Football - Sat, Oct. 11, 2008
Columbus, Ohio - A 30-yard field goal by freshman kicker A.J. Nichols (Tinley Park, Ill./Mount Carmel) with 34 seconds in regulation lifted the No. 19 ranked Saint Xavier University football team to a thrilling 17-14 road victory over No. 15 Ohio Dominican University (Ohio) in Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Mideast League action Saturday afternoon at Panther Field in Columbus, Ohio. The Cougars (4-2 overall/2-0 MSFA) drove 63 yards on 11 plays in their final drive to set up the game-winning score. The Panthers came into Saturday's game as the NAIA's 10th best scoring team averaging 39 points per game, but the SXU defense came up with big stops and key turnovers to limit their scoring opportunities throughout the contest.
Saint Xavier did most of its offensive production through the air with senior quarterback Jeremy Zientek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) connecting on 34 of his 48 pass attempts for 333 yards. Senior running back Juaquin Rodriguez (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean) led the ground attack, which produced both SXU touchdowns on the day, with 11 carries for 51 yards and a score. Junior wide receiver Matt McGinnis (Chicago, Ill./Brother Rice) finished with game-highs of 12 receptions and 138 receiving yards. Defensively, junior linebacker Mike Lally (Oak Lawn, Ill./St. Rita) posted 15 tackles, including eight solo stops, while junior defensive back Shawn Bradley (Rockford, Ill./Boylan) had an interception, a fumble recovery, and two pass break-ups, including one that prevented an Ohio Dominican touchdown.
The Saint Xavier defense halted ODU's game-opening drive and the Cougar offense capitalized marching 80 yards down the field to take a 7-0 lead on a seven-yard run up the middle by Rodriguez with 6:46 to play in the first quarter. The Panthers took the ball down to the Saint Xavier 17-yard line, but the Cougar "D" held strong again and the drive ended with a missed 34-yard field goal attempt to keep the score, 7-0. An interception by Zientek on SXU's ensuing possession was returned to the Cougar 48-yard line and Ohio Dominican moved the ball all the way down to the seven-yard line. However, a gamble by the Panthers on fourth down gave the Cougar defense a chance to show off again and they ended the drive at the three-yard line.
Unfortunately, bad luck struck again for Zientek early in their next drive when his pass attempt bounced off a player's helmet and was intercepted deep in Cougar territory and returned to the 23-yard line. The Panthers would not be denied this time using four plays to tie the game, 7-7, on a five-yard run by junior fullback Justin Brantley at the 7:41 mark of the second quarter. After a stalled offensive drive for Saint Xavier, the Panthers' offense threatened to score again until Bradley intercepted a pass at the SXU 21-yard line with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. The offense regained its early game focus and marched down the field to score on a one-yard run by McKeon with 26 seconds to play in the frame giving the Cougars a 14-7 halftime advantage.
The Saint Xavier offense picked up where it left off on its first drive of the second half. However, despite moving the ball all the way down to the ODU one-yard line, the possession resulted in no points after the Ohio Dominican defense held the Cougars out of the end zone on fourth and one. The Panther offense was able to drive the ball to midfield, but the SXU defense held strong again and forced a punt. SXU mounted another good drive late in the third quarter, but again failed to put more points on the scoreboard after missing on a 31-yard field goal attempt by Nichols on the second play of the fourth quarter. The two teams swapped possessions with neither able to add to its score until the 5:06 mark of the fourth quarter when ODU senior quarterback Chris Reisert hit freshman wideout Brandon Robinson in stride for a 58-yard touchdown completion to tie the game, 14-14. However, the Cougars were not to be outdone and mounted the game-winning drive over the final five minutes of regulation.
Saint Xavier (4-2 overall/2-0 MSFA) heads to Urbana, Ohio, on Saturday, October 18, to take on MSFA Mideast League foe Urbana University. The game is scheduled for an 11 a.m. (eastern) start.