Nov. 5—ALLIANCE — The wind wreaked havoc on the John Carroll and Mount Union football teams Nov. 5 in an Ohio Athletic Conference showdown in Alliance.
So much so that driving to the west end of Larry Kehres Stadium was not easy.
Instead, the No. 2-ranked Purple Raiders took the shortest route possible to clinch a 34-28 victory that gave Mount sole possession of the OAC with one game to play.
Quarterback Braxton Plunk's short screen pass — against the wind early in the fourth — to Jaden Manley caught in stride and taken to the house 80 yards was the dagger to the heart of JCU.
"That was a great play," said Plunk, who was 32 of 43 for 367 yards and three touchdown passes. "Manley did the rest on that run."
The Blue Streaks took over in the fourth quarter with the wind but on their first possession couldn't sustain a drive and gave it back to Mount, which then answered with the play of the game.
"Certainly made things harder from there," said JCU interim coach Drew Nystrom after his team trailed, 34-14. "I thought our defense made their offense from being explosive except for that play there."
Mount improved to 9-0 and 8-0 in the OAC, and clinched a share of the OAC title. Baldwin Wallace's 21-20 overtime win at Heidelberg sets up an interesting game between the Yellow Jackets and Purple Raiders on Nov. 12.
JCU dropped to 7-2 and 7-1 in the OAC. The Blue Streaks finish their regular season at home against Otterbein on Nov. 12.
If JCU beats Otterbein and BW upsets Mount, it would create a three-way tie atop the OAC at 7-1. The first criteria to decide the conference champ is head-to-head. In this case, the teams would be 1-1 against each other. The next tiebreaker would be a vote among the OAC coaches to pick the conference champ.
JCU tried to get back in the game, and did that when QB Joe Collins — who was 17 of 32 for 215 yards and four touchdowns — finished off a quick drive with a 24-yard TD pass to tight end Tadas Tatarunas of Mentor to make it 34-21 with 9:43 to play in regulation.
Tatarunas had a huge game with six receptions for 108 yards.
John Carroll's Tadas Tatarunas celebrates his touchdown in the fourth quarter against Mount Union. (Tim Phillis ??
The visitors got the ball back again with about six minutes to play and drove to the Mount 22 but a fourth-down pass by Collins in the end zone was incomplete a little less than 4 minutes to play.
JCU closed to within 34-28 with 19 seconds remaining but an onside kick attempt was unsuccessful and Mount ran out the clock.
The first half played as a stalemate as the teams went to halftime tied at 14.
Mount scored a touchdown on its opening drive on a Deandre Parker 4-yard TD run. The Purple Raiders had two shots to add to that lead with possessions that started near midfield but couldn't.
JCU found pay dirt early in the second quarter when Collins connected with receiver Tyler Mintz on a key fourth down. That put it position for Collins to find Evan McVay for a stretch pass to the right that McVay took the corner of the end zone and it was 7-7.
Parker scored again on a 1-yard run for a 14-7 advantage but JCU answered again with a solid drive capped by Mintz's 12-yard TD swing pass from Collins.
"Halftime, we had all the momentum," said Tatarunas. "We were just trying to get it back in the third quarter."
Said Nystrom: "We knew it was going to be a fight, a heavyweight battle. Absorb the punches, get back up, punch right back. That was our message before the game, the same message was at half. I was proud of the fight we showed all game."
In the third, Mount took advantage of the wind at their back when Plunk threw TD passes of 10 yards to Edwin Reed and 16 to Wayne Ruby.
JCU running back Mason Sullivan had a breakout game in the loss. The sophomore from Kirtland had his first 100-yard game with 103 on 16 attempts, many which punished the Mount defense.
"We were more prepared to go to him a little earlier in this game," said Nystrom.
Mount outgained JCU, 440 to 314. Manley was the Purple Raiders top receiver with seven catches for 161 yards. Wayne Ruby had six for 50 yards. Fugh had five catches for 46 yards and a TD for JCU.