Football - Sat, Nov. 18, 2006
CHICAGO - In a game full of big plays, the No. 9 ranked Saint Xavier University football team finally came out on top earning its first-ever NAIA Championship Series victory with a convincing 42-28 win over No. 7 ranked Georgetown College (Ky.) Saturday at Toyota Stadium in Georgetown, Ky. The Cougars (9-2 overall) advance to quarterfinals action in the 2006 NAIA Championship Series on Saturday, November 25, and will find out Sunday morning what team they will face and at which site the game will be played (higher seed hosts the game).
There was no shortage of offensive leaders for Saint Xavier in this game, but no one did more to lead his team to victory than sophomore quarterback Billy Yeo (Matteson, Ill./Western Michigan University). Yeo completed 11 of his 27 pass attempts for 204 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing 11 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Besides Yeo, sophomore running back Jason Banning (Wilmington, Ill./Northern Illinois) also had a big day running the ball finishing with 10 carries for 109 yards and a score. Senior wide receiver Andy Ricca (LaPorte, Ind./Michigan City) led the aerial attack for SXU with five catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Following the game, the NAIA named Yeo the Offensive Player of the Game, while sophomore linebacker Joe Miller (Chicago, Ill./Gordon Tech) secured Defensive Player of the Game honors for SXU. Miller finished with nine total tackles (five solos), including two sacks for 15 yards, as well as three pass break-ups. Defensively, sophomore safety Casey Weidenbacher (Naperville, Ill./Naperville North) led the Cougars with 17 tackles (nine solos), while senior linebacker Sean Kenney (Palos Hills, Ill./Stagg) tallied 13 tackles (five solos) and a sack.
The game was tight in the first half with Georgetown striking first, 7-0, on a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown by junior defensive back Clay Hamblen with 9:34 to play in the second quarter. SXU answered before halftime when Yeo hit Ricca from 80 yards out to tie the game, 7-7, with 3:13 to play before the break. Georgetown had a chance to take a lead into halftime, but missed a 23-yard field goal in the closing seconds. There was no shortage of points in the second half. Yeo scored for Saint Xavier midway through the third quarter on a three-yard keeper to put his team ahead, 14-7. Georgetown then answered with a quarterback keeper of its own by senior Jeff Smith from a yard out to tie the game again, 14-14.
Just two plays later, Banning broke free for a 73-yard touchdown run to put the Cougars back ahead, 21-14, with 1:35 to play in the third quarter. In the final period, Saint Xavier was able to pull away when Yeo connected with freshman wide out Billy McKeon (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) for a 25-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead, 28-14. Yeo then used his legs just two minutes later to scramble 31 yards for another SXU score to build the lead, 35-14. In the final five minutes, Smith found senior wide receiver David Penland open twice in the end zone to cut into the lead, but another rushing touchdown (66 yards) by Yeo with just over two minutes to play sealed the postseason victory. Saint Xavier (9-2 overall/7-1 MSFA) now awaits its pairing for the 2006 NAIA Championship Series quarterfinals, which takes place on Saturday, November 25. This is the first appearance in the quarterfinals for the Cougars in the 14-year history of the program. It is the third trip to the NAIA postseason for SXU with the previous two appearances coming in 2002 and 2005.