Football - Sat, Nov. 25, 2006
Helena, Mont. - With 3:08 left to play in the fourth quarter, sophomore running back Jason Banning (Wilmington, Ill./Northern Illinois University) powered the ball across the goal line from two yards out to lift the No. 9 ranked Saint Xavier University football team to a huge 14-7 win over No. 4 ranked and four-time defending national champion Carroll College (Mont.) on a snowy Saturday at Nelson Stadium in Helena, Mont. Banning was named the NAIA Offensive Player of the Game following the contest as the Cougars (10-2 overall) advance to the semifinals of the 2006 NAIA Championship Series for the first time in their 14-year history.

SXU trailed 7-0 heading into the second half after the Saints scored with 9:05 remaining in the second quarter on a 28-yard completion by junior quarterback John Barnett to sophomore wideout Travis Browne. The Cougars were also without starting sophomore quarterback Billy Yeo (Matteson, Ill./Western Michigan University) for the entire second half after he suffered a blow to the head late in the second quarter and was unable to return to action. Sophomore quarterback Jeremy Zientek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) led the offense for Saint Xavier for the remainder of the game and played very well completing 14 of his 22 pass attempts for 134 yards and a touchdown.

With 1:45 to play in the third quarter, Zientek connected with senior wide receiver Andy Ricca (LaPorte, Ind./Michigan City) for a 15-yard touchdown reception to help tie the game, 7-7. The SXU defense shut down the Carroll offense in the second half and allowed its offensive unit the chance to score the go-ahead touchdown by holding the Saints to a three-and-out deep in Carroll defense giving SXU great field position for the game-winning drive. Junior defensive tackle Justin Tuffs (Mokena, Ill./Stagg) was named the NAIA Defensive Player of the Game finishing with six total tackles (three solos), including a tackle for a loss and a sack for seven yards.

Saint Xavier (10-2 overall) will face No. 1 seed University of Saint Francis (Ind.) at 11 a.m. (central) on Saturday, December 2, in Fort Wayne, Ind. The game will be broadcasted on WXAV 88.3 FM Chicago or on the web at