CHICAGO, Ill. - Linebackers Mike Bushnell and Zach Dolph finished with 13 total tackles apiece to help lead a defensive effort that propelled No. 5 Saint Xavier University (Ill.) to a 23-6 victory over No. 1 ranked Marian University (Ind.) in a Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) Mideast League and NAIA "Game of the Week" showdown Saturday afternoon at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago. The Cougar defense kept the Knights off the scoreboard for the first three quarters of play and forced seven punts and a pair of turnovers (one interception, one fumble) as well. The SXU offense did its part, especially in the first half, getting a pair of long touchdown passes from senior quarterback Jimmy Coy to build a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. With the win, Saint Xavier improves to 8-1 overall and now sits in the three-way tie with Marian and No. 6 Saint Francis (Ind.) for first-place in the MSFA Mideast League standings.
Coy finished with 314 yards through the air Saturday completing 17 of his 35 pass attempts in the game with three resulting in touchdowns. Junior running back Nick Pesek led the ground attack for SXU racking up 108 rushing yards on 20 carries in addition to hauling in a team-best five receptions for 60 yards. Senior wide receiver Shane Zackery also put up nice numbers for the Cougars with four catches for 101 yards and a score. Sophomore strong safety Clayton Fejedelem had a monster game defensively posting nine tackles, including 1.5 tackles for losses, as well as an interception, a fumble recovery and a pass break-up.
Saint Xavier wasted no time getting on the scoreboard with Coy hitting senior Corey Wennmacher in stride for a 30-yard touchdown strike on the game's opening drive. The Cougar defense forced back-to-back punts on Marian's first two offensive possessions, but the Knights' offense starting clicking on its third drive going 55 yards down the field on 13 plays before closing out the quarter with a missed 42-yard field goal attempt by senior kicker Mike Josifovski. SXU took advantage of the miss when Coy found senior Wes Gastel open on a deep pass that he took in for a 68-yard touchdown catch just two plays later. A missed PAT attempt gave Saint Xavier a 13-0 lead with 14:21 left in the first half and the Cougar defense forced another Marian punt. SXU added to its point total when junior Spencer Nolen split the uprights on a 21-yard field goal to extend the lead to 16-0.
Marian put together another 13-play drive late in the second quarter, but the end result was the same as Josifovski missed a 43-yard field goal wide right. Unfortunately for Saint Xavier, Coy had a deep pass attempt intercepted and the Knights offense took over again with a minute left in the first half looking to take some momentum into the break. The Cougar defense answered the call again when Fejedelem intercepted a tipped ball at the SXU 25-yard line to end the potential scoring threat. Both defenses came out strong in the third quarter with neither offense able to string together any drives longer than eight plays. The Knights had its best chance to score on the last drive of the quarter driving down to the SXU 14-yard line before Dolph stripped the ball loose and Fejedelem fell on it to close out the frame. Zackery capped the Cougar scoring early in the fourth quarter when he hauled in a 65-yard touchdown pass by Coy. Marian scored on its next drive when senior John Hasty caught an 11-yard slant from senior Adam Wiese, but failed to convert the two-point conversion.
Saint Xavier (7-1 overall/3-1 MSFA) wraps up its 2012 regular season slate on Saturday, November 10, with a non-conference game against No. 22 Robert Morris University (Ill.). The road game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start at Morris Field in Arlington Heights, Ill.