BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – For the second straight week, the Olivet Nazarene University football team fell to a top-five opponent, this time to No. 1 St. Xavier University (Ill.), the defending NAIA national champion, 41-12 on Saturday, Sept. 1, at Ward Field.
Olivet (0-2) held its own early on. For the second straight game, the defense stopped its opponent's opening drive by standing its ground on a fourth-down attempt. But the Tigers then missed a chance for an early lead on the ensuing possession when quarterback Rico Prestia (Elk Grove Village, Ill.) threw an interception.
The Tigers' defense remained strong on St. Xavier's next possession. On another fourth-down attempt, defensive back Lucas Limberg (Rockford, Ill.) and linebacker Lance Craft (Onondaga, Mich.) combined to stop a Cougars' pass play for a three-yard loss. After Olivet was forced to punt, St. Xavier connected on a 64-yard pass play for a touchdown, which gave the Cougars (1-0) a lead they would not relinquish.
Olivet missed its best chance for an offensive touchdown late in the first quarter when Prestia found tight end Garrett Saunders (Seffner, Fla.) for a 40-yard gain, down to the Cougars' 16-yard line. The Tigers settled for a 22-yard field goal by Andrew Muzljakovich (Vicksburg, Mich.).
The Cougars then reeled off three straight passing touchdowns before Olivet added another field goal and entered halftime trailing 28-6.
The Tigers' defense held tight for most of the second half as the offense tried to rally in the fourth quarter. Defensive back Ben Backstrom (Chicago, Ill.) intercepted a Cougars' pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to make the score 34-12.
Ultimately, however, the offense couldn't generate a touchdown drive to close the gap, and St. Xavier added a late touchdown to make the final score 41-12.
Prestia completed 11 of 23 passes for 122 yards; 41 of them went to sophomore running back David Payne (Chebanse Ill.), who lead the team in receiving. The Tigers totaled 198 yards on offense.
Defensively, the Tigers received contributions from Brandon Ruemler (Williamsport, Ind.), Lance Craft (Onondaga, Mich.) and Tony Turner (Momence, Ill.), who each finished with one sack.
St. Xavier amassed 609 total yards. Quarterback Jimmy Coy completed 34 of 52 passes for five touchdowns, receiver Shane Zackery caught 11 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns and running back Joshua Hunter ran for 47 yards.
Olivet continues its streak of home games on Saturday, Sept. 8, against No. 15 Grand View University (Iowa). The game is scheduled for 1:30 pm at Ward Field.
L, Olivet Nazarene University - 12
#1 St. Xavier University (Ill.) - 41