Fort Wayne, Ind. - There were plenty of firsts for the No. 6 ranked Saint Xavier University football team Saturday at Bishop John M. D'arcy Stadium in Fort Wayne, Ind. A 36-24 victory over No. 8 University of Saint Francis (Ind.) solidified the Cougars' first perfect regular season (11-0) as well as the team's first Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Mideast League title (7-0). In addition, SXU notched its first victory against the Mideast League rival after dropping each of the previous six meetings, including two postseason losses (2002 & 2006), and also ended USF's 56-game home win streak dating back to November 3, 2001. For Saint Xavier University football coach Mike Feminis, the monkey is finally off the program's back.
"To be honest, it was less of a monkey and more like a gorilla," said an elated Feminis following the game. "I could not be more proud of our guys and our coaching staff than I am right now. We battled through some adversity in the first half, but our team maintained its composure and it paid off in the second half. This ranks up there as one of the best wins in my 11 years as a head coach."
Senior wide receiver Bill McKeon (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) had a huge game offensively for the Cougars finishing with game-highs of 13 catches and 187 receiving yards, including a 40-yard touchdown grab. He also rushed six times for 14 yards and a score. Junior quarterback Anthony Kropp (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) completed 31 of his 56 pass attempts for 375 yards and three touchdowns, while junior wideout Mike Maher (Plainfield, Ill./Providence Catholic) also had a nice day with seven receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, senior linebacker Mike Lally (Oak Lawn, Ill./St. Rita) was tough with a game-high 15 total tackles (four solos), including two tackles-for-losses.
USF wasted little time getting on the scoreboard taking their opening drive 60 yards down the field and going ahead 7-0 on a three-yard run by junior running back Bo Frye after 2009 College Fanz Super Six senior running back Daniel Carter left the game with an injury on the previous play. SXU answered right back with a 70-yard drive culminated by an 11-yard touchdown pass by Kropp to Maher. However, a missed extra-point attempt allowed Saint Francis to keep its lead, 7-6. Later in the first quarter, the Cougars would take their first lead, 13-7, on a one-yard run by McKeon on a drive set up by a big interception by senior strong safety Joe Nee (Chicago, Ill./Saint Patrick) returned to the USF 48-yard line. A two-yard touchdown pass put USF back up by one, 14-13, with 11:46 to play in the first half. Sophomore kicker Tom Lynch (Frankfort, Ill./Southern Illinois University/Joliet Junior College/Lincoln-Way East) made an 18-yard field goal at the 5:44 mark of the second quarter to give SXU a 16-14 lead, which it took into the half.
Junior quarterback Shane Tierney led the Saint Francis offense down the field in its first drive of the second half and took back the lead, 21-16, on a 13-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Ben Clifford. Saint Xavier marched back down the field on its next possession keeping the drive alive on a fake punt attempt on fourth down at the SXU 26-yard line that turned into a 26-yard, first-down run by Nee. On another fourth down play, Kropp found sophomore running back KJ Franklin (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) open for a 32-yard touchdown reception to give the Cougars a 22-21 lead after not converting the ensuing two-point conversion. A big third-down stop by the SXU defense forced Saint Francis to take a 27-yard field goal on its next drive with 6:01 left to play in the third quarter. The rest of the game belonged to Saint Xavier with a 40-yard TD reception to McKeon late in the third quarter and a two-yard keeper by Kropp early in the final frame to put SXU ahead by two scores.
Saint Xavier (11-0 overall/7-0 MSFA) has a bye next weekend and will await its seeding and pairing for the 2009 NAIA Football Championship Series. The NAIA will officially announce the postseason seeds and match-ups on Sunday, November 15, beginning at 1:30 p.m. central time on www.CollegeFanz.com.