Football - Sat, Nov. 12, 2005
CHICAGO - Three huge third-quarter special teams plays by No. 7 ranked Saint Xavier University helped propel the Cougars over Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Midwest League rival University of St. Francis (Ill.), 48-20, in MSFA football action Saturday on "Senior Day" at SXU Stadium in Chicago. With the win, the Cougars improve to 9-2 overall and share the 2005 MSFA Midwest League title with McKendree College (Ill.) finishing with a 6-1 mark. The USF Fighting Saints end their season at 2-9 overall, with a 0-7 mark in the MSFA.

The seniors stole the show for Saint Xavier in Saturday's win. Senior wide receiver Jarrod Nowman (Manteno, Ill./Bishop McNamara) finished with eight catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Nowman also returned two punts for 47 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown return in the third quarter. Senior quarterback John Perryman (Oak Lawn, Ill./Richards) also had a huge game for the Cougars going 21-for-25 (84 percent) for 270 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Junior running back Luke Schillo (Evergreen Park, Ill./Evergreen Park) led the ground game for SXU with 48 rushing yards and two scores, while junior wideout Andy Ricca (LaPorte, Ind./Michigan City) continued his impressive 2005 campaign finishing with 10 catches for 108 yards.

Saint Xavier jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead only 34 seconds into the game when Perryman found Nowman open in the endzone for a six-yard completion on its third play from scrimmage. St. Francis (Ill.) answered on its ensuing possession with a three-play drive of its own capped by a 59-yard scramble by freshman quarterback Jason Fiske to tie the game, 7-7. A one-yard run by Schillo late in the first quarter gave SXU back the advantage, 14-7, but USF answered again with a 26-yard run by freshman running back Gannon Novak with 12:58 left in the first half to tie the game again, 14-14.

With 3:19 remaining before halftime, the Fighting Saints took their only lead of the game when Fiske floated a pass into the endzone for freshman wide receiver Nate McCullum from 13 yards out. However, a blocked extra-point attempt gave the Saints just a 20-14 advantage. Perryman connected with Nowman again, with 52 seconds left in the half, for a 34-yard strike to put SXU ahead by one, 21-20. After forcing a quick punt, the Cougars ended the half with a 44-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Shane Longest (Wilmington, Ill./Wilmington) to take a 24-20 lead as time expired.

Less than a minute into the second half, freshman Matt Briggs (Omaha, Neb./Skutt Catholic) blocked a USF punt and sophomore Tom Klupshas (New Lenox, Ill./Lincoln-Way Central) returned it 15 yards to paydirt. On the next punt by St. Francis, Nowman took advantage of a short kick and returned it 36 yards for another score that gave SXU a 38-20 lead. A 20-yard field goal by Longest with 5:51 left in the third quarter put the Cougars ahead by three touchdowns, 41-20. Schillo secured the win with a four-yard touchdown un late in the fourth quarter. SXU (9-2 overall/6-1 MSFA) has secured a NAIA first-round playoff game at SXU Stadium in Chicago. It is the first time in school history that Saint Xavier will host a football playoff game and only the second time that the program has qualified for the postseason. The game will take place on Saturday, November 19, at 12 p.m. Opponent has yet to be named.