Upland, Ind. - Trailing 21-7 midway through the first quarter and 24-21 at halftime, the No. 6 ranked Saint Xavier University football team regrouped and used a strong third-quarter performance to get a 55-31 Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Mideast League victory over Taylor University (Ind.) Saturday afternoon at Jim Wheeler Memorial Stadium in Upland, Ind. Junior Nick Pesek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn Community) became SXU's all-time leading rusher with his 182 yards on the ground on 18 carries and senior quarterback Jimmy Coy (Park Ridge, Ill./Valdosta State/El Camino College/Maine South) threw a school-record tying seven touchdown passes to lead the rally. It was the highest point total in a game for the Cougars this season and most in a game since taking down Concordia University (Mich.), 63-3, on October 29, 2011, in Chicago.
With his 182 rushing yards on the day, Pesek now sits at 1,979 career rushing yards surpassing former standout Luke Schillo, who rushed for 1,939 career yards from 2003-06. Coy tied both a team and individual school record with his seven touchdown passes on the day. The only time that SXU had recorded seven touchdown passes in a game was on September 26, 2009, when Anthony Kropp (2007-10) threw seven as well in a 51-0 win over Quincy University (Ill.).
Saturday's game was dominated by big offensive plays from both teams with a combined 1,056 yards of total offense on 178 plays. The Cougars racked up 629 yards of total offense on 93 plays with Coy leading the charge completing 31 of his 50 pass attempts for 414 yards. Coy spread the ball around hitting four different receivers for his seven scores. Senior Chase Catton (Washington, Ill./Washington) paced the aerial attack with seven catches for 57 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Nick DeBenedetti (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) was tough as well with six grabs for 90 yards and two scores, while seniors Shane Zackery (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) and Wes Gastel (Freeport, Ill./Freeport) also each found the end zone through the air. Zackery had six catches for 76 yards and Gastel posted 113 yards on four receptions.
Saint Xavier struck first scoring on a five-yard connection between Coy and Catton less than five minutes into the game. However, the Trojans went on a tear scoring on three early drives and taking advantage of some miscues by the Cougars to take a 21-7 lead with 3:51 to play in the opening quarter. Senior quarterback Nick Freeman capped all three of the scoring drives with big touchdown passes of 22, 50 and 29 yards, respectively. On a third and 14 play, Coy hit Zackery for a 47-yard scoring strike down the sideline to make it 21-14 in favor of Taylor with just under two minutes left in the quarter. Late in the second quarter, SXU tied the game when Coy found DeBenedetti on a 24-yard screen pass for a touchdown, but the Trojans drove down to the one-yard line and hit a 18-yard field goal with seconds left in the half to take a 24-21 edge into halftime.
The third quarter was all Saint Xavier as Coy hit Catton for two touchdowns and Gastel found the end zone on a one-yard run to move the Cougars ahead for good, 41-24. Coy found DeBenedetti open again early in the fourth quarter from 27 yards out to extend the lead to 48-24, and then hit Gastel for a big 60-yard touchdown strike to cap the impressive scoring surge. With 5:28 left to play, Freeman threw a five-yard touchdown pass to junior Chris Stutzman to complete the game's scoring. Defensively, SXU was led by sophomore defensive lineman Greg Hayward (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn Community) and junior linebacker Zach Dolph (Crest Hill, Ill./Joliet Catholic), who each finished with double-digit tackle totals. Hayward had 11 stops to lead the effort, while Dolph totaled 10 with 3.5 of them for losses.
Saint Xavier (6-1 overall/2-1 MSFA) returns to Chicago and hosts Concordia University (Mich.) for another MSFA Mideast League match-up on Saturday, October 27. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kick-off at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago.