Football - Thu, Sep. 11, 2008
CHICAGO - With 11:38 remaining in the game, a decision by No. 8 ranked Saint Xavier University to go for a first down on a fourth-and-one situation at its own 29 yard line proved to be a costly one. In a 24-21 upset by University of St. Francis (Ill.) over the Cougars Thursday night in Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) crossover action at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago, the Fighting Saints stopped SXU for no gain on the play and took advantage of the great field position using just two plays to score the eventual game-winning touchdown on a 26-yard pass by junior quarterback John Goolsby to junior wideout Ponce de Leon Palmer. It was the first time USF has posted a victory in nine total meetings between the two schools with the series dating back to 2000.

Junior wide receiver Bill McKeon (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) got the starting nod at quarterback for Saint Xavier Thursday night due to injuries. He completed 19 of his 27 pass attempts for 238 yards and also rushed 16 times for 97 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Xavier Torres (Chicago, Ill./Central Michigan/Lane Tech) was McKeon's main target on the night posting nine catches for 50 yards in addition to playing well on special teams returning three kickoffs for 92 yards. As a team, the Cougars out-gained the Fighting Saints, 417-328, in total offense yardage, but turnovers, including three fumbles, proved to be their downfall. Defensively, senior linebacker Joe Miller (Chicago, Ill./Gordon Tech) led SXU with 11 total tackles (nine solo), including a sack for nine yards.

Saint Xavier built an early 14-0 lead in the game scoring its first touchdown on a two-yard run by senior John Anastopolous (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) at the 6:20 mark of the first quarter and the second score coming off a one-yard rush by sophomore Donnie Selby (Alsip, Ill./Shepard) with 12 seconds to play in the opening frame. However, USF kept the Cougars off the scoreboard in the second quarter and cut the deficit in half, 14-7, with 23 seconds to play before halftime on a 21-yard touchdown pass by Goolsby to junior wideout Anthony Lopez. Leading 14-7 at the half, SXU had trouble getting its offense into a rhythm early in the third quarter with its first two drives each stalled after just four plays and the Fighting Saints were able to cut further into the lead with a 23-yard field goal by senior kicker Nick Heberer making the score, 14-10, with 2:28 left in the quarter.

McKeon rallied the troops and capped a 46-yard scoring drive with a big 33-yard touchdown run on Saint Xavier's ensuing possession to extend the lead to 11 points, 21-10, with 1:13 remaining in the third quarter. However, the fourth quarter belonged to St. Francis as the visiting team scored 14 unanswered points to steal the home-opener victory from SXU. Both of USF's final two touchdowns were scored on drives set up by Cougar turnovers. The first touchdown came on the first play of the fourth quarter following a fumble on a punt return, which gave the Fighting Saints the ball at the SXU 33-yardline. A 33-yard pass by Goolsby to sophomore running back Javon Stewart on the second play of the drive made the score, 21-17, with 14:51 to play in the game. A turnover on downs by the Cougars set up the game-winning touchdown drive for St. Francis, which was capped at the 10:53 mark of the fourth quarter. SXU had a chance to tie or take the lead on its final drive of the game, but an incomplete pass on fourth-and-seven at the USF 26-yardline with 1:16 to play ended any chance of a late rally. Saint Xavier (0-2 overall) heads to Bourbonnais, Ill., next Saturday (Sept. 20) to take on Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) in another MSFA crossover match-up. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start.