CHICAGO – Logging its first defensive shutout since September 26, 2009, the No. 4 ranked Saint Xavier University football team got plenty of production on both sides of the ball en route to a 31-0 victory over No. 13 William Penn University (Iowa) in 2012 NAIA Football Championship Series First Round action Saturday afternoon at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. The Cougars (10-1 overall) scored in every quarter of the game and racked up 496 yards of total offense against the Statesmen, who were making their first postseason appearance since 1975. Following the game, SXU's senior wide receiver Corey Wennmacher (Belvidere, Ill./Belvidere North) and junior linebacker Dave Marciano (Chicago, Ill./Eastern Illinois/St. Rita) were named the Outstanding Offensive and Defensive Players of the Game, respectively. Saint Xavier's last shutout came on a 51-0 victory over Quincy University (Ill.) at Deaton Field on September 26, 2009.
"Overall, I thought we played well offensively from the goal line to about the five-yard line, but we definitely need some work on our red zone offense this week," said SXU football coach Mike Feminis. "That is an area we plan to work on for next week and our guys know that. Our defense played well throughout the game and made some big plays. It was a great way to start postseason play."
Wennmacher led the Cougar receivers with seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, while junior running back Nick Pesek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn Community) was a double threat all day for Saint Xavier racking up a team-best 79 rushing yards and a score on 23 carries to go along with 74 yards through the air on seven receptions. Senior quarterback Jimmy Coy (Park Ridge, Ill./Valdosta State/El Camino College/Maine South) completed 29 of his 52 pass attempts for 336 yards and a pair of touchdowns for SXU. Marciano led the Cougar defensive effort with 12 total tackles (seven solos), including a pair of sacks for nine yards. Senior running back Dalton Phelps led the Statesmen on the ground with eight carries for 55 yards.
SXU marched down the field on the game's opening drive and got all the way inside the William Penn five-yard line before settling for a 21-yard field goal by junior kicker Spencer Nolen (Columbia, Tenn./UT-Chattanooga/Columbia Central). After the Cougar defense forced a pair of punts, the offense moved the ball well again and got to the WPU one-yard line before a fumble by Coy gave the Statesmen back the ball late in the first quarter. The two defenses played tough over the next few drives before Saint Xavier extended its lead to 10-0 when Coy capped a seven-play drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Shane Zackery (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) with 7:52 left in the first half. The Cougar defense forced another fourth down on William Penn's next possession and then came up with a big stop when the Statesmen tried to convert a first down on a fake punt attempt. Taking over at the WPU 35-yard line, Coy needed just a single play to hook up with Wennmacher for a beautiful grab in the end zone at the 5:52 mark of the second quarter.
A bad snap on a punt attempt by William Penn in the final minute of the first half went out of the back of the end zone and gave the Cougars a safety and a 19-0 lead to take into halftime. Saint Xavier had a chance to score another touchdown early in the third quarter with the ball inside the WPU 10-yard line, but an interception in the end zone stifled the potential scoring drive. On its next offensive drive, SXU punched it into the end zone on a four-yard rush by Pesek to go ahead, 25-0, after the extra-point attempt was blocked. With 1:39 to play in the game, junior free safety Jacob Ghinazzi (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) capped the scoring with a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Saint Xavier (10-1 overall/4-1 MSFA) advances to the 2012 NAIA Football Championship Series Quarterfinals, which will take place on Saturday, November 24. Due to its No. 4 national ranking, the Cougars will host the quarterfinal game at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago and will learn their opponent for the game on Sunday, November 18, when the pairings are released by the NAIA National Office.
Click the player below to see highlights from Saturday's 31-0 win over No. 13 William Penn (Iowa)...