FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The University of Saint Francis Cougars (1-0) kicked off the 2021 season Saturday evening when they traveled to Campbellsville, Illinois to face the Judson University Eagles (0-3), and propelled by five first half touchdowns, prevailed 45-34.
After just missing out on the MSFA playoffs last spring, the Cougars came out strong on all facets of the game. They started the game with the ball and junior quarterback Heath Simmons guided them down the field. A seven-play drive ended with running back Will Homan rushing for one yard to score the first touchdown of the season for Saint Francis to go up 7-0.
A quick three and out forced the ball back to the Cougars who took advantage. Simmons found tight end Jay Segal at the seven-yard line who connected for the second touchdown in as many possessions as Saint Francis extended their lead to 14-0 halfway through the first half.
Both teams then missed out on their next drives, and with the Eagles now with the ball they enjoyed a successful series themselves finishing in the end zone after eight plays to cut the lead in half as the first quarter ended with the Cougars leading 14-7.
During the second quarter, the Cougars enjoyed a score on three consecutive drives, the first coming on a four-yard run by running back Cameron Peterson. After forcing another three and out from the Eagles, Simmons connected with Segal again for a three-yard touchdown pass for the duo’s second of the game.
On defense, consecutive sacks by Ethan Theurer and Alfred Moore forced a punt, which was blocked. What followed was sophomore defensive back Luke Owens pouncing on the loose ball ending up in the endzone for another score for the Cougars and Owens’ first career touchdown.
Now ahead 35-7 with 2:18 left in the first half, the Cougars were in full throttle, but the Eagles didn’t get discouraged. They scored on the next drive and then recovered an onside kick to get one last score in before halftime, putting up 14 points in the last two minutes of the frame as the game went to halftime with Saint Francis still leading 35-21.
The Eagles started with the ball in the second half and produced another successful drive. They ended with a rushing touchdown after 12 plays to suddenly make it a one-possession game. No more scoring was done in the frame as the fourth quarter began with the Cougars clinging to a seven-point lead.
Two plays into the final frame, kicker Jack James kicked a 36-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10 points. After that the Eagles ran the ball back with a nine-play drive, and with their lead in jeopardy, Simmons remained poised and marched his offense downfield. Homan then ran the ball in at the one-yard line for his second rushing touchdown of the game giving Saint Francis their double-digit lead back.
Now with the game on the line, the Cougars defense stepped up. Defensive lineman Will Swartz forced a fumble and cornerback Damon Hunter pounced on it to give Saint Francis the ball back, and they never relinquished it.
With the win, the Cougars have now won their season opener every year since 2000.
“Heath played well for his first time at the wheel,” Head Coach Kevin Donley said on his junior quarterback. “We made some plays, managed well, and our boys will learn a great deal from the first game and will improve from tonight’s experience.”
Throughout the game, Simmons threw for 135 yards and couple touchdowns, Segal caught for 78 yards and two touchdowns, and Homan & Peterson ran the ball for a combined 218 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, Alfred Moore led the charge with a couple sacks for a total loss of 11 yards.
The Cougars will now travel to Chicago, Illinois next Saturday to face the Saint Xavier University Cougars (1-1) beginning at 1:00 pm.