Is there anything better than an early November afternoon with a football game that two teams have so much to play for? This is the time of year that really makes football what it is. Saint Xavier against Saint Francis. For a long time the Cougars from the East dominated the conference and were known as the national power. Recently it has been somewhat of a struggle in Fort Wayne and the Cougars to the West have taken over “big dog” status. This game Saturday, however, could reverse the roles. There is a lot of talent on the side of the red and silver, but when rivals meet and are playing for so much there is no telling what might happen.
What’s the importance of the game? At first glance you scream conference championship. Obviously the winner of this game will have a leg up for conference champions. It also has first round hosting implications. The winner of this game will be in the top eight and host a first round game
(assuming remaining games on schedule are won). Both teams appear to be in position for a berth into the postseason regardless of the outcome. Saint Xavier is playing to not only host in the first round, but the second round as well. There is a lot to play for when these two meet and that’s why it is one of two VSN Game of the Week broadcasts this week.
Here is a look at the matchup:
Frank Wolfe is averaging just under 100 yards/game this season. He has 791 total yards on 6.4 yards/carry. He has also found the end zone five times. Taylor Vieck and Bo Frye add a nice dimension for USF as well. They may not get a lot of carries in the game, but the two have eight and seven touchdowns, respectively, on the season.
On the other side is Donnie Selby, who could be one of the more underrated backs in the game. He has been overshadowed by the pass happy offense and has made the most of opportunities when given the chance. He is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and has scored seven touchdowns this season. KJ Franklin has also scored seven rushing touchdowns for SXU this year.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Mike Maher is a game-changing type of player for SXU. He has tremendous ability on offense and special teams. He has caught 15 touchdown passes this season, while totaling over 1,000 yards receiving in 10 games. Shane Zackery and Xavier Torres have added over 400 yards receiving this season and six touchdowns. If it isn’t one playmaker it is another for this group. They also get some help from Selby out of the backfield, who also has five receiving touchdowns this season.
Jared Clodfelter and Austin Coleman have been the go-to wide receivers for Saint Francis as the two have combined for nine touchdowns this season. Both players are averaging more than 16 yards per reception this season. Aaron Knight hasn’t put up as big of numbers for the Cougars, but he does have 28 receptions on the season.
Shaine Tierney has been the guy running the offense for most of the year for USF. He has thrown for over 1,500 yards and completed 72 percent of his 180 pass attempts. The signal caller has been solid with an efficiency rating of 159.24, while throwing ten touchdowns and just four interceptions on the season. If things aren’t working well for Tierney, the Cougars do have a nice option in Justin Boser on the sideline.
Anthony Kropp is on the other sideline. He has thrown 11 interceptions this season, but has also connected for 42 touchdowns for one of the nation’s best offenses. He has completed 67 percent of his passes and will go over 3,000 yards passing in this game. He is averaging almost 300 yards per game this season.
The offense of Saint Xavier has overshadowed the performance of the defense this season. Last year there were some question marks on the defense and it proved to be the difference in the semi-final loss at Sioux Falls. This year the Cougars have a defense that gets after it every play. Some still wonder how the defense will hold up outside of its conference. In ten games this season the Cougars have 93 tackles for loss and 27 sacks. They have also forced a number of turnovers with a dozen forced fumbles and a dozen interceptions. More impressively, perhaps, is the ten blocked kicks the Cougars have on the season. The defense is athletic and can step up in big games. They will force Tierney into a couple of bad decisions on Saturday.
The Saint Francis defense has been solid this season with 19 sacks in eight games and 44 tackles for loss. The Cougar defense has produced 13 total turnovers between interceptions and fumbles. What makes the Saint Francis defense be good is the preparation. The Cougars know how to step up in big games. Against Walsh this season they limited two very talented running backs. The team was prepared for the offense it would face and they executed well. If they are ready for this game Saturday and they execute well, USF will have a chance to pull off the upset.
This is a good matchup. On paper it looks like the Cougars from the West can run away with this game, but you can’t count out the emotion that will be put into this game. Saint Francis will have to find ways to capitalize on SXU turnovers and if they can do that they will be in this game. The blue Coufar defense must get pressure on Kropp. If he is left with a lot of time he will pick apart this secondary. They need to bring pressure and keep Kropp off-balance. Saint Xavier has the better offense and the better defense in this game. That will happen when you have almost everyone returning from a talented team the previous year. Saint Francis needs to win this game with defense and special teams, they don’t have the type of offense to get into a high scoring affair with SXU.