College Football: St. Xavier coasts past Olivet Nazarene
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media November 16, 2013 10:22PM
Updated: December 18, 2013 6:45AM
Over the final two weeks of a difficult regular season, St. Xavier’s Cougars finally looked like themselves.
Coming off an impressive 37-20 win over Trinity International, No. 21 St. Xavier put Olivet Nazarene away early Saturday, jumping to a 20-0 first-quarter lead and cruising to a 34-7 win in a Mid-States Football Association Midwest League game at Ward Field in Bourbonnais.
“The seniors made this about us,” St. Xavier linebacker Dave Marciano said. “We knew if this was going to be our last game, we wanted to go out on a high note. The underclassmen bought in and everyone played great.”
The victory puts the Cougars (7-4, 4-2) at least in the conversation to reach the 16-team NAIA football playoffs, though they’re likely to find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble.
St. Xavier needed a lot of help Saturday, and got some with upset losses by No. 17 St. Francis and No. 19 Peru State (Neb.) as well as a defeat to No. 15 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.).
The Cougars must wait until the playoff pairings are revealed Sunday to see if that will be enough.
“We’re a hot team at the end of the season,” Marciano said. “I’m happy with how we finished. If we get lucky and get in, we’ll be a hot team going into the playoffs.”
Senior Nick Pesek had a huge day Saturday, running 25 times for 146 yards and three first-half touchdowns. His 7-yard TD run capped a 5-play, 80-yard opening drive.
The next time the Cougars had the ball, Joe Gill (35-of-49, 359 yards, two touchdowns) found Ryan Carroll for a 26-yard score on third-and-21.
Pesek added a pair of 2-yard scores and St. Xavier led 27-0 less than four minutes into the second quarter.
“I really didn’t expect this,” Pesek said. “Most of our scoring lately has been with passing. My offensive line went all out today. They gave me room to run.
“This is bittersweet, but if it was my last game, it’s a good way to go out.”
St. Xavier held a 507-223 advantage in total yards with the defense carrying a shutout into the fourth quarter before allowing a 1-yard touchdown run to Michael Ho-Lewis. The Cougars held Ho-Lewis in check, limiting him to 102 yards on 26 carries (3.9 average).
Marciano led the St. Xavier defense with 8½ tackles and two sacks. Nick Cemeno had an interception.
Gill threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Nick DeBenedetti (11 catches, 142 yards).
“I’m really proud of the way we played these last weeks,” St. Xavier coach Mike Feminis said. “We could have packed it in. We have great senior leadership.”