Sioux City, Ia. – Despite nine catches for 145 yards and a touchdown by senior wide receiver Chase Catton (Washington, Ill./Washington), the No. 4 ranked Saint Xavier University football team fell 47-19 in the NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) Semifinals to No. 3 Morningside College (Iowa) at Olsen Stadium in Sioux City, Iowa. With the loss, the Cougars end their season and national title defense hopes with an 11-2 overall record. The host Mustangs racked up 476 yards of total offense in the game and did not commit a turnover to earn a spot in the NAIA National Championship Game for the first time in program history.
Senior quarterback Jimmy Coy (Park Ridge, Ill./Valdosta State/El Camino College/Maine South) completed 29 of his 48 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions. Senior wideouts Wes Gastel (Freeport, Ill./Freeport) and Shane Zackery (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) each finished with eight receptions for the Cougars. Gastel posted 81 receiving yards and a touchdown, while Zackery tallied 80 yards through the air. Junior running back Nick Pesek (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn Community) led the ground attack for SXU with 11 carries for 40 yards. Junior safety Jacob Ghinazzi (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) led the defensive effort with a game-best 13 total tackles (nine solos).
Things looked bright early on with Saint Xavier taking the game's opening drive 71 yards down the field and capping it with a 41-yard touchdown pass by Coy to Catton to go ahead, 7-0, at the 13:37 mark of the first quarter. Morningside answered right back with a long drive of its own tying the game on a seven-yard run by senior running back Fred Jones three minutes later. Coy was picked off on SXU's next drive and the Mustangs took advantage of a short field going 36 yards in three plays to take their first lead, 14-7, on a four-yard touchdown pass by senior Joel Nixon to junior Joel McCabe. Junior kicker Spencer Nolen (Columbia, Tenn./UT-Chattanooga/Columbia Central) cut the deficit to four points, 14-10, with a 26-yard field goal with 4:23 to play in the opening quarter. However, Morningside responded again with a 65-yard scoring drive when Nixon found junior Kyle Schuck open in the end zone from two yards out to make it, 21-10, at the 1:45 mark of the quarter. Coy hit Gastel for an eight-yard strike, but Nolen missed the extra-point attempt to close out a flurried first quarter with the Mustangs leading 21-16.
Nixon completed a huge 44-yard touchdown pass to senior Colby Henderson on a 3rd-and-23 situation with 10:18 to play in the first half to extend the lead to 27-16 after a missed extra point attempt. Nolen added a 26-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the half to make the score, 27-19, at halftime. Morningside dominated the second half scoring three more touchdowns to pull away for good.