CHICAGO, Ill. – Josh Miller did his part.
Then the 'Roommate Connection – David Yoder to Clayton Smith' did its part.
Defense did its part the entire game with Allen Richardson and Devon Rush interceptions and a Kory Stamps forced fumble and recovery.
The whole result was the first University of Saint Francis win over an NAIA top-ranked team, 25-13 at No. 1 Saint Xavier University on Saturday night.
Must be something about USF and night games. The 10th-ranked USF Cougars improved to 8-0 in night contests and just as importantly 2-0 in Mid-States Football Association Mideast League competition. The Cougars are 4-1 overall after halting a four-game losing streak to SXU.
Yoder to Smith was crucial taking some pressure off USF's taxed, but none-the-less determined defense. It turned into a 23-yard touchdown, Smith's first at any level of football, on a daring fourth and 2 from the SXU 23-yard line with 11:58 to play in the fourth quarter.
It was the only USF TD in the second half, but that was all the USF defense needed as it held the high-scoring Cougars offense to two second half field goals.
The loss was the first for SXU in 25 home games since USF won at Bruce Deaton Memorial Stadium in 2008, 48-31. It was USF's first win over SXU in the last four meeting, which includes two in 2010.
Miller made his fifth start and was 11-for-14 for 137 yards before leaving with an apparent ankle injury after USF's first series in the third quarter. He scored USF's first TD putting the Cougars ahead 6-0 on a 9-yard run in the first quarter. Antoin Campbell scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter giving USF a 13-0 lead with 12:14 to play and USF took a 19-0 lead when Miller connected with Kevin Bush for a 3-yard TD, Bush with a full-extension snag for his first collegiate score.
SXU put together its only TD drive of the game near the end of the first half getting on the scoreboard with 51 seconds to play when Nick Pesek weaved his way to the touchdown from the USF 18-yard line.
Spencer Nolan kicked field goals of 23 and 22 yards in the third quarter inching SXU within six points, 19-13, heading into the final 15 minutes.
Miller sustained his injury at the end of USF's first possession of the second half when he was sacked. Yoder got picked off on his first series, but he bounced back when needed most directing USF to the Smith TD on a time-consuming 13-play, 84-yard drive that started late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter – five minutes, 38 seconds.
SXU had three more possessions, but the USF defense kept the Cougars out of the end zone. Richardson, who stifled SXU in the first half picking off quarterback Joe Gill in the end zone, batted away a third and eight pass for a 3-and-out. After a 56-yard Colin Karman punt, SXU's Wes Gastel grabbed a pass from Gill, but Stamps bone-jarring hit set the football free and he recovered Gastel's fumble with 5:26 to play. After a 38-yard Karman punt, SXU had the ball for 14 plays and moved from its 15 to the USF 33, but Stamps, Richardson, Justin Juarez and Cale Tabler made plays in the secondary to end any hope for the only team to hold the No. 1 ranking this season.
Gill was playing in place of Jimmy Coy, who sustained a concussion in last week's SXU 36-26 win over Trinity International. Gill finished 28-for-59 passing for 301 yards. He was sacked twice – once by Juarez and Bush, and the second by Zach Bruce for a loss of seven yards on the final SXU possession of the game.
Juarez finished with a USF –leading 14 tackles, five solo, a pass breakup and 1.5 tackles-for-loss for one yard. Rush had seven solo tackles, 11 total, and he returned his first quarter interception 39 yards. USF didn't scored when Miller was stopped a yard short of the end zone when USF went for the six.
Campbell rushed 23 yard for 71 yards while Miller ran 13 times for 60 yards. Akiem Kelsaw led USF receiving with seven receptions for 93 yards including a critical catch for 23 yards and a first down on USF's final scoring drive. Aaron Knight had two receptions for 46 yards, Austin Coleman three for 30 yards. Yoder finished 7-for-12 passing for 96 yards with one pick.
USF has next Saturday off before returning to action at current No. 2-ranked Marian University in Indianapolis on Oct. 13 at 1 p.m.