INDIANAPOLIS - After five seasons of competition, the Marian University football team won its first-ever Mid-States Football Association Mideast League championship on Saturday afternoon after the No. 2-ranked Knights defeated No. 1-ranked Saint Xavier University 27-9 in front of a record 5,175 fans at St.Vincent Health Field.
The Knights completed their first-ever unbeaten regular season with a 10-0 record and a 5-0 mark in the MSFA MEL, while Saint Xavier had its 31-game regular season winning streak snapped and sits at 9-1 on the year.
Freshman running back Tevin Lake
led the Knights with 139 yards on 24 carries and three rushing touchdowns. Junior quarterback Adam Wiese
finished 20-of-32 for 198 yards, while senior Julian Williams
had seven catches for 66 yards to lead the receiving corps.
The nation's number one defense held the NAIA's top offense to just nine points and 50 yards rushing.
Defensively, senior Dustin Craig
finished the day with 10 tackles (five solo, five assists) and two interceptions, while junior Dan Brunke
had a game-high three sacks for the Knights.
The Knights got things going early as they posted the game's first points on the opening drive.
Lake capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 37-yard touchdown run to stake MU a 7-0 lead. SXU answered with a quick short drive, but a 57-yard field goal was wide left keeping the score 7-0 with 8:50 to go in the first quarter.
The teams traded drives before SXU got on the board when K.J. Franklin capped an eight-play, 43-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown to make it 7-6 as the first quarter ended.
The Knights went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, and the Cougars looked like they were going to capitalize until Craig stepped in front of a Jimmy Coy pass to end a marathon drive. Craig returned the pick to the SXU 41-yard line and set up MU in good field position.
Junior Mike Josifovski
capped a nine-play, 35-yard drive with a 23-yard field goal to give MU a 10-6 lead with 3:35 to go in the half. A botched snap on the ensuing SXU drive forced a punt and gave MU the ball with 1:01 on the clock.
The Knights drove to the SXU 43-yard line where Wiese hit senior Eric Duncan
on a crossing pattern with just seven seconds remaining. After a 12-yard gain, Duncan lateraled the ball to senior Dexter Taylor
who gamed six more before he lateraled to Lake at the 25-yard line. Lake was pushed out of bounds at the two-yard line as the clock expired sending MU into the interval with a 10-6 lead on the nation's No. 1 team.
The second half was when both defenses dug in their heels. Both teams went three-and-out on their opening drives before SXU drove to the Knights' seven-yard line to set up a goal-to-go situation. The momentum was shifted completely in MU's favor as junior Stephen Rogers
stopped Franklin at the half-yard line on fourth-and-goal to give MU the ball and keep SXU out of the end zone.
The Knights were stopped on their ensuing drive, but SXU was wide right on a 46-yard field goal on its following drive.
MU took over at its own 29-yard line and embarked on a seven-play, 71-yard drive that was capped by a Tevin Lake
24-yard touchdown run to stake MU with a 17-6 lead with 1:12 remaining in the third quarter. It was Lake's second score of the day.
SXU was driving on their ensuing drive when Craig picked off Coy a second time and returned the interception to the SXU 32-yard line. The Knights pushed it to the 13 where Lake broke through on a 13-yard touchdown run to give MU an 18-point lead at 24-6. It was the second game of the season in which Lake had three rushing touchdowns.
The nation's top defense held SXU one more time before a 44-yard field goal attempt by Josifovski went wide left to give the Cougars the ball. This time SXU made it count as Tom Lynch hit a 36-yard field goal to cut the lead to 24-9 with 6:23 to go in the game.
An onsides kick that went out-of-bounds gave MU the ball at the SXU 36-yard line with 6:21 remaining in the game. The Knights got to the 20-yard line before a holding call pushed them back to the 31. They were able to get a few yards back before Josifovski sealed the 27-9 win with a 45-yard field goal with 3:19 remaining.
SXU took over at its own 40-yard line and three plays later senior Isaac Jean
forced a fumble and senior Suavve Barker
fell on it to give MU the ball with 2:23 to go. The Knights burned 2:03 off the clock with handoffs to Lake and with 20 seconds left SXU took over, but the game was in hand.
The Knights rushed for 188 yards and had 386 yards of total offense, while SXU was held to 276 of total offense and just 50 yards on the ground.
MU will now wait until Sunday, November 13 when the Victory Sports Network will air the 2011 NAIA Football Championship Series Selection Show. The show will be streamed at 3 p.m. and the Knights will find out who they will host in the first-ever playoff game at St.Vincent Health Field on Saturday, November 19 at 1 p.m.