Purple Raiders suffer just their third loss in 123 games

Dec. 11, 2004


ALLIANCE, Ohio (AP) - Freshman Josh Welch threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Walter Sharp on fourth down with 49 seconds to play, lifting Mary Hardin-Baylor to a 38-35 victory over Mount Union in the NCAA Division III semifinals Saturday.

Mary Hardin-Baylor outscored Mount Union 17-0 in the fourth quarter to hand the Purple Raiders (12-1) just their third loss in 123 games.

The Crusaders (13-1) will play for their first championship in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl on Dec. 18 in Salem, Va., against the winner of the semifinal between Linfield and Rowan.

Mount Union has won six of the last eight Division III titles. Its previous two losses were in the 1999 semifinals to Rowan - a 24-17 setback after 54 straight wins - and to St. John's (Minn.) in last year's title game. That 24-6 loss snapped the longest winning streak in NCAA history at 55 games. Oklahoma set the major-college record for consecutive victories, winning 47 straight from 1953-57.







Welch completed three key passes on the winning 68-yard drive, including the touchdown that came after he was sacked for a 4-yard loss on third down. After a timeout, Welch threw into a crowd of players in the end zone. Sharp leaped, fought off two defenders and came down with the ball to help the Crusaders become the first team from the American Southwest Conference to advance to the title game.

Mount Union scored 14 points in 70 seconds late in the third quarter to take a 35-21 lead. Wade Kirk returned a blocked punt 11 yards for a touchdown 1:10 after quarterback Zac Bruney broke a 21-21 tie with a 10-yard scoring run.

Mount Union took a 21-14 lead 4:10 into the second half when Bruney hit Jason Cavell with a 25-yard TD pass. The Crusaders promptly drove 71 yards to tie it as Chad Starnes ran the final 2 yards on fourth down to score.

Mount Union went right back the other way, going 62 yards in four plays. Rick Ciccone broke up the middle for 37 yards to the Crusaders' 10 and Bruney ran into the end zone on the next play for a 28-21 lead.

The Purple Raiders had scored on their first pass, a 51-yard strike from Bruney to Drew Hanley 2:11 into the game. Welch ran 13 yards around left end to tie it eight minutes later, 7-7.

The Crusaders drove to the Purple Raiders' 8 in the second quarter before Ross Watson intercepted Welch's pass at the goal line to keep it tied.