By Alan Paape
The St. Xavier University Cougars were coming off another big 54-10 victory over Concordia University as they prepared to welcome in the Marian University Knights, the No. 1 team in the nation, and the team that handed the Cougars their only loss during the 2011 championship season.
This not only was the biggest match-up of the season for the Cougars, but it was also the last regular season home game, meaning it was “Senior Day” at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field.
The Cougars won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. The Cougars drove down the field 71-yards on nine plays and scored on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Coy to Wes Gastel to give the Cougars the early seven point lead.
The Cougar defense started the game just as impressively as the Cougar offense did.
On the Knights’ first drive of the game, the Cougars forced a three and out, and immediately got the ball back to their offense.
The Saint Xavier offense was not able to put up any more points in the first quarter, but its defense stood strong and did not give up any points to the high powered Knights offense.
The Cougar offense started the second quarter of play the same way they started the first quarter of play, with a touchdown.
On the second play from scrimmage of the second quarter, Coy stepped up in the pocket and threw a bomb downfield which was caught by Gastel and taken into the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown. The Cougars missed the ensuing extra point, but their lead was now thirteen points.
After the Cougar defense held the Knights to eight net yards on their very next possession and forced another Marian punt, the Cougar offense was able to add more points to the scoreboard. Spencer Nolen connected on a 21-yard field goal attempt to give the Cougars a 16 point lead.
At the end of the first half, the Knights found themselves inside the red zone, but they were not able to come away with any points because of a tipped ball interception by Clayton Fejedelem. After the interception, the Cougars ran out the clock and went into the halftime break leading 16-0.
The Knights received the second half kickoff and looked to do something that they were not able to do in the first half, put up points on the scoreboard.
The Knights once again drove down the field and found themselves inside the red zone, but for the second time in two drives they did not come away with any points. On a fourth and inches play, Tevin Lake was stuffed in the backfield, and the ball was turned over on downs.
This drive set the tone for the rest of the third quarter of play. Both defenses came out even stronger in the third, and neither team scored. To end the quarter, Zach Dolph forced a fumble that was recovered by none other than Fejedelem.
The Cougars trend of scoring on their opening drive of a quarter continued again to start the fourth quarter of play. Just over a minute into the fourth quarter of play Coy drew the Knights defense offsides resulting in a free play on offense.
Coy made the most of this opportunity by taking a shot downfield to Shane Zackery who reeled in the pass and took it to the end zone for a 65-yard touchdown reception. This touchdown gave the Cougars a 26 point lead early in the fourth quarter.
The only points the Cougar defense gave up came with less than ten minutes on the scoreboard when Adam Wiese threw an 11 yard touchdown pass to John Hasty.
The Knights elected to go for a two point conversion, but failed to convert. This would be the last scoring play of the game and the Cougars went on to pull off the huge upset 23-6.
With the big victory, the Cougars moved up a spot in the NAIA Coaches Top 25 poll to number four, and Marian fell from number one to number five. Also, with the victory, the Cougars find themselves tied atop the Mid-States Football Association Mideast league standings with Marian University and the University of St. Francis (Ind.).
The next game for the Cougars is against Robert Morris on Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. at RMU.
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