CHICAGO – Scoring all four of its touchdowns on the day with its running attack, the No. 4 ranked Saint Xavier University football team showed off its balance on offense with a 35-21 victory over No. 7 University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) in the 2012 NAIA Football Championship Series Quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. The Cougars (11-1 overall) racked up 508 yards of total offense in Saturday's win with 207 coming off the rush and 307 through the air. Leading 32-21 heading into the final quarter, the SXU defense stepped up big keeping the visiting Patriots off the scoreboard to preserve the victory. Following the game, Saint Xavier senior quarterback Jimmy Coy (Park Ridge, Ill./Valdosta State/El Camino College/Maine South) and junior linebacker Zach Dolph (Crest Hill, Ill./Joliet Catholic) were named the Outstanding Offensive and Defensive Players of the Game, respectively.
"Our defense played their tails off against a really good offense today," said SXU football coach Mike Feminis. "We were a little shorthanded with some key seniors out of the line-up, but we had some guys step up and the effort was unbelievable. We are still hungry and we have to go out and get that next one and get back down to Rome (Ga.)."
Facing off against the NAIA's leading rusher in junior fullback Terrance Cobb, the Cougar defense had its hands full. Cobb finished the game with 33 carries for 174 yards and a touchdown, including a 60-yard scoring run late in the third quarter. Junior running back Nick Pesek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn Community) led Saint Xavier's ground attack with 19 carries for 116 yards and a score to go along with three receptions for 43 yards as well. Coy completed 21 of his 36 pass attempts for 307 yards, while also adding nine carries for 24 yards and a touchdown. Senior receivers Shane Zackery (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) and Wes Gastel (Freeport, Ill./Freeport) both eclipsed 100 yards in receiving for SXU Saturday. Zackery had a team-best eight catches for 109 yards, while Gastel posted 112 yards on six grabs. Dolph and senior cornerback Jeremy Rhodes (Alsip, Ill./Drake University/Brother Rice) were both tough defensively for the Cougars. Dolph had a game-best 15 tackles, while Rhodes had five tackles along with an interception and three pass break-ups.
SXU took an early 6-0 lead on the first drive of the game when junior Dave Marciano (Chicago, Ill./Eastern Illinois University/St. Rita) scored on a one-yard rush, but Cumberlands blocked the ensuing extra-point attempt. Midway through the first quarter, the Patriots answered with a nine-yard run by junior Willie Gibson to take a 7-6 lead. Junior kicker Spencer Nolen (Columbia, Tenn./UT-Chattanooga/Columbia Central) gave Saint Xavier back the lead, 9-7, at the 4:35 mark of the opening quarter with a 25-yard field goal. Coy made it a two-score lead for the Cougars early in the second quarter when he scrambled for a 14-yard touchdown run to make the score, 16-7. With 1:25 to play in the half, junior D'Angelo Jordan found the end zone from 12 yards out to pull Cumberlands within two points, 16-14. However, SXU drove down to the CU five-yard line and used a fake field goal attempt to go ahead, 23-14, at halftime on a seven-yard run by sophomore Cole Midgett (Lowell, Ind./Lowell). A 31-yard field goal by Nolen and a 30-yard touchdown run by Pesek helped the Cougars extend the lead to 18 points, 32-14, in the first nine minutes of the third quarter. Cobb answered with his big scoring run later in the frame, but Nolen closed out the scoring with a 39-yard field goal with 11:15 left to play in regulation.
Saint Xavier (11-1 overall) advances to the 2012 NAIA Football Championship Series Semifinals on Saturday, December 1. Official pairings are set to be released later tonight, but the Cougars will be on the road for the semifinals and likely paired against No. 3 Morningside College (Iowa) in Sioux City, Iowa, next Saturday.
Click the player below for highlights from Saturday's 35-21 win over No. 7 Cumberlands (Ky.)...
Click the player below to get the highlights from Saturday's post-game press conference...