HOUSTON — For the first time in 12 seasons, Mount Union will not appear in the Division III championship game.
In its place, Mary Hardin-Baylor will play in its first Stagg Bowl since 2004 — the season before Mount Union’s 11-year streak began.
Mary Hardin-Baylor converted a first down on fake punt with 45 seconds left and the Crusaders upset defending champion Mount Union 14-12 on Saturday in the Division III semifinals.
The Crusaders’ last title game ended in a 28-21 defeat to Linfield. That was the last D-III title game not involving Mount Union, UW-Whitewater or St. Thomas.
Mary Hardin-Baylor (14-0) will play Wisconsin-Oshkosh, which beat John Carroll 10-3, on Friday night.
Two of the highest scoring teams in Division III were locked in a defensive battle on Saturday.
Mount Union (12-2) started its final possession with 2:32 left at its 45. But defensive end Ajay Fanene read a screen pass and dropped back in coverage to intercept freshman quarterback Dom Davis’ pass with 1:44 left. It was his first interception of the season.
Mary Hardin-Baylor was forced to punt after three plays but Trinton Ynclan caught a dart from the Baylor Mullins in a punt formation to seal it.
It was Mount Union’s first true road loss since 1994, which is also the last time the Raiders lost two games in a season. The 114-game streak went back to the 1994 NCAA Playoffs in a 34-33 loss at Albion (Mich.).
Mary Hardin-Baylor quarterback Blake Jackson scored on a 1-yard sneak up the middle with 1:53 left in the third quarter for a 14-6 lead. His 11-yard scramble two plays earlier on a third-and-6 set up the touchdown. Duane Thompson also made two big plays on the drive. He had an over-the-shoulder catch for 25 yards and rushed for a 15-yard gain on the next play.
Keith Reineke made an easy interception with 10:43 left in the fourth quarter for Mary Hardin-Baylor but the Crusaders’ drive stalled after three plays. Mount Union made them pay with a 14-play, 66 yard scoring drive to pull to 14-12 with 4:20 left on Davis’ play-action keeper. The Raiders’ two-point conversion attempt failed after Davis’ pressured pass fell incomplete short of the end zone.
In the first half, Alex Louthan kicked a 30-yard field goal to open the scoring for Mount Union with 8:08 left. But Mary Hardin-Baylor answered on its next possession. Jackson scrambled to escape pressure and was hit hard just after a throw for a 33-yard touchdown. T.J. Josey leapt in the end zone to get a hand on it and Wykeyhe Walker secured it for a 7-3 lead.
Louthan made his second field goal with two seconds left before halftime to pull to Mount Union to 7-6.
Mary Hardin-Baylor won its 12th straight American Southwest Conference title to earn the one tournament bid reserved for independents or teams in a non-automatic qualifying conference. Mount Union earned one of the six at-large bids to the playoffs and is the only team in D-III history to win three straight road games to reach the semis.