GREENVILLE, Ill. (csssaints.com) – The St. Scholastica football team used a 21-point second quarter to end NCAA Division III's second-longest winning streak and defeat Greenville College (Ill.) 27-21 on Saturday at Francis Field to capture the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) Championship for the third straight year.
The first three possessions saw punts from both teams. On Greenville's second possession, the Panthers converted a third-and-long and a fourth-and-3 on their way to the game's first points. Brendan Chambers found John Dudley for a 29-yard touchdown reception to make it 7-0 Greenville with three minutes left in the first quarter.
The Saints would get a big play with nine minutes left in the second quarter as Tyler Harper found Cory Gebhard for a 43-yard pitch-and-catch to tie the game at 7-7. After a Greenville punt, St. Scholastica got another big play when Harper connected with Josh Simmons for a 75-yard TD reception. A Mike Theismann point-after made it 14-7 Saints.
CSS would get one more score at the end of the half as Harper ran it in from 8 yards out with no time remaining to give St. Scholastica a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Saints out-gained Greenville 272-109 in the first half and held the nation's top rushing team to 62 yards on the ground. Harper was 13-of-20 for 201 yards through the air.
The Panthers got the ball first in the second half and drove the ball down to the St. Scholastica 10-yard-line. However Josh Frewin's 27-yard field goal attempt was wide right to keep the score in tact.
On the next Greenville possession, the Panthers faced a fourth-and-2 at the CSS 43-yard-line. They would be denied again by the Saints defense as Jake Turkowski made the tackle for no gain.
The Saints were at Greenville's 10-yard-line at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Panthers would get an interception in the end zone. The Panthers proceeded to march the ball down the field and Zibeon Washington's 5-yard TD run cut the lead to 21-14 with seven minutes left in the game.
However, the Saints answered on the ensuing possession as Simmons scored on an 8-yard TD run to make it 27-14 with 2:43 left. The PAT was blocked to keep the score at 27-14.
Greenville quickly went down the field and Chambers ran it in for a 9-yard score to make it 27-21. The drive lasted only one minute. The Saints would go three-and-out on the next possession and only took up 32 seconds of the clock.
The Panthers had a chance with a minute to go and advanced the ball to the St. Scholastica 45-yard-line. However, a holding call and four incompletions gave the Saints the game and title as CSS hung for the 27-21 victory.
The Saints finished the game with 414 yards of total offense, while holding Greenville to 394 yards. The Panthers had 208 yards on the ground, well below their 366.2 yards/game average.
Harper finished the game 18-for-30 passing for 274 yards and two scores. He also had 48 yards rushing and one TD. Simmons had four receptions for 139 yards. Jake Jensen was held to 51 yards on the ground. Alec French led the Saints defense with 13 tackles.
Chambers had 88 yards rushing and 186 yards passing for the Panthers (9-1, 8-1 UMAC). The Panthers came into the game with a 17-game winning streak, second only to Mount Union's 23-game streak. The Saints are on both ends of that winning streak. The last loss for Greenville, prior to today, came in Duluth in September of 2012.
For the Saints, it was their 14th consecutive UMAC road win. The last loss came at Martin Luther on September 25, 2010.
The Saints (9-1, 9-0 UMAC) will have to wait and see who they play in their third consecutive NCAA Playoff appearance. There is still one weekend of regular season play as the Saints have an open week next week. Who and where the Saints will play will be announced on Sunday, November 17th at 5 p.m. on NCAA.com.