Football - Wed, Aug. 31, 2005
CHICAGO - Saint Xavier University head football coach Mike Feminis and his No. 17 ranked Cougars love to open their schedule with a challenge. Last season, SXU went up against NCAA Division I-AA foe Illinois State University in Normal, Ill. This year, the Cougars will host its season opener, but the challenge will still be a daunting one. The No. 8 ranked Rangers of Northwestern Oklahoma State University (9-2 overall last season) will head to Chicago this weekend for a 1 p.m. match-up Saturday at SXU stadium in Chicago to kickoff the 2005 campaign. This will not be the first meeting between the two schools. Saint Xavier made the trip to Alva, Okla., to face the No. 6 ranked Rangers during the 2003 season. SXU came up just short in its second-half rally attempt falling 24-21. NWOSU went on to play for a national championship that same season falling 41-28 to Carroll College (Mont.) in the NAIA National Championship game in Savannah, Tenn. In fact, the Rangers have qualified for the playoffs each of the last seven years and played for a national championship in three of those seasons. "Northwestern Oklahoma is a measuring stick for us at our level and it is a tremendous opportunity for our players and coaches to play them again," said Feminis. "I'm just happy that they are making the 1,000-mile trip to Chicago this year. Playing them as close as we did two years ago proved a lot to me about the type of football players we have." "There is an old saying that states, If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,' continued Feminis. "In my mind, playing them close is not good enough this time around. We have established ourselves as a top 25 NAIA program each of the past five years, but that is not good enough. We must take the next step and that next step is being a perennial NAIA playoff team and competing for a national championship. Beating NWOSU would help us get to that next step." The Cougars definitely have the weapons this season to help take them to the next level. Wide receiver and NAIA All-American Honorable Mention Jarrod Nowman (Manteno, Ill./Bishop McNamara) returns for his senior season in 2005 in addition to two-time All-MSFA senior quarterback John Perryman (Oak Lawn, Ill./Richards). SXU will also welcome the return of junior wide receiver Andy Ricca (LaPorte, Ind./Michigan City), who has tackled season-ending injuries each of the last two seasons in the opening game. On defense, Saint Xavier returns All-MSFA First Team and NAIA All-Region linebacker Rick King (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew), who finished second on the team with 71.5 tackles last season. The defensive line will benefit as well with the return of All-MSFA Honorable Mention tackles in senior Nick Stimac (St. John, Ind./Andrean) and sophomore Justin Tuffs (Mokena, Ill./Stagg).