ALLIANCE, Ohio -- Johns Hopkins University coach Jim Margraff understood completely the immense challenge his team faced.
"I joked with our guys early in the week," Margraff said. "There's a Division III bucket list and you could come to Alliance and play Mount Union."
Pitted against the 10-time NCAA Division III champions on a cold, blustery Saturday afternoon, with snow flurries in the air, the Blue Jays were hoping to keep it close for three quarters and then maybe pull off the upset.
"You've got to be perfect and they've got to help you a little bit," Margraff said.
It did not happen.
The top-ranked University of Mount Union, ignited by two early JHU turnovers and five touchdown receptions by its senior wide receiver Jasper Collins, blasted the Blue Jays 55-13 at Mount Union Stadium.
"That's hard on you," Mount coach Larry Kehres said when asked about the two early JHU turnovers. "It's hard on your defense."
Johns Hopkins (10-2), making its fourth playoff appearance under Margraff and coming off a 42-10 win over Washington & Jefferson in the first round of the Division III tournament, believed it could snap the Purple Raiders' string of 65 straight home wins. But Mount Union (12-0) rolled up 653 yards to Johns Hopkins' 278 yards and had the game secured at halftime.
The game's first major break came at 5:38 of the first quarter. After JHU strong safety John Arena had almost single-handedly stopped Mount Union's offense at the Blue Jays' 5, Johns Hopkins quarterback Robbie Matey was intercepted when his intended receiver Brendan Hartman bobbled the ball and Raiders linebacker Charles Dieuseul took it away in midair at the JHU 10.
On the next play, Mount quarterback Kevin Burke connected with Collins on a 10-yard scoring strike.
Matey was then picked off by Mount Union All-American strong safety Nick Driskill on the Blue Jays' ensuing possession. Driskill returned the ball to the JHU 26 and Burke capped a four-play drive with a 9-yard touchdown toss to Collins to make the score 14-0.
"You hope to play real well in the first half and not turn the ball over and just try to stick around a little bit into the second half with a team like this," Margraff said.
When Mount's Blair Skilliter polished off an eight-play, 83-yard drive with a 6-yard scoring run at 13:30 of the second period, the Raiders led 21-0 and Johns Hopkins still was looking for its first first down.
The Blue Jays' search did not last much longer. Twenty seconds later, senior Jonathan Rigaud popped a 75-yard scoring run around right end and sprinted down the sideline past Mount's secondary.
"I was hoping that that play would help inspire the defense to make some stops and offensively for us to keep things going," Rigaud said.
It marked the longest run from scrimmage against Mount Union this season and only the second rushing touchdown yielded by the Raiders in 2012. The Centennial Conference's Offensive Player of the Year, Rigaud had registered the fourth longest rush in Johns Hopkins' history to make the score 21-7.
Mount Union answered almost immediately, moving 79 yards on four plays with Burke finding Collins again on a 29-yard strike at 11:58 and for a fourth time from 9 yards out with 9:23 left until halftime to run the score to 34-7.
"Playing in the snow is fun," Burke said. "It's a lot better than rain.
"Obviously, I would love to play in 60-degree weather the year around."
In the third quarter, Skilliter added a touchdown run and Collins, the Geneva, N.Y., product, set a Mount Union playoff record with his fifth touchdown reception and finished with 12 receptions for 228 yards. Burke completed 25 of 36 passes for 388 yards.
"Junior's (Jasper Collins) been able to play like this forever," Kehres said. "It's just he didn't play as many plays early in the season."
Mount Union reserve quarterback Roman Namdar had a fourth-quarter, 16-yard touchdown pass to Jack Nichols.
Rigaud rushed for 138 yards and one score on 25 carries to lead the JHU offense. Matey managed to complete 17-of-35 throws for 152 yards, but was intercepted three times and sacked four times.
Matey added a late 22-yard touchdown pass to Bob D'Orazio.
"It was exciting for us to come play the No. 1 team in the country," Margraff said.
Notes: JHU's Jonathan Rigaud became the first rusher to top 100 yards against Mount Union since UW-Whitewater back Levell Coppage in the 2010 Division III national championship game piled up 299 yards. ... Johns Hopkins captain and Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Year Taylor Maciow was injured in the Blue Jays final regular season game and missed his second tournament contest. ... JHU coach Jim Margraff completed his 23rd season and is the school's all-time winningest coach at 157-81-3. ... Mount Union began play with a plus-13 turnover margin, while Johns Hopkins came in at minus-7. The Purple Raiders were a plus-1 on Saturday. ... The Blue Jays were meeting Mount Union for the first time as well as the nation's top-ranked team for the first time.