Football - Fri, Sep. 5, 2008
Whitewater, Wis. - Despite two interceptions and five tackles by senior cornerback Chris Rodgers (Homewood, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor), the No. 8 ranked Saint Xavier University football team could not overcome an early 17-point deficit and fell 24-9 to No. 2 ranked and 2007 defending national champion University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (Wis.) in its season opener Friday night at Perkins Stadium in Whitewater, Wis. The Cougars (0-1 overall) had a slow offensive start and the Warhawks capitalized building an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter. However, SXU settled down the remaining three quarters scoring nine unanswered points before a UWW touchdown late in the fourth quarter sealed the loss.
Sophomore quarterback Anthony Kropp (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) led Saint Xavier offensively completing 27 of his 46 pass attempts for 293 yards and a touchdown. Kropp also recorded three interceptions in his debut as the starter. Sophomore wide receiver Xavier Torres (Chicago, Ill./Lane Tech) was Kropp's main target finishing with seven receptions for 93 yards. Senior linebacker Joe Miller (Chicago, Ill./Gordon Tech) led the defensive charge with a game-high 11 tackles.
The Warhawks scored on the game's opening possession marching 60 yards down the field and finding the end zone on a one-yard pass by junior quarterback Jeff Donovan to senior tight end Nick Slupski on the 12th play of the drive. After a three-and-out by the Cougars, UWW got the ball back briefly before Rodgers picked off Donovan on the second play from scrimmage. However, the SXU offense failed to convert a first down on its next series and was forced to punt. The defense answered the call again for Saint Xavier forcing a three-and-out by the Warhawks. Unfortunately for SXU, junior defensive back Jeremy Diebert intercepted Kropp and returned it 20 yards to put this team ahead, 14-0, with 2:16 left in the first quarter.
Wisconsin-Whitewater opened the second quarter with a 26-yard field goal by junior kicker Jeff Schebler to extend their lead, 17-0. Kropp and the SXU offense started to get into a rhythm in the second quarter and nearly scored a touchdown on a pass to junior wideout Joe Coia (North Riverside, Ill./Eastern Illinois/Riverside-Brookfield). However, the apparent TD grab was overturned by an official and ruled incomplete and the Cougars were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal by freshman kicker A.J. Nichols (Tinley Park, Ill./Mount Carmel) with 2:56 remaining in the first half. With no more scores the rest of the half, Saint Xavier went to the locker room trailing 17-3 at the break.
The Cougar offense continued to move the ball in the second half and notched its first touchdown of the game on an impressive 91-yard drive capped by a 39-yard touchdown pass by Kropp to junior wide receiver Bill McKeon (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic). However, the ensuing extra-point attempt failed leaving the Cougars trailing by eight, 17-9, with 1:05 left in the third quarter. SXU got another big interception by Rodgers to stall another UWW drive and give the Saint Xavier offense back the ball. On a key drive late in the fourth quarter, a third interception by Rodgers was negated by a roughing-the-passer call against the Cougars keeping the UWW drive alive and eventually leading to a six-yard TD pass by Donovan to junior wideout Jordan Wells. The touchdown put the Warhawks ahead, 24-9, with 4:07 left to play and dampened any chance of a late rally by the Cougars.
Saint Xavier returns to Chicago in preparation for its home opener against former MSFA Midwest League rival University of St. Francis (Ill.) on Thursday, September 11. It will mark the program's first-ever Thursday night game at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. and a fireworks show taking place at halftime.