Football - Thu, Aug. 27, 2009
CHICAGO - Despite committing seven turnovers in the game, the No. 17 ranked Saint Xavier University football team rode an impressive defensive effort and came away with a 26-13 non-conference victory over visiting Bethel College (Tenn.) in rainy conditions Thursday night in its season opener at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. The Cougar defense kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard until the 6:37 mark of the fourth quarter when a pair of fumbles by the SXU offense led to a pair of short touchdown drives for Bethel in the final minutes of regulation. SXU finished the game with 17 tackles for losses, five sacks, a fumble recovery, an interception and blocked two punts and an extra-point attempt.

Junior quarterback Anthony Kropp (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) finished 13-for-29 for 131 yards and a touchdown, but had three interceptions in first-half action. Junior running back Donnie Selby (Alsip, Ill./Shepard) rushed nine times for 40 yards and a score, while junior wideout Xavier Torres (Chicago, Ill./Central Michigan/Lane Tech) led the receiving corps with six catches for 55 yards. Junior wide receiver Mike Maher (Plainfield, Ill./Providence Catholic) played well for SXU finishing with three grabs for 30 yards and a touchdown. Senior linebacker Mike Lally (Oak Lawn, Ill./St. Rita) led the Cougar defensive effort with a game-best 14 tackles, including a pair of tackles for losses. Junior defensive back Pat Geary (Mokena, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) was all over the field posting six tackles, an interception and four pass break-ups.

Saint Xavier jumped out to a great start on its first offensive drive of the game marching 34 yards on five plays to go ahead, 7-0, on a one-yard touchdown run by Selby followed by a successful extra-point attempt by sophomore kicker Tom Lynch (Frankfort, Ill./Southern Illinois University/Lincoln-Way East). Lynch put the Cougars ahead, 10-0, seven minutes later when he connected on a 39-yard field goal attempt at the 6:49 mark of the first quarter. A 29-yard field goal by Lynch early in the second quarter gave SXU a 13-0 lead, which it would take into the locker room at halftime. The Saint Xavier offense orchestrated an 80-yard scoring drive midway through the third quarter that resulted in a six-yard touchdown reception by Maher from Kropp.

Early in the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman defensive back Nick Pecho (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) blocked a Bethel punt and was able to recover it and go 10 yards to the end zone to put his team ahead 26-0 after the failed extra-point attempt. Unfortunately for the Cougar defense, the shutout would not last as back-to-back fumbles deep in SXU territory would result in two short touchdown drives for the Wildcats. Redshirt freshman wideout Lavendor Jeffreys scored the first of the two touchdowns for Bethel on a six-yard pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Cory Milikan with 6:37 to play in the game. The second score capped a 25-yard drive when Milikan ran it in from eight yards out on a keeper with 3:09 remaining. Saint Xavier heads to Joliet, Ill., on Thursday, September 3, to take on former Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Midwest League rival University of St. Francis (Ill.). The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at Joliet Memorial Stadium in Joliet.