UPLAND, Ind. — University of Saint Francis Head Coach Kevin Donley earned his 280th career win on Saturday night over Taylor University.
Na’Shawn Lewis gave him one with his fourth quarter interception that pretty much secured a 48-42 win over the Trojans.
“Coaches kept stressin’ make a play, get off the field, and after missing a chance earlier, I had to make that play,” Lewis remarked sounding relieved to get the ‘W’. “I remember seein’ the quarterback come up and saw the dude come across so I dropped a little bit and ball just came into my hands. Crazy!”
Sophomore quarterback Nick Ferrer gave Donley another reason — the third best passing game in the 18-year history of the program with 434 yards and his second consecutive five passing TDs game.
Junior Seth Coate delivered the sixth best receiving game with 189 yards on seven receptions, both career highs. And he scored three TDs, the last providing most of the winning margin. Junior Aaron Harris provided his highlights with two TDs, the first a highlight worthy score of 58 yards.
Freshman linebacker Piercen Harnish figured in the mix with an interception that he returned 29 yards for his first collegiate touchdown early in the third quarter.
Yes, it was quite the thrill ride on Saturday night in the Mid-States Football Association Mideast League opener for both teams with the Cougars building a 48-7 lead, then holding on for their 90th MSFA MEL win.
“Hey, we won,” Donley said applauding his Cougars after Jeffrey Jones tackled TU QB Everett Pollard after a two-yard scramble as time drained off the clock assuring USF the win. “That’s the most important thing. You found a way to finish it and we’ll grow and learn from this.”
‘This’ was the Trojans 35 points in the second half including four of Shawn Lashbrook’s five TD receptions. USF had a 35-7 lead at halftime and a 310-yard advantage in total offense — 450 to 140. USF finished with a 105 yard advantage — 542-437.
Later Donley said, “I’ll remember No. 280 for awhile. We’ve got a lot of young guys who still learning. But for about 36 minutes tonight, we played some excellent football. I’m just happy to win.”
USF, now 2-0 overall, got some valuable experience for many of the No. 2 players on the depth chart. They learned you can’t let up no matter what the score is.
Ferrer and Coate connected for the first score of the game on a 36-yard pass play and Ryan Nixbooted the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 11:02 to play. On third and 23 at the USF 42 after two penalties, Harris stunned the Trojans with a short pass and 58-yard dash through the TU defense for a TD with 6:25 to play in the first quarter. Ferrer connected with Coate for an 8-yard score on USF’s first second quarter possession, then on the next possession Cody Appenzeller was the benficiary of a 5-yard pass for six.
After Pollard connected with Lashbrook for a 32-yard TD, USF answered with a battered in from the 2 for a 35-7 halftime lead.
Harnish scored at 13:39 and Coate at 9:06 on a 31-yard strike from Ferrer.
“That first drive,” Coate said recalling his first TD. “Safties were playing hard, the corners couldn’t get over and we were able to do that much of the night. We’ve got to keep the foot on pedal for sixth minutes. That’s what the term ‘Maverick’ is about, to honor Coach Wagoner’s son. Resiliancy, find an inner toughness, fight for those who can’t and that’s what got us through tonight.”
Justin Green led USF rushers with 47 yards on 12 carries while Harris finished with 32 yards on 12 carries. Cam Smithadded four receptions for 75 yards, Harries 70 yards on four receptions andMontay McDowell added 66 yards on three receptions. Lashbrook finished with nine receptions for 187 yards. Pollard connected on 32 of 52 passes for 371 yards and he added a team-leading 38 yards rushing.
USF returns to action on Saturday against Trinity International at noon on Homecoming weekend.