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SALEM, Va. (AP) — Mount Union is back on top of Division III football, and coach Vince Kehres finally has one of his own.
Taurice Scott threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score and Mount Union won its NCAA-best 12th football title, beating St. Thomas of Minnesota 49-35 on Friday night in the Division III championship game.
It was the Purple Raiders' 11th consecutive appearance in the game, but the first time in the last three years with Kehres as the coach that they came out on top.
"It means a lot," Kehres said after adding to the family lore that saw his father, Larry, guide the Purple Raiders to the first 11 titles. "I had the great mentor and a lot of mentors to get to this point. ... I think it feels great for a lot of us."
Logan Nemeth ran for 220 yards and two touchdowns for Mount Union (15-0), which took over by scoring 21 unanswered points in the third quarter, turning a 21-14 deficit into a 35-21 lead in a span of just over five minutes. And they did it while working against a wind that had limited them to 30 yards in the first quarter.
"The offensive staff wanted to be able to run the football in the third quarter going into that wind," said Kehres, who was part of 10 titles as a player and assistant coach under his father.
They did it with a fast-paced approach, something they haven't used much in the playoffs.
"The offensive line did a great job and I think all that speed flying around had to mess with them a little bit," Nemeth said.
Jordan Roberts ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns for St. Thomas (14-1), which was appearing in the game for only the second time. The Tommies also played for the title in 2012, losing 28-10 to Mount Union.
"I've said it now for many years," coach Glenn Caruso said. "They are the standard in Division III."
The Purple Raiders took command with three four-play touchdown drives sandwiched around a turnover and a three-and-out by the Tommies. St. Thomas rallied with a fluky touchdown, but the Tommies had no answer for the big-play capabilities of the Purple Raiders.
"Three of the four times that we scored, they came right back and scored," Caruso said. "That's the sign of a championship team."
In the 21-0 third-quarter burst, Scott hit Roman Namdar for 63 yards to highlight the first drive, a fumble recovery set up the second, and Nemeth had a 42-yard run on the third drive before Scott's 18-yard scoring run.
St. Thomas got within 35-28 when Nick Waldvogel fumbled on run up the middle, and the ball bounced sideways and into the hands of quarterback John Gould, who outran the defense 55 yards.
Mount Union let Nemeth do most of the heavy lifting in the final quarter as it chewed time off the clock.
Unable to generate any offense moving into the stiff wind in the first quarter, Mount Union scored on its first two possessions of the second quarter with the wind at its back. Nemeth set up the first score with a 40-yard run, and Scott hit Lane Clark from 7 yards out for the touchdown. It was the 42nd touchdown pass of the season for Scott. He later hit Clark for another, from 13 yards, to make it 21-all.
After a three-and-out for the Tommies, Nemeth had runs of 15 and 3 yards, and Scott hit Namdar for 29 yards and the touchdown, his 20th scoring catch of the season.
The Tommies got help from a pass-interference call in converting a fourth-and-6 play from the Mount Union 30. After a holding call, Gould hit Charlie Dowdle for 25 yards. Dowdle initially bobbled the ball as he passed through the end zone, but a review ruled he gained possession in time for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
It was the largest deficit the Purple Raiders have faced this season, and the Tommies doubled it in the second quarter, again with help. It came in the form of a fake punt by Mount Union that failed, giving St. Thomas the ball at the Purple Raiders 34. Eight runs later, Jordan Roberts ran it in on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
It was Roberts' 33rd rushing touchdown, tops among NCAA players at all levels this season.
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