Working on their night moves

Saint Francis has possession of the ball in the second quarter of Saturday's game against Concordia University. It was the first night football game in Saint Francis history.

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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Saint Francis quarterback Josh Miller breaks through the Concordia defense and scores a touchdown in the first quarter Saturday night.

Cougars lights out in victory

Whip Concordia in first-ever night game at D’Arcy Stadium

Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Saint Francis’ Antoin Campbell leaps over Concordia University’s Duantez Oliver to score in the second quarter Saturday night.

– Compared to the last time it played within the confines of Bishop D’Arcy Stadium, Saint Francis’ performance Saturday was as different as, well, night and day.

On a chilly homecoming night – with “night” being the definitive word, since it was the first evening kickoff in the school’s 14-plus years of football – Saturday’s version of the Cougars was the antithesis of the team that was stunned two weeks ago by Saint Ambrose, 15-14 – a game Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said his team should not have lost.

After chastising his team last week for not playing hard or smart in the loss two weeks ago, Donley had a different assessment after his troops’ 76-14 hammering of Concordia University.

“Our kids played awfully hard (Saturday),” Donley said. “We finished plays that we haven’t done in the first three weeks. … The most important thing is the kids came out and played hard for 60 minutes.”

The victory was also moved Donley into first place in all-time coaching victories in the NAIA with 257. He was tied with Dickinson State’s Hank Biesiot, whose team lost at Southern Oregon on Saturday, heading in.

“Obviously, it’s a neat thing. I’m proud of that,” Donley said. “I’ve been very blessed in my lifetime to come across a lot of great people that I’ve been able to coach and coach with.”

Except for a shaky offensive beginning, when Saint Francis didn’t score on its first two possessions (one drive stalled at the 9-yard line of the visiting Cardinals), the Cougars controlled Concordia (0-4) from nearly the outset.

As quickly as one could say “incandescent,” Saint Francis jumped on top 7-0 on Kory Stamps’ 30-yard interception return, just three minutes into the game. And that merely primed the pump toward a 35-7 halftime lead.

The seven points scored by Concordia were a late-half gift when USF backup quarterback David Yoder, on his first pass, was intercepted at the Cougars’ 32 with 42 seconds remaining. On the next play, Concordia scored its first touchdown.

Yoder’s appearance late in the half was an indication that starting quarterback Josh Miller’s night was over. Not only did Miller guide the Cougars to their significant halftime lead, but he also might have secured his status as the starter.

If there was an early question mark in the USF offense, it was Miller, who misfired on eight of his first nine passes, three of which were batted back by the Concordia defensive line.

But he ran in from the 4 to put the Cougars ahead 14-7, caught Austin Coleman in stride for a 38-yard touchdown pass, and engineered scoring drives of 88 and 70 yards before making way for Yoder.

“I don’t know if it was the long day or what, but I started off awfully slow,” Miller said. “I was kind of irritated with myself. After (the touchdown pass to Coleman), I buckled down and got down to business.”

The offensive wealth was well-distributed. Tailback Antoin Campbell had 142 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Coleman added an 81-yard kickoff return onto his touchdown catch. Miller finished with 156 yards passing, and Andre Turner burrowed his way to threes scores.