CHICAGO – For a team typically highlighted for its offensive prowess, the No. 1 ranked Saint Xavier University football team flexed its defensive muscles Saturday night in a 31-3 win over No. 7 University of St. Francis (Ill.) at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. The Cougars (2-0 overall) forced five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles) and spent plenty of time in the USF backfield with 11 tackles for losses, including three sacks for 11 yards. Senior quarterback Jimmy Coy (Park Ridge, Ill./Valdosta State/El Camino College/Maine South) led the offensive attack for SXU completing 38 of his 53 pass attempts on the night for 334 yards and four touchdowns in addition to his 11 carries for 51 yards on the ground. The victory marks the 23 straight home wins for the Cougars dating back to the first game of the 2009 season.
The highly anticipated match-up got off to a slow start with both teams stalling their opening drives on failed fourth down conversions. On Saint Xavier's second offensive drive of the game, USF senior linebacker Josh Mander intercepted a tipped pass attempt by Coy to end another Cougar drive. Later in the quarter, senior cornerback Jeremy Rhodes (Alsip, Ill./Drake University/Brother Rice) returned the favor picking off junior quarterback E.J. White at the SXU one-yard line and returning it 13 yards. Neither team could move into scoring position before the frame ended as the first quarter ended, 0-0. However, just two plays into the second quarter, the Fighting Saints went up 3-0 on a 41-yard field goal by sophomore Sean Murray.
The score by USF seemed to wake up the Saint Xavier offense as Coy and Co. marched down the field on its next drive and capped a 73-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown reception by senior Corey Wennmacher (Belvidere, Ill./Belvidere North) with 11:52 to play in the first half. The Cougars were far from done in the quarter though as Coy completed a pair of touchdown strikes, including a 48-yarder, to senior Wes Gastel (Freeport, Ill./Freeport) on back-to-back drives to open a 21-3 lead with just over four minutes left in the half. Junior free safety Jacob Ghinazzi (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) ended USF's final scoring attempt of the first half when he intercepted a White pass deep in SXU territory with under a minute remaining.
The Fighting Saints had another productive drive stopped deep in Cougar territory when junior defensive tackle Josh Perkins (Manteno, Ill./SIU/Bishop McNamara) forced a fumble at the SXU 15-yard line that was recovered by junior linebacker Dave Marciano (Chicago, Ill./Eastern Illinois/St. Rita). Coy hit senior Shane Zackery (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) from two yards out late in the third quarter to extend the lead to 28-3. Junior Spencer Nolen (Columbia, Tenn./University of Nevada/UT-Chattanooga/Columbia Central) completed the night's scoring with a 38-yard field goal with 10:19 left in the game. The Fighting Saints threatened to score again on their final two drives of the game, but a forced fumble and recovery by Ghinazzi as well as a interception by sophomore strong safety Clayton Fejedelem (Lemont, Ill./Lemont) put ends to both threats.
Saint Xavier continues its home stand on Saturday, September 15, with a non-conference match-up against No. 22 Langston University (Okla.). The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start at Deaton Field.
Catch some highlights and Coach Feminis' post-game comments below...