November 30, 2018
By: Sean Fritz
If you've been keeping up with Muhlenberg football this season then you know just how big Saturday's game will be for first year head coach Nate Milne and his football team. The team departed for northeast Ohio on Friday morning, 365 miles and 5.5 hours from Allentown, for a meeting with the nation's No. 1 team and defending D-III national champions in the University of Mount Union Purple Raiders. Mount Union boasts all the stats and numbers a team of their caliber would, 475 yards of total offense per game to go along with 54 PPG and a defense who has playmakers all over the field while allowing just 10 PPG to its opponents. The Mules will certainly have their work cut out for them.
The offense was able to find a nice rhythm last week in a blowout win over Randolph-Macon thanks to a fast start on their opening drive where they went 74 yards before capping the drive off with a Mike Hnatkowsky touchdown pass. After a poor offensive showing two weeks ago at Del Val in which the Mules were held to just 13 points on offense, it was clear from speaking with Hnatkowsky at practice this week that getting off to a fast start is vital for the team's success along with having a balanced attack, which they were able to do in the win last Saturday. Last week the Mules were able to balance out their run-pass ratio and were able to march at will on a Randolph-Macon defense who was coming off an impressive win over John Carroll the week prior. This week, the Mules will probably not be able to dominate and march at will against a stout defense in Mount Union, so winning the battle of field position will have to be one of the main focuses for the Mules offense and then capitalizing on it when they're in good position. Their defense will be under the gun all day with trying to slow down the Purple Raiders offense so its even more important to score touchdowns when they can, rather than settling for field goals.
The defense will face their biggest test since the Johns Hopkins game, a loss in late October. But luckily for defensive coordinator Kory David's unit, it seems like they have been hitting their stride and playing their best football of the season down the stretch of the regular season and even more so in the playoffs. I caught up with captain and junior middle linebacker Mickey Kober at practice this week and he talked about the confidence the defense is playing with and its been evident to anyone who's had a chance to see this unit in action over the last few weeks. They have been nothing short of excellent at stopping the run, dropping back in coverage and most of all rushing the passer. The defensive line for the Mules is one of the deepest lines I've seen at any level in terms of the number of guys they can sub in and out apart of their rotation who can consistently shed blocks and get after the quarterback. The most notable name up front is clearly Frankie Feaster who set the program's single season record for sacks this season with 17.5 thus far. The pass rush will be vital to trying to slow down as high-powered offense as any that Mount Union will put on the field Saturday. The Mules focus each and every week has been to stop the run which they'll have to sure up this week too when they try and contain an 1,000 yard running back for the Purple Raiders. This defense has been the most impressive I've seen them all year in the last two games, but they're going to have to raise that ceiling even higher come Saturday afternoon if the Mules want to have a chance to upset the nation's top team.