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Posted on Mon. Nov. 25, 2013 - 12:30 am EDT

Cougars relish chance to play No. 1 Patriots

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Saint Francis

at Cumberlands

What: NAIA quarterfinals

Where: Williamsburg, Ky.

When: Noon Saturday

Radio: 1450 AM

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FORT WAYNE — So now the Saint Francis Cougars get No. 1.

The Cougars (9-2) will play at top-ranked University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the NAIA football playoffs. Cumberlands is 11-0 and finished the regular season ranked No. 1 after Morningside (Iowa), which had been No. 1 for the first nine weeks, lost to Northwestern (Iowa) 38-28.

This will be the second time Cumberlands and Saint Francis have played in the NAIA playoffs. The Cougars won the previous meeting 31-20 in 2008 at Bishop John M. D’Arcy Stadium.

“Not really a surprise,” Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said. “I knew we were either going south or west.

“I look forward to the opportunity to go against the No. 1 team in the country. It’ll be a great opportunity for us.”

Saint Francis has won six times in the quarterfinals, while Cumberlands is searching for its first quarterfinals victory. The Patriots, out of Williamsburg, Ky., rank second in the NAIA in scoring with 48.3 poinst per game, fifth in total offense with 487.1 yards per game and first in rushing offense with 362.1 yards per game. They’re averaging 6.6 yards per rush.

“They have been under center triple option, and I also understand they’ve got a little bit of a spread as well,” Donley said. “Got a running back that’s supposed to be a pretty high-round draft choice.”

Freshman quarterback Adam Craig leads Cumberlands with 821 yards and 21 touchdowns, and he has lots of help. Seven Cumberlands players have rushed for 300 yards. Two (Hunter Lewis and D’Angelo Jordan) average 9 and 8.5 yards per rush, and two more (Iquan Deed and quarterback Randy Maynard) average 7.8 and 7.1.

Saint Francis has seen this kind of look before, against triple-option William Penn in the season opener. What separates the Patriots, however, is they aren’t strictly a triple-option team.

“It’s a lot of the same stuff (as William Penn), and in addition they’ll get back in the shotgun with the spread option, and a little wing T,” Donley says. “So they have a lot of preparation things for us to deal with.”

Cumberlands advanced to the quarterfinals with a 56-28 victory over Saint Ambrose in the first round Saturday. Saint Francis advanced with a 20-13 win over Faulkner (Ala.).

bensmith@jg.net


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