Mount Union goes from zero-to-60 in such a fashion that they’re less Division III college football program than an IndyCar team.
The Purple Raiders are second-ranked in Division III and have won nine Division III national championships since 2000 and looked every bit the part of a national contender in Rose-Hulman’s season opener on Saturday at Cook Stadium.
The Purple Raiders had a two-touchdown lead – less than three minutes into the contest. Mount Union was never threatened as Rose-Hulman endured a 66-14 defeat against the powerful Purple Raiders.
“They’re the absolute class of Division III and credit to them – they could have scored a helluva lot more points and chose not to, which I appreciate. They’re unbelievably talented. We knew it when we scheduled it.
Mount Union had 628 yards of total offense – and could have had more if they hadn’t taken their foot off the gas pedal. The Purple Raiders had a 37-8 edge in first downs.
The Purple Raiders had three players that were significant difference makers. Quarterback D’Angelo Fulford, running back Josh Petruccelli and wide receiver Justin Hill.
Fulford completed 16 of 22 for 288 yards and six touchdown passes. Petruccelli rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown. Hill had five catches for 148 yards and four touchdowns.
That’s quite a trio – and all three of those Purple Raiders loomed large in Mount Union’s liftoff to start the game.
On Mount Union’s first series, Petruccelli rushed for 46 yards on the first play. Fulford then found Hill on a corner route for a 15-yard touchdown. It was that quick. Two plays and a 7-0 Mount Union lead.
After Rose-Hulman went three-and-out, Mount Union took longer to score its next touchdown. Instead of two plays, the Purple Raiders used three to reach the end zone again. Petruccelli ran off left tackle for a 2-yard touchdown run, one play after a 57-yard scamper. Petruccelli breached 100 yards rushing in two carries.
“We had a much better start at their place. We got some stops and forced them to punt. This year they got the ball in the hands of their playmakers and they were too much for us,” Sokol said.
Rose-Hulman was more competitive from that point – though Mount Union was still firmly in control. A frustrating pattern was Rose-Hulman helped to keep Mount Union drives alive. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when the Engineers stopped the Purple Raiders on their third drive hurt – the Purple Raiders later scored via a 22-yard Hill catch. Later, Rose-Hulman ran into the kicker after it had forced Mount Union to punt and it was turned into another Mount Union touchdown.
The bright spot for the Engineers in the first half was a 60-yard touchdown catch by Noah Thomas. On a deep route up the middle, Rose-Hulman quarterback Andrew Dion delivered a perfect strike. Thomas hauled it in and beat the safeties to the end zone for a Rose-Hulman touchdown.
However, it was Mount Union’s half as the Purple Raiders led 42-7 at the break. The Purple Raiders had 342 yards of total offense at the break.
Mount Union kept it up in the third quarter, scoring three more touchdowns. Rose-Hulman running back Shane Welshans gave the Engineers a highlight with a 68-yard touchdown run, but the Engineers were down 63-14 by the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter? Mount Union eschewed touchdowns and attempted field goals once inside the Rose-Hulman 10 regardless of the down.
Regardless of the outcome, Sokol feels good about Rose-Hulman’s prospects in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“We tried to build our program up to try to compete with them, but the end goal [in scheduling the game] was to win a conference championship. Nothing I saw today discouraged me from the fact that this will be one of our better football teams and we’ll have a chance to still accomplish that goal,” Sokol said.
Rose-Hulman plays its next two games on the road. The Engineers play at former Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Rhodes at 8 p.m. next Saturday.