Saint Francis rebounds with win at Siena Heights

ADRIAN, Mich. — Nobody would have blamed Ryan Nix for carrying a horseshoe or four-leaf clover with him when he took the field for what proved to be the winning field goal in a 24-22 University of Saint Francis win at Siena Heights on Saturday.

The senior was kicking into a vicious crosswind knifing across the Laughlin Stadium surface at between 15 and 20 miles per hour. Nix has missed from 41 yards and 31 yards earlier in the second half. And the NAIA fifth-ranked Cougars had fallen behind 22-21 and Nix pressurized attempt was coming with just 2:26 to play in the game.

“I’ve never felt more pressure attempting a kick before,” a smiling and relieved Nix said afterwards. “It feels great to come through, but I can’t help think we wouldn’t have been in that position if I’d have made one of those earlier kicks. Just glad I could come through that third time. Three is definitely a charm.”

USF Head Coach Kevin Donley wasn’t surprised.

“I knew he’d make it,” Donley said. “I didn’t think twice about sending him in for the kick. He’s a quality young man and came through the way I knew he would.”

Then the USF defense finished the job. Marcus Stepp and Piercen Harnish sacked SHU QB Lucas Barner for a loss of a yard back to the SHU 24-yard line. Barner was forced to scramble out of bounds for no gain on second-and-11 and on third-and-11, Spencer Cowherd dropped Barner for a 10-yard loss. After an SHU timeout, DE Lucas Spark brought Barner down with one hand for a 7-yard loss back to the Saints 7-yard line.

USF QB Nick Ferrer took a knee three times to run out the clock and ruin the Saints’ Homecoming festivities.

USF led 21-10 at halftime outscoring SHU 14-0 in the second quarter after the Saints had taken a 10-7 lead in the first quarter. Ferrer connected with Montay McDowell for USF’s first two TDs — eight yards and 44 yards. Seth Coate soared high for a reception at the SHU 10-yard line then somehow kept his balance to get to the end zone at 1:28 in the half and Nix PAT made it 21-10 USF at halftime.

SHU, which had two weeks to prepare for the Cougars, scored on an 86-yard pass to Deontae Rush trimming the SHU deficit to 21-16 at 9:11 in the

Austin Krider hauled in a 58-yard pass from Barner for a 22-21 lead with 6:48 to play, but the Saints fumbled on the two-point conversion attempt keeping the field goal in play for the win.

USF drove 57 yards in 12 plays taking 4:14 off the clock to set up Nix game-winning kick from the SHU 16-yard line. Coate had a 19-yard reception on second-and-11 for one first down at the SHU 47 and an even bigger catch for 17-yard on third-and-9 from the Saints’ 46. Jason Nicodemus kept USF hopes alive with a crucial 13-yard catch and run on third and eight from the SHU 27.

“I am so proud of the way we stuck together and pulled this one out,” Donley said addressing the team after the game. “That is a real good team over there and we found a way to get the win. Great job today.”

Ferrer finished the first half connecting on 18-of 20 pass attempts for a phenomenal 90 percent and finished the game 25-for-44 with one interception. He threw for 322 yards, 207 in the first half. While McDowell scored twice on TD receptions, Coate finished with 113 yards receiving, his 10th game for 100 or more yards which breaks a tie with Cam Smith, who had nine before graduating from USF in May.

Justin Green rushed for 72 yards, had 12 yards in receptions and 129 yards in kickoff returns to finish with 213 all-purpose yards. His rushing yardage elevated him to No. 9 on the USF career rushing yards list with 1,380 passing Derrick Alderman (2003-06). He also vaulted to No. 14 on the career all-purpose yards list with 1,892 yards passing Doug Wasylk (2005-008) at 1,818.

Coate’s TD reception extends his streak of one or more TD catches to 19 consecutive games.

For Donley, it was MSFA MEL win No. 98 and career victory No. 294. And Ferrer has now thrown for two-or-more TDs in 18 consecutive games. He also cross the 6,000-career yards passing plateau and stands at 6,094 heading to Concordia next Saturday.