
threw an interception to end their first series of the second half,
Micheli returned and the Purple Raiders got going.
His 46-yard scoring pass to Pierre Garcon with 5:30 left in the
third quarter gave them a 21-13 cushion, and when Matt Kostelnik
blocked a punt 2:46 later and Matt Rees ran it in 34 yards for a
touchdown, it was 28-13 and Whitewater's chances faded.
The blocked punt was the kind of play Mount Union looks for,
"After a big score, that's the first thing we say -- 'We've got
to get a three-and-out, get the ball back in the hands of our
offense and keep the momentum,"' he said.
The way Micheli was playing, it was a solid plan.
"He's tremendously cool under pressure," Kehres said.
Micheli completed his first nine passes, including a 2-yard TD
pass to Anthony Antonucci, and also ran 12 yards for a score with
6:52 left in the half.
Garcon, who caught two touchdown passes last season when the
Purple Raiders beat Whitewater 35-28 for the title, finished with
eight catches for 116 yards and two more scores, with the 46-yard
slant he took all the way highlighting his special gift.
"His explosion through that opening was dramatic," Kehres
Garcon added a 10-yard touchdown with 10:59 to play to complete
"We just didn't have any way to stop him," Berezowitz said.
Whitewater, meantime, had trouble getting much going on offense.
Quarterback Justin Jacons finished 12-for-27 for 148 yards, and
Justin Beaver ran for 87 yards.
"I got pressure here and there and just couldn't get
comfortable," Jacobs said.
Jeff Schebler set a Stagg Bowl record with three field goals for
the Warhawks, the third from 36 yards with 14:46 left, before
Micheli and Garcon struck one last time.
Garcon threw a dazzling receiver option pass on the next drive,
drawing a 15-yard pass interference penalty, then capped the
63-yard march with his second TD catch.
The game was over, essentially, and the Purple Raiders could
celebrate, especially the seniors like Justen Stickley who endured
two seasons in a row without a title before last season, and had to
listen to talk that the dynasty has run its course.
"Going out on top, that's something you dream of as a little
kid, and having that opportunity, that's not something you want to
let slip away," Stickley said.
Kehres, who raised his record to 246-20-3, said afterward that
his comments to Berezowitz beforehand were sincere, although he
wasn't hoping Mount Union would lose.
"When you retire, I know you want to have as many victories as
you possibly can, and championships, but you certainly want to have
the respect of other coaches and the admiration of other coaches,"
"That's the top thing you can take with you into retirement,
and he's got that."