Football: St. Francis overcomes mistakes to earn win over Olivet Nazarene
September 7, 2013 11:10PM
Good teams find it hard to win when they make mistakes. Great teams overcome them.
The University of St. Francis overcame a multitude of mistakes to post a 43-26 season-opening road win over Olivet Nazarene University on Saturday in Bourbonnais.
A 76-yard fumble return for a touchdown for Olivet, a pair of Saints penalties that resulted in eight points, and three missed conversion attempts were the glaring miscues by the Saints, who beat Olivet Nazarene for the fifth straight time.
Offsetting those mistakes was the play of senior quarterback E.J. White, who completed 23-of-29 passes for a school-record 429 yards and record-tying six touchdowns. He also ran for 95 yards on 19 carries, giving him 524 total yards.
“We were real sloppy to begin with and had breaks go against us,” Saints coach Joe Curry said. “I was real fearful that would come back and bite us. But our kids played the best fourth quarter in the last two years at least.”
Trailing 26-21, the Saints scored 22 points and forced two turnovers in the last 8:35 to win their season opener for the third year in a row.
“We’ve been through it before so it’s nothing we’re not used to,” White said. “Nobody was down on each other. We moved the ball on them the whole time.”
Near the end of the first half, Elliot Allen (4 catches, 167 yards) was running free for what appeared to be a 91-yard touchdown that would have given the Saints a 25-17 lead at the half. However, he was called for taunting and the Saints ended up settling for a 34-yard field goal by Jordan Patch and a 21-17 lead at the half.
“It’s hard to overcome turnovers and mistakes, but our team rallied around each other and helped each other,” White said.
With the Saints leading 21-20 early in the fourth quarter, the defense appeared to come up with a stop at its goal line. However, a pass-interference call on third down gave Olivet a fresh set of downs and it took advantage to score a touchdown and take a 26-21 lead with 13:55 left in the game.
St. Francis responded with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by White’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Dustin Greenwell.
Luke Gundersen caught a 2-point conversion to make it 29-26 with 8:35 to play in the game.
Jesse Hogan recovered a fumble on the Saints’ 36 on the Tigers’ next possession to give the ball and momentum back to the visitors. Three plays later, Trace Wanless caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from White with 4:38 left in the game. It gave St. Francis a 36-26 lead and White the record for passing yards in a game.
Jamal Graham’s fumble recovery at the Olivet 21 set up the final score — a 1-yard touchdown pass to John Magee.
“That fourth quarter, it was great to trust my receivers they would run the routes they did and make a couple of guys miss,” White said.
“He’s been here five years and you always count on your fifth-year players to do things for you,” Curry said. “He played a heckuva ballgame for us tonight.”