FORT WAYNE – With eye black smeared on his face and standing on an ankle that he admitted was still sore, Saint Francis quarterback Josh Miller offered a clear summarization of Saint Francis’ 21-0 win over Taylor on Saturday at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium.
Offensively, I know we can do a lot better. I hold ourselves to high standards, he said. I’m thankful that the defense played their tails off and made wonderful plays.
The offense struggled.
The defense was wonderful.
The win by the No. 6 Cougars, coupled with No. 5 Saint Xavier’s 23-6 victory over No. 1 Marian on Saturday, tossed the Mid-States Football Association’s Mideast League into a three-way tie – all with 4-1 conference records.
We shut ’em out, said safety Taylor Brown, who had 19 tackles. That’s the perfect game for us.
And Brown wasn’t even the star of the show.
Cornerback Kory Stamps grabbed three interceptions, including one for a 38-yard touchdown return, to lead the Cougars to their first home shutout since a 55-0 pasting of Iowa Wesleyan in the opening game of the 2009 season.
Defensive back Allen Richardson added a fourth pick.
There was the blocked punt by Jake Allen, recovered by Keith Harris at the Taylor 8-yard line, that set up Andre Turner’s 5-yard run to make it a 21-zip game with 10:13 still left in the first half.
There was the goal-line stand in which Taylor came up empty after a first-and-goal at the Saint Francis 5. Together, Brown and Stamps broke up a fourth-down pass.
And Taylor (3-6) didn’t help its cause early when a snap sailed over its punter’s head; the Cougars took over at the Trojans’ 15 and scored on Miller’s 5-yard run.
The contact level was a big factor, Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said. Our kids really did some smacking. I felt like (Taylor) didn’t want to be out there too long; they wanted to get it over with.
But Taylor did its share of smacking back, especially in the second half when the Cougars managed only 109 yards and all five offensive possessions resulted in punts by Kollin Carman, who was also noteworthy since he averaged 42 yards per kick and dropped four inside Taylor’s 20-yard line.
Yet the day especially belonged to the secondary, and Stamps, in particular.
We were against a passing team, so we knew we’d have a challenging week, Stamps said. Mission complete.
Pick No. 1 came at the midpoint of the first quarter when he stepped in front of Taylor’s intended receiver and took it back 38 yards – all on the Taylor side of the field.
I was inches away (from being out of bounds), Stamps said. I had to focus on where my feet were and catch the ball. Once that happened, I turned my body and sprinted. I don’t know how I did it. God was with me then.
No. 2 was in the end zone on a looping throw from Trojans quarterback Nick Freeman.
No. 3 came when Freeman fielded a low snap and chucked it to the Cougars’ 5-yard line.
The defense, we all trust in each other, Stamps said.
Note: With Saint Francis, Saint Xavier and Marian tied atop the Mideast League, the highest-ranked team in the final NAIA poll will receive the automatic bid in the playoffs. The two others will receive at-large bids.
Saint Francis concludes its regular season Saturday at Lindenwood, Saint Xavier plays at Robert Morris, and Marian completed its regular season.