The play that won Mount Union ( Ohio) College's fifth Division III national championship in six years was quintessential Chuck Moore. On a simple guard trap in the third quarter, the Purple Raiders' senior tailback followed the block of left guard Brent Miller, burst through the middle of the line and ran unimpeded past the Bridgewater (Va.) College defense for 95 yards, the longest touchdown in Division III playoff history. The score, Moore's third of the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, Va., gave the Purple Raiders a 30-13 cushion, and they needed nearly all of it in their 30-27 victory. Moore, playing his final collegiate game, rushed for 273 yards on 34 carries and won his second consecutive most outstanding player award in the national championship game. In four postseason games this year he rushed for 998 yards and scored 12 touchdowns, both Division III playoff records.
Against Bridgewater, Moore also scored on a draw of 36 yards behind a Miller block in the second quarter. The two touchdowns were straightforward and unadorned, just like Moore, a 6-foot. 207-pound Chip Hilton for the 21st century. He has 4.5 speed and rushed for 2,349 yards and 36 touchdowns in 14 games this year. He's a two-time Academic All-America, played centerfield on the Mount Union baseball team and still says "jeez" in conversation. "I realize that what he's meant to our program is almost indescribable," said Mount Union coach Larry Kehres after the title game.
At Mogadore ( Ohio) High five years ago, Moore attracted scholarship offers from Akron and Kent, but then he tore his right ACL in a state semifinal playoff. "Some people say that the knee injury scared off Division I schools," Moore said last week. "I tell you what. The four years I've had at Mount have been tremendous. I would not change the way things turned out for anything."
The Purple Raiders went 54-1 during Moore's four seasons of eligibility. Thanks to Kehres, whose teams are fundamentally sound and disciplined, they also won all 28 games in the two seasons before Moore suited up. "Notre Dame ought to take a look at Kehres," legendary St. John's ( Minn.) coach John Gagliardi said after Mount Union cruised past his team, 35-14, in the playoff semifinals. "It would solve a lot of problems, theirs and ours. How do you win 81 out of 82 games? Nobody does that, not even Bud Wilkinson, who I thought was the greatest of them all."
Now Mount Union has won 82 of its last 83 games, though Bridgewater made the final victory difficult. The Eagles' northern Virginia campus may be only 100 miles north of Salem, but measured in football miles the team's journey to the Stagg Bowl could have circled the globe. Before coach Mike Clark was hired in 1995, Bridgewater had won 94 games in 70 seasons. "When I came here," Clark says, "I asked, 'Where are the headsets?' They had none, because they never hired enough coaches to put someone in the press box."
Clark doubled the number of full-and part-time assistants to six and got his headsets. The Eagles went 0-9-1 in his first season, 2-8 in his second, 5-5 in his third and winless in his fourth. "The president, Dr. [Phillip] Stone, called me in and said, 'I'm going to hang with you, but this needs to change,' " Clark says.
The Eagles' speed presented problems for Mount Union from the first play, when quarterback Jason Lutz completed a 67-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Richardson. "It's an honor even to play Mount Union in the championship game," Bridgewater tailback Davon Cruz, who joined Moore in the Division III All-America backfield, said before the game. "At the same time it's like any other team, with flaws and weaknesses."
Although Lutz threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth, he could have used a healthy Cruz, who took a shot to his rib cage in the first half and rushed only four times, for eight yards, after halftime. He finished with 71 yards in 18 carries.
Moore, on the other hand, had run for 95 yards by halftime. He hopes to be invited to an all-star game to attract attention from NFL scouts. If that opportunity at a career in pro football doesn't materialize, Moore will begin working at Capital Securities of America in Hartville, Ohio, in January. Though he didn't graduate until this semester, Moore earned his license to sell stocks last summer. Finally, a stockbroker who had a good 2001.