SALEM, Va. (AP) — Matt Behrendt throw for 365 yards and four touchdowns and Wisconsin-Whitewater continued its mastery of Mount Union in the NCAA Division III championship game with a 43-34 victory Friday night.
The Warhawks (15-0) extended their winning streak to 32 games, the longest in the nation, and beat the Purple Raiders for the sixth time in the last seven meetings — all in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.
Behrendt finished 26 for 38 for 365 yards with two interceptions. Jake Kumerow caught eight passes for 130 yards and a score, and Dennis Moore ran for 74 yards and caught two passes for 108 and a touchdown.
Mount Union (14-1), the winner of 11 national titles, was appearing in the game for the 10th consecutive season, and arrived having admittedly changed some things up on defense after a 52-14 loss to the Warhawks last year in the title game.
On the field, however, Whitewater had Behrendt, and for the second year in a row, he outplayed the Gagliardi Trophy winner, Kevin Burke, in the game that mattered most.
Burke was 25 of 47 for 323 yards and three touchdowns, but after arriving at his final college game with 49 touchdown passes and just five interceptions through 14 games, the Warhawks defense picked him off four times.
The victory sent coach Lance Leipold out in style. He has accepted the job at Buffalo, and finishes eight years with the Warhawks with a 109-6 record and, remarkably, as many national championships as losses in his career.
His Warhawks trailed for just one play all night, at 31-30 in the third quarter.
After a touchback, Behrendt hit Moore with a screen pass, and Moore found his blockers, cut back across the field and took it 75 yards for a touchdown, restoring the Warhawks lead to 37-31.
Lake Bacher’s second field goal, from 31 yards out, made it 40-31 with 12:20 to play.
Trailing 30-14 at halftime, Mount Union came out looking more like the team that averaged better than 60 points this season, and Burke looking more like the first two-time player of the year winner.
He led a 67-yard drive finished off with a 29-yard scoring pass to Roman Namdar, and when the Warhawks couldn’t get anything going, a 79-yard drive capped by Logan Nemeth’s 3-yard run made it 30-28.
Behrendt hit Kumerow in the hands on the next drive, and the ball went through his hands and into those of cornerback Tre Jones, returned the interception it to the 17. There the Whitewater defense dug in, chasing Burke out of bounds on a third-and-6, and Edward Ruhnke kicked a 29-yard field goal.
It gave the Purple Raiders the lead, but only very briefly.
Before halftime, Mount Union made mistakes it hadn’t made all year.
Burke threw just five interceptions in 14 games leading up to Stagg Bowl, but in his last two Stagg Bowls, he’s thrown two that Whitewater cornerback Brady Grayvold returned for touchdowns. Grayvold got him last season from 37 yards, and this time from 25 yards, the second of Whitewater’s three interceptions.
That made it 20-7, and Mount Union answered quickly. Burke led them on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that he finished off with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Taurice Scott, Burke’s 51st TD pass of the season.
Just as quickly as he seemed to have righted the ship, the Purple Raiders unraveled.
With less than 2 minutes left in the half, Mount Union called timeout and forced a punt. They took over at their 10, and on the first play, Burke threw to Scott, who was stripped of the ball by Marcus McLin, who also recovered at the 17. One play later, Behrendt hit Kumerow for a sliding touchdown.
Undaunted, the Purple Raiders had Burke throw deep after the ensuing kickoff, and McLin intercepted and returned it 26 yards to the 28. Four plays later, Lake Bacher’s 23-yard field goal made it 30-14.
Behrendt came out to start the game like it was last year all over again.
The Warhawks got the ball first and moved quickly. Behrendt hit Justin Howard for 24 yards on third-and-2, hit Kumerow for eight yards on third-and-4, and then hit Howard again on third-and-8 from the 12 for the touchdown, a 78-yard march in 11 plays. Behrendt was 5 for 5 for 67 yards on the drive.
After Burke threw three consecutive incompletions, Berhendt did it again, driving the Warhawks 78 yards in 10 plays and capping the march with a 7-yard scoring pass to Ricky Finco on third down.