Football - Sat, Nov. 15, 2008
CHICAGO - In a game full of momentum swings and big plays, the No. 18 ranked Saint Xavier University football team did not get the ending it was looking for on "Senior Day" falling, 47-30, in Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Mideast League play to No. 3 University of Saint Francis (Ind.) in the regular season finale Saturday afternoon at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. With the win, USF wins the MSFA Mideast League title with a perfect 6-0 league mark, secures an automatic bid to the 2008 NAIA Championship Series and wraps up its regular season slate with a 10-0 record. SXU ends its season with a 7-4 overall mark and finishes in a three-way tie for second place in the Mideast League with a 4-2 record.

Senior quarterback Jeremy Zientek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) completed 23 of his 44 pass attempts for 182 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions. Sophomore wideout Xavier Torres (Chicago, Ill./Central Michigan/Lane Tech) had a big all-around game for the Cougars Saturday leading the team in rushing with three carries for 83 yards and a score in addition to his six catches for 51 yards. Sophomore Mike Maher (Plainfield, Ill./Providence Catholic) led the receiving corps with six catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. Junior linebacker Mike Lally (Oak Lawn, Ill./St. Rita) had a huge game defensively for Saint Xavier recording 14 total tackles (11 solos), a tackle for a loss, a pass break-up and two quarterback hurries.

There was no shortage of scoring in Saturday's game with Saint Francis (Ind.) starting off hot with two rushing touchdowns by junior running back Daniel Carter in the first quarter to take an early 14-0 lead. With 3:38 to play in the first half, Maher caught a five-yard pass from Zientek to cut the lead in half, 14-7. A 47-yard field goal by SXU freshman kicker A.J. Nichols (Tinley Park, Ill./Mount Carmel) as time expired in the second quarter made the score, 14-10, at halftime. The third quarter turned out to be practically a game in itself with both teams combining for four touchdowns and a field goal.

USF started the scoring surge with a 31-yard field goal by junior kicker Rhys Barnhart to build a seven-point lead, 17-10, at the 9:52 mark of the quarter. Saint Xavier answered just two plays later on a big 63-yard TD rush by Torres down the left sideline, but a missed extra-point attempt kept the lead for Saint Francis (Ind.), 17-16. With 6:11 to play in the quarter, senior running back Bart Schnur took a 25-yard pass from senior quarterback Jeff Wedding to the end zone to put his team ahead by eight, 24-16. Zientek would go on to score on a two-yard keeper for SXU at the 1:23 mark and then completed a two-yard pass to McGinnis on the two-point conversion to tie the game, 24-24. Unfortunately for Saint Xavier, Carter struck again on USF's second play of the ensuing drive breaking free for a 63-yard TD rush to put his team ahead, 31-24, with 36 seconds remaining in the third.

More bad luck followed for Saint Xavier midway through the fourth quarter when the ball was snapped over the punter's head and out of the back of the end zone for a safety for Saint Francis (Ind.). Leading 33-24, USF was able to build its lead even more on the ensuing possession when sophomore running back Bo Frye punched it in for a nine-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 16 points, 40-24. Zientek would connect with junior wideout Matt McGinnis (Chicago, Ill./Brother Rice) for a 19-yard touchdown reception with 3:17 to play in the game, but the failed two-point conversion would leave SXU with a 10-point deficit, 40-30. USF would officially put the game away with a minute to play when Wedding found senior tight end Jeremiah Wood open in the end zone to wrap the scoring.