Football - Sat, Sep. 15, 2007
CHICAGO - Led by 31 second-half points, the No. 3 ranked Saint Xavier University football team was able to pull away after halftime defeating Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), 41-14, in Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) crossover action Saturday night at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. The Cougars improve to 3-0 overall with the victory, the first time in the 15-year history that SXU has opened a season with a perfect 3-0 mark.

The night was highlighted by a number of stellar individual offensive and defensive performances by Saint Xavier. Junior running back Jason Banning (Wilmington, Ill./Wilmington) led a stout rushing attack (40 carries, 220 yards) for the Cougars finishing with 16 carries for 134 yards, a 8.4 yards per carry average. Freshman wideout Mike Maher (Plainfield, Ill./Providence Catholic) had the biggest game of his young collegiate career catching six balls for 108 yards and a touchdown. Senior Billy Yeo (Matteson, Ill./Western Michigan/Rich South) led the passing game for SXU completing 22 of his 42 attempts for 223 yards and two touchdowns in addition to three rushes for 13 yards and a score. Defensively, senior defensive tackle Justin Tuffs (Mokena, Ill./Stagg) did a little of everything recording six tackles, three tackles for losses, a sack, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.

Yeo got the Cougars on the scoreboard first with nine minutes remaining in the first quarter when he rushed the ball in on a keeper from two yards deep. Olivet took advantage of a Saint Xavier fumble at the Cougar 30-yardline and tied the game, 7-7, after just two plays when junior running back Rory Fry punched it into the endzone. Neither team could cross the goal line in the second quarter, but senior kicker Shane Longest (Wilmington, Ill./Wilmington) was able to give SXU the lead, 10-7, on a 30-yard field goal with 13:28 left in the first half.

Leading 10-7 at halftime, the Cougars came out fired up in the second half and extended their lead, 13-7, when Longest connected on a 29-yard field goal with 4:49 left in the third quarter. With 47 seconds remaining in the third, junior running back Juaquin Rodriguez (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean) pounded into the endzone on a two-yard run to build the SXU lead to 13, 20-7. The scoring drive was highlighted by a beautiful 42-yard diving catch by Maher that put the Cougars at the Olivet two-yard line. The fourth quarter was nearly all Saint Xavier as senior wide receiver Jim Doherty (Evergreen Park, Ill./Evergreen Park) caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Yeo earlier in the quarter to put his team ahead, 27-7.

Olivet was able to close to within 13 points, 27-14, at the 11:11 mark of the fourth quarter when freshman running back Marshall Fraley scored on a three-yard rush, but just four minutes later, Maher struck again with a big 37-yard touchdown catch from Yeo to end any chance of a late ONU rally. Sophomore wide receiver Bill McKeon (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) ended the night's scoring with 50 seconds left in the game when he ran it in from 29 yards out to make the final score, 41-14. SXU racked up 479 yards of total offense in the game, while the defense helped force five Olivet Nazarene turnovers. Saint Xavier (3-0 overall) stays at home next Saturday to host Trinity International University (Ill.) at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start.