Photo by Jeff Vorva
SXU running back Mike Ivlow ran for 233 yards – the second most in school history – in Saturday’s first-round win over Grand View.
It’s one thing to rack up early double-digit deficits to St. Ambrose, St. Francis (Illinois) and Olivet Nazarene University during the regular season and make comebacks for wins.
It’s another to get down 10 points to a nationally ranked team in the first round of the NAIA playoffs on a cold, windy, rainy and snowy day.
But St. Xavier University’s football team knows how to play catch-up and, like it did against the aforementioned trio, dominated the rest of the way as it beat Grand View University, 39-23, in the first round of the NAIA Championship Series in front of an announced crowd of 1,000 fans at Deaton Field in Chicago on Saturday afternoon.
The eighth-ranked Cougars (10-1) visit third-seeded Morningside College (12-0) at noon Saturday at Olsen Stadium in Sioux City, Iowa, in the quarterfinals. The last time these two teams hooked up was a snowy first-round playoff game in 2015 and Morningside won a wild 75-69 game in four overtimes.
Early in the Grand View game, the Cougars had to stay on the ground because of the weather conditions and were able to open up the passing game in the second half. Senior Mike Ivlow ran 34 times for 233 yards and caught a touchdown pass for 36 yards. He even booted a 53-yard punt on a day that saw three Cougars record punts. Alex Martinez threw for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
“It was almost impossible to punt and throwing the ball was a nightmare, too,” SXU coach Mike Feminis said. “We gave up the lead but told the guys to ‘stay the course, stay the course.’ I couldn’t be prouder.’’
Ivlow remembered losing 41-37 in the regular season to Grand View his freshman season and looked forward to this rematch.
“We have to do whatever we have to do to win,” Ivlow said. “I couldn’t be happier with this win. This is one of those games where I really wanted to beat these guys really bad. We get another week of football and that’s all you can ask for.’’
Grand View (9-3) entered the game averaging 512.7 yards per game but the Cougars defense held the Vikings to 332 yards. Tim Walsh racked up two interceptions, Josh Hettinger had 15 tackles and Tionte McDaniel added 12. The defense recorded eight tackles for loss for 34 yards.
Morningside is averaging 52.3 points and 585.7 yards per game. The Mustangs opened the season with a 41-24 victory over St. Francis (Illinois), a team SXU beat 30-28. Morningside advanced to the quarterfinals with a 63-7 victory over Sterling.
Senior running back Bubba Jenkins has 1,904 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns for the Mustangs this season while junior quarterback Trent Solsma has thrown for 3,665 yards and 48 TDs.
Other quarterfinal pairings for Saturday are Northwestern (Iowa) at St. Francis (Ind.), Georgetown (Kentucky) at Reinhardt (Georgia) and Southern Oregon at Lindsey Wilson (Kentucky). Northwestern, Georgetown and St. Xavier are the only teams still alive with losses.