FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Justin Green rushed for a University of Saint Francis record, Seth Coate made two two touchdown catches in the SportsCenter Top 10 category and the USF defense limited 12th-ranked Reinhardt University to a season-low points in a 37-26 win at what became snow-covered Kevin Donley Field at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium on Saturday.
The fourth-ranked Cougars won their 12th-consecutive NAIA Football Championship Series First Round game to advance to the quarterfinal round for the 13th time. RU finished at 9-2 after its first appearance in the NAIA FCS in its third season playing football.
Green ran for 241 yards on 30 carries including three touchdown carries eclipsing the previous USF single-game rushing mark set by Daniel Carter on Nov. 15, 2008 when the USF grad ran for 239 yards on 25 carries. Green scored USF’s first TD on a 1-yard run for a 7-0 lead just two minutes, 37 second into the game. He added a 7-yard TD run in the second quarter for a 17-7 USF lead and a 25-yard dash through about three inches of snow early in the third quarter opening up a 31-7 USF lead. It was his second 100-yard plus game this season, USF’s sixth in 10 games. His previous best was 140 at Robert Morris on Oct. 24, which means he rushed for 381 yards against two NAIA Top 25 teams this season averaging 7.8 yards per carry.
Green, a redshirt freshman, was chosen NAIA Offensive Player of the Game by media covering the game. USF Freshman Piercen Harnish was selected NAIA Defensive Player of the Game after finishing with 17 tackles including nine solo and two forced fumbles.
“I actually was able to get pretty good footing and traction,” USF offensive left guard Gus Hancock said after the game when he had thawed out. “When Justin or any of our backs have a game like he had today, our whole offensive line had a part in it and it feels good. Thought we did a pretty good job today. It seemed like (RU) had problems with their footing.”
The Eagles, who entered the game as the No. 2 scoring team in NAIA averaging 54.5 points per game, fumbled nine times and lost four. USF limited the No. 1 rushing offense (360.6 ypg) to 213 yards rushing on 61 attempts.
USF sophomore uarterback Nick Ferrer was efficient through the snow-filled air completing 63 percent of his passes (12-19-0) for a season-low 141 yard, but his two TD passes to Coate were back breakers. Coate reached over the RU defender and tipped the ball to himself in the southeast corner for the end zone late in the second half for his first TD catch. It opened up a 24-7 USF lead on the 15-yard pass from Ferrer. He again reached around the defender, tipped the ball up and secured it at 1:46 in the third quarter giving USF a 37-14 lead.
“I don’t know how I caught either one,” Coate smiled with a sheepish grin after the Cougars improved to 10-0, the only unbeaten team left in NAIA. “I know they both felt great.”
The junior has 23 career TD receptions, which breaks a tie with Austin Coleman for No. 2 on the list behind Jeremy Dutcher, who finished with 57 playing from 1998-00 for USF. Coate moved up to No. 12 on the USF career scoring list with 138 points.
USF put points on the board after recovering three of the RU fumbles. Ryan Nix maneuvered a 40-yard field goal through the north end uprights with 2:40 to play in the first quarter for a 10-0 USF lead despite a wind out of the northeast. It was his seventh FG this season, the 16th of his career, and his 30 from 40 or more yards. Nix added four extra points for seven points that moved him up to No. 12 on the USF career scoring list with 145 points, a single point back of No. 11 Cale Grzych (2005-06).
Sam Jones scored on a 27-yard scamper before snow had much of an impact with 12:15 to play in the second quarter. His TD slashed the USF lead to 10-7, but Green capped an eight play, 76-yard drive when he scored from the RU 7-yard line to regain a 14-point lead for the Cougars. USF only needed 3:32 for the drive with Green rushing six times for 38 yards. Cody Appenzellerhad a nifty 16-yard reception and run, and Coate added a 20-yard reception.
RU picked up one first down on its next possession, but was forced to punt and Charles Gaston came up with a blocked punt for the second consecutive game. USF took over at the RU 30-yard line and three plays later, Ferrer to Coate put USF in charge 24-7.
The Eagles got the opening kickoff, but on fourth down punter Nick Marquez fumbled the ball and Eric Dunten recovered for USF at the RU 25. That set up Green’s third TD of the game and his eighth of the season.
“Our guys really came through when the field conditions affected both teams,” USF Head Coach Kevin Donley said after getting his 288th career win. “Coate made two amazing catches. Our defense accepted the challenge of playing one of the top rushing teams in NAIA and we played hard in all phases of the game. Green had some great runs on a day when conditions didn’t favor backs getting around the corner, but he did a great job getting to the edge and turning it up field.”
NAIA FCS First-Round Scores
(H) 4 USF (Ind.) def (A) 12 Reinhardt (Ga.) 37-26
(H) 2 Baker (Kan.) def (A) 17 Point (Ga.) 68-21
(H) 6 Marian (Ind.) def (A) 11 Campbellsville (Ky.) 44-7
(H) 3 Grand View (Iowa) def (A) 13 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 16-13
(H) 1 Morningside (Iowa) def (A) 16 Saint Xavier (Ill.) 75-69 (4OT)
(H) 8 Tabor (Kan.) def (A) 9 Doane (Neb.) 16-14
(H) 5 Montana Tech def (A) 18T Dickinson State (N.D.) 44-10
(H) 7 Southern Oregon def (A) 10 Kansas Wesleyan 52-8