Indianapolis, Ind. –Turning the ball over three times (two interceptions, one fumble), the No. 1 ranked Saint Xavier University football team fell to No. 2 Marian University (Ind.), 27-9, in Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Mideast League action Saturday afternoon at St. Vincent Health Field in Indianapolis, Ind. With the win, the Knights (10-0 overall/5-0 MSFA) claim the MSFA Mideast League crown and likely become the NAIA's top ranked team when the next top 25 poll is released Monday afternoon. One bright spot on the day for SXU was the play of senior defensive end Michael Prosser (Rockton, Ill./Rockton-Hononegah), who finished the game with eight tackles, including 3.5 tackles for losses and two sacks, as well as a pass break-up. With the pair of sacks, Prosser becomes Saint Xavier's all-time sacks leader at 24.5. The previous mark was held by Nick Block with 23 during his career from 1999-2002.
The Cougars had difficulty slowing down freshman tailback Devin Lake, who ran for 139 yards and all three of Marian's touchdowns on 24 carries. Saint Xavier was led by senior quarterback Jimmy Coy (Park Ridge, Ill./Valdosta State University/El Camino College/Maine South) with 23 completions on 43 attempts for 222 passing yards, but also had two interceptions. Junior wide receiver Shane Zackery (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) headed the SXU receiving crew Saturday with nine catches for 95 yards. The Cougars' lone score on the day came on a three-yard run by senior running back KJ Franklin (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) to close out the first quarter. Defensively, junior strong safety Jeremy Rhodes (Alsip, Ill./Drake University/Brother Rice) paced Saint Xavier with 11 total tackles (three solos) and an interception.
The Knights came out fired up for their final regular season contest and marched down the field on the game's opening drive. On the ninth play, Lake broke free for a 37-yard touchdown run to put Marian ahead, 7-0, with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first quarter. A nice kickoff return by junior Corey Wennmacher (Belvidere, Ill./Belvidere North) gave SXU nice field position at its own 45-yard line, but the drive would end at the Marian 39-yard line following a missed 57-yard field goal attempt by senior kicker Tom Lynch (Frankfort, Ill./Southern Illinois University/Joliet Junior College/Lincoln-Way East). After both defenses forced some stops, the Cougars were able to cut into MU's lead on Franklin's three-yard run. Unfortunately, Lynch missed the extra-point attempt off the left post to make the score, 7-6, after the opening quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the SXU offense seemed to get into a rhythm with a long drive that went deep into Marian territory. However, on the 15th play of the drive, Coy was picked off by senior defensive back Dustin Craig. The Knights would capitalize on the miscue and go up, 10-6, on a 23-yard field goal by junior kicker Mike Josifovski with 3:35 left in the first half. Marian would take the four-point lead into the locker room at the half. Both offenses were forced to punt to open the second half, but a short punt by Marian gave SXU the ball at the MU 45-yard line. The Cougars moved the ball down the field, but on a fourth and goal situation at the three-yard line, Franklin was stopped inches from the goal line to kill the drive. Lynch missed on a 46-yard field goal attempt later in the third quarter and the Knights got another Lake score on the ensuing drive, this time on a 24-yard run with 1:12 to play in the frame.
Trailing 17-6 heading into the fourth quarter, the Cougars were again the victims of Craig when he intercepted another Coy pass and returned it into SXU territory on the first play of the frame. The turnover proved costly as Lake would cap the next drive with a 13-yard run to put the hosts up, 24-6. Lynch connected on a 36-yard field goal midway through the final quarter, but Josifovski would answer three minutes later to preserve Marian's lead.
Saint Xavier (9-1 overall/4-1 MSFA) returns to its home field on Saturday, November 12, for "Senior Day" and the 2011 regular season finale. The Cougars will take on non-conference NAIA foe Jamestown College (N.D.) at noon Saturday at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago.