Football - Thu, Sep. 2, 2004
Normal, Ill. -- Senior back-up quarterback Tom Raczka (Calumet City, Ill./Marian Catholic) turned in a fourth- quarter touchdown pass and a fourth-quarter touchdown rush, but it was too little too late as the No. 18 Saint Xavier University football team fell to NCAA Division I-AA Illinois State University, 44-14, in the Cougars' season opener Thursday night at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill. On the opening drive of the game, SXU was able to move the ball down the field thanks in part to a 32-yard pass completion on fourth and seven by Raczka to junior wide receiver Jarrod Nowman (Manteno, Ill./Bishop McNamara) on a fake punt attempt. The Cougars got all the way down to the Redbird 11 yardline, but back-to- back snaps over junior starting quarterback John Perryman's (Oak Lawn, Ill./Richards) head pushed the drive back to the Saint Xavier 38 yardline. The Cougars failed to recover from the loss and after punting Illinois State was able to score on its first play from scrimmage on a 70-yard run by senior running back Demetrus Johnson.

Illinois State pulled away in the second quarter with three touchdowns to take a 34-0 lead into the lockerroom at halftime. Freshman wide receiver Jim Doherty (Evergreen Park, Ill./Evergreen Park) connected with Raczka with 7:47 remaining in the game on a six-yard catch in the right corner of the endzone, capping a 10- play, 73-yard drive. Raczka was able to sneak in from the two-yardline on a keeper with 2:19 left for the game's final score.

"When you play a school that ranks higher than you in level of competition, you have to execute perfectly," said Saint Xavier University head coach Mike Feminis. "We had some things go wrong at key points in the game and it hurt us. If those things don't happen, who knows how different the outcome would have been. I thought Tom (Raczka) performed extremely well in the second half for John (Perryman). He knows the system as well as any of our coaches and he executed well tonight."

The Cougars will return to SXU stadium for their home opener against University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on Saturday, September 11. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m.