Mount Union's fake worked. Heidelberg's did not.
It's too simplistic to argue that the No. 1 Purple Raiders' 44-34 win over the No. 9 Student Princes was the result of two plays alone.
But they were two key plays - a successful fake punt by Mount Union and a failed fake field goal by Heidelberg - in a game where momentum shifted frequently.
Heidelberg’s Adam Cepik (42) and Zach Yates bring down Mount Union’s Luc Meacham Saturday at Mayer Field.
Mount Union opened up a 17-7 lead after a 51-yard touchdown run by Mason Minnich early in the second quarter, but Heidelberg cut the lead when quarterback Mike Mees had a five-yard scramble into the end zone with 8:47 left in the half. Mount Union's lead was cut to 17-13.
Heidelberg's defense then appeared to make a stop, and Raider punter Edward Ruhnke stood at about his own 10.
But Ruhnke took the snap and shifted right. Then, he took off down the sideline, going 51 yards to the Heidelberg 31.
"It's one of those calls you might only call once a year," said Mount Union coach Vince Kehres. "It's got to be the right time, right place. We were fortunate that it worked."
Hallett said it was a well-executed play.
"We were pressuring on that side, and our guy pressuring went after the block point, and the punter ran it outside," he said. "It was a good call at a good time, really swung the momentum there at that point in the game."
Mount Union scored two plays later on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Burke to Luc Meacham, and added another score before the half on a 38-yard Brian Gainer completion.
Mount Union led 30-13 at the half.
The Student Princes rallied in the third quarter. Mees found a wide open Donteea Dye down the left side for a 35-yard touchdown. Then, after a disputed fumble recovery by HU's Clay Staib in Mount Union territory, running back Cartel Brooks scored on a beautiful 11-yard navigation through the Raider defense.
It was 30-27, and five minutes remained in the third.
"Our guys rallied up and gave ourselves some opportunities in the second half," Hallett said.
Mount Union offensive lineman Gage Goble and Kehres each said Saturday's game was reminiscent of the Raiders' season opener against Franklin, where the No. 1 team took a lead, fell behind, then rallied to win.
The key was that Mount Union didn't get rattled in either game. B.J. Mitchell carried the ball six times around a 64-yard completion to Jack Nicholls. Mitchell's three-yard touchdown run pushed the lead to 37-27, late in the third.
Once again, Heidelberg responded, driving all the way down to the Mount Union 3. After a pass from Mees to Dye ended the third quarter and brought up fourth down, Hallett sent Danny Kilger out for an apparent field goal in an attempt to cut the lead to seven.
But Hallett opted for a trick play of his own.
Holder Nate Haase took the snap, popped up and rolled left. He was hit and fumbled the ball, with the Raiders recovering at the five.
"That's been a very successful play for us over the years," Hallett said. "We had a guy open, we just missed him.
"Just as their fake punt got us and changed momentum, I think it would have been a huge momentum shift, and it was worth the risk."
Mount Union's offense went right to work, driving to its own 44, then upping its lead to 44-27 when Meacham made an over-the-shoulder catch and went untouched into the end zone.
Brooks added another touchdown, and Heidelberg was able to get the ball back and drive into Mount Union territory. A fourth-down pass from Mees to Christian Dominguez set the Princes up at the Raider 23. But on the next play, Mees was picked by the Raiders' Joshua Scott.
Mees finished 17 of 34 passing for 327 yards and two touchdowns. Dye finished with 112 yards receiving, and Brooks had 68 yards rushing, 67 after the half.
Heidelberg's defense brought pressure on Burke all day, and though Burke had 91 yards on the ground, he was sacked six times. Andy Sieving led Heidelberg with two.
Burke threw for 310 yards, while Mitchell ran for 152. Nicholls had 125 yards receiving and Meacham had 100.
Goble, a Clyde graduate, may have put it best afterward.
"We respect them, they respect us," he said.
Heidelberg drops to 7-1, with a road game against nationally-ranked John Carroll next week. HU follows that up with a season-ended trip to Berea. If the Student Princes plan on a second-straight trip to the Division III playoffs, it likely will need to win both those games.
Meanwhile, Mount Union, which faces the Blue Streaks in Week 10, improves to 8-0.