Football - Sat, Nov. 8, 2008
CHICAGO - Despite the cold temperatures on the field, Saint Xavier University sophomore wide receiver Mike Maher (Plainfield, Ill./Providence Catholic) did nothing but heat up the Cougar offense Saturday afternoon in a 29-15 victory over Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Mideast League foe Taylor University (Ind.) at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. Maher rang up 10 catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns in first-half play to help give SXU a 26-0 halftime advantage, which allowed Saint Xavier to rest its offensive starters early in the second half. With the victory, the Cougars improve to 7-3 overall and 4-1 in the MSFA heading into next Saturday's regular season finale.

In addition to Maher's big day, senior quarterback Jeremy Zientek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) also put up some big numbers going 21-for-30 on pass attempts for 267 yards and three TDs. Senior running back Jason Banning (Wilmington, Ill./Wilmington) rushed six times for 48 yards and a score to lead the ground attack for SXU, while senior running back Juaquin Rodriguez (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean) also rushed six times for 41 yards. On defense, SXU senior linebacker Joe Miller (Chicago, Ill./Gordon Tech) finished with 10 total tackles (five solos), including one-and-a-half sacks totaling nine yards.

The outcome was never really in doubt as Saint Xavier marched 94 yards down the field on its first offensive drive to score on a 53-yard touchdown pass from Zientek to Maher at the 8:41 mark of the opening quarter. Leading 6-0 after a failed extra-point, SXU scored on its second offensive possession of the day on a 74-yard drive late in the first quarter when Zientek found Maher again for a 29-yard touchdown strike. Banning put his team ahead, 19-0, when he broke free for a 14-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. Then, with 2:40 remaining in the half, Zientek found Maher for a 12-yard TD pass to give SXU its 26-0 halftime advantage. The Cougar defense was just as tough in the half stalling all six of TU's offensive drives.

A sack and forced fumble by senior safety Casey Weidenbacher (Naperville, Ill./Naperville North) midway through the third quarter helped lead to a successful 25-yard field goal attempt by freshman kicker A.J. Nichols (Tinley Park, Ill./Mount Carmel). Leading 29-0 in the third quarter, the Cougar coaching staff opted to put in their reserves on both sides of the ball. Taylor quickly tested the new defensive personnel by connecting on a 59-yard touchdown pass by freshman quarterback Zach DeYmaz to sophomore wideout Ryan Magnuson at the 6:08 mark of the third quarter. The Trojans would cut into the big lead again late in the fourth quarter when DeYmaz hit sophomore tight end Travis Tomaszewski for a four-yard TD pass with 3:58 to play. Saint Xavier (7-3 overall/4-1 MSFA) wraps up its regular season slate next Saturday with a huge home MSFA Mideast League game against No. 3 ranked University of Saint Francis (Ind.). SXU has a shot at a share of the MSFA Mideast League title and a berth in the NAIA Championship Series with a victory over Saint Francis (Ind.) on November 15 at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.