The Cougar defense had to slow down a high-powered rushing offense Saturday
The Cougar defense had to slow down a high-powered rushing offense Saturday
(20)University of the Cumberlands
(3)Saint Xavier
Football - Sat, Nov. 20, 2010

CHICAGO - Senior quarterback Anthony Kropp (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) completed 20 of his 30 pass attempts for 419 yards and seven touchdowns (one rushing) as No. 3 ranked Saint Xavier University cruised to a 66-19 victory over No. 20 University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) in first-round action of the 2010 NAIA Football Championship Series Saturday afternoon at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. After leading by just a point, 14-13, early in the second quarter, the Cougars showed why they are one of the NAIA's top teams rattling off 52 unanswered points to net its highest single-game point total of the year (66). Following the game, Kropp was named the NAIA Offensive Player of the Game, while junior defensive end Michael Prosser (Rockton, Ill./Rockton-Hononegah) earned NAIA Defensive Player of the Game recognition. Prosser finished with a team-best 11 total tackles (eight assists), including a 13-yard sack.

Senior wide receiver Xavier Torres (Chicago, Ill./Central Michigan University/Lane Tech) had another big day receiving for SXU posting six receptions for 146 yards and two scores. Senior Mike Maher (Plainfield, Ill./Providence Catholic) also played well with six catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore wide-out Wes Gastel (Freeport, Ill./Freeport) tallied four grabs for 72 yards and a touchdown for the Cougars, while sophomore wide receiver Shane Zackery (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) hauled in three balls for 64 yards and a score. On the ground, Saint Xavier got touchdowns from Kropp, senior Donnie Selby (Alsip, Ill./Shepard) and freshman quarterback Joe Gill (Munster, Ind./Western Illinois University/Munster).

University of the Cumberlands decided to use a little trickery in the game's opening kickoff by recovering an on-side kick attempt that went just 12 yards to the 42-yard line. As one of the NAIA's top rushing teams (No. 4 nationally), the Patriots used just three running plays to pound in the game's first score on a 15-yard run by freshman running back Terrance Cobb. Saint Xavier's first two offensive drives would stall before the Cougars were able to tie things up, 7-7, on a 21-yard touchdown reception by Maher with 5:02 remaining in the first quarter. The Cougar defense continued to stop the Patriots and a one-yard keeper by Kropp with just 1:39 left in the opening quarter gave his team a 14-7 advantage. With 10:36 to play in the second quarter, Cobb would strike again on another 15-yard touchdown run, but Cumberlands would miss the extra-point attempt to make the score, 14-13.

From that point on, it was all Saint Xavier as the Cougars scored on all four of their remaining drives of the half to build a 38-13 halftime lead. Kropp connected with three different receivers (Zackery, Maher and Gastel) for touchdown receptions and junior kicker Tom Lynch (Frankfort, Ill./Southern Illinois University/Joliet JC/Lincoln-Way East) closed out the half with a 42-yard field goal. The third quarter was more of the same as Kropp hit Torres for a 54-yard score to cap its first drive of the second half. Selby would punch one in from two yards deep with 12:06 left in the third quarter to put the Cougars ahead, 52-13. Kropp then hooked up with Torres again for a 32-yard touchdown reception midway through the quarter. Gill scrambled for a 12-yard score with 9:15 remaining in the game to complete SXU's big scoring day. Cobb would wrap up the scoring for University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) with an 11-yard touchdown run. Cobb finished with 33 carries for 194 yards and three scores on the day for the Patriots.

"There is nothing wrong with having a little adversity (in reference to the on-side kick to open the game and the first-quarter deficit)," said SXU football Mike Feminis. "You have to give their coach a lot of credit for giving themselves a chance to win. They played a lot of man coverage today and when you play man against us, Anthony (Kropp) will find the open man. It's not just Maher and Torres, we have other skill guys that can beat you."

Saint Xavier (12-0 overall) will host a quarterfinals game in the NAIA Championship Series on Saturday, November 27, at 1 p.m. at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field. The NAIA is scheduled to release the pairings for next weekend's quarterfinals later this evening.