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College football preview: Saint Xavier at Saint Francis

Records: No. 4 Cougars (3-1, 1-0 MSFA Mideast); No. 10 Saint Xavier (3-2, 0-1 MSFA Midwest)

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Bishop John M. D’Arcy Stadium

Radio: 1450 AM

3 matchups to watch

Saint Xavier DBs vs. Saint Francis WRs: Cougars starting quarterback Josh Miller has gotten knocked out of the last two games. But the Saint Francis passing game kept humming last week thanks to backup David Yoder, who threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns, and the Cougars receiving corps, which finds ways to get open. Four Cougars receivers (Cam Smith, Aaron Knight, Akeim Kelsaw and Matt Noll) have at least 10 catches, and six have caught at least one touchdown reception. That will be a test for a Saint Xavier secondary that has intercepted just two passes this season and is giving up 270.6 passing yards per game and 13.4 yards per catch. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 62.3 percent of their throws.

Saint Xavier front seven vs. Saint Francis OL: If Miller and/or Yoder have plenty of targets to choose from, they’ll likely need to find them quickly. The Saint Xavier pass rush has recorded 14 sacks this year, led by defensive lineman Greg Hayward’s 3 1/2 , defensive lineman Austin Copley’s 2 1/2 and linebacker Zach Dolph’s 2 1/2 . The Saint Xavier defense has a habit of getting into opponents’ backfields generally; led by Hayward (7 1/2 ) and Copley (5), the Cougars have made 37 tackles for loss for a combined minus-139 yards in five games. That will be a major challenge for a Saint Francis offensive line that has given up 11 sacks and 22 tackles for loss.

Saint Francis DBs vs. Saint Xavier QBs: Like Saint Francis, Saint Xavier has employed two quarterbacks this year – John Rhode and Joe Gill – and both have shown a tendency to throw the occasional ball to the wrong jersey. Combined, they’ve thrown eight touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, or better than two per game. Saint Francis has intercepted just four passes this season, but look the Cougars to come up with at least one pick tonight. And one turnover might turn a game that’s expected to be tight.

bensmith@jg.net

– Ben Smith, The Journal Gazette

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