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Photos by Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Saint Francis quarterback Josh Miller carries the ball in the first half. He didn’t play in the second half.
Saint Francis 39, Wisconsin-Stevens Point 31

Cougars in sync for half

Backup rallies team to win in home opener

Saint Francis’ Antoin Campbell rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries Saturday.
Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Saint Francis punter Kollin Carman is unable to recover a bad snap Saturday.

– In its 39-31 home-opening win Saturday at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium, Saint Francis was certainly in a hole but never in a funk.

Saint Francis trailed at halftime by five points to Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and in a nutshell, here’s why: The Cougars’ defense was hitting hard, but often tackling the wrong player. On a punt situation deep in Saint Francis territory, there was a snap over the punter’s head that Stevens Point recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. The Pointers had gains of 10 yards or longer 10 times, while in comparison, Saint Francis managed just 1 yard in the first nine plays of the second period.

And two more things added to the Cougars’ woes as the second half began: Starting quarterback Josh Miller sat out the rest of the game after complaining of dizziness; and it started to rain.

“It was like a morgue in the first half,” Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said. “I was waiting for the Philharmonic to come in.

“I said we have to change the environment of this whole stadium in the second half, and we did that. Our kids really have a lot of character and made plays.”

And those plays led to Saint Francis’ victory.

The defense that was out of sync in the first half repeatedly stoned the Pointers in the second. When Saint Francis had to punt, every long snap was on the money.

And quarterback David Yoder – backup or third string, doesn’t matter – completed 14 of 18 passes and led the Cougars to three second-half touchdown drives, which included a 1-yard run for the junior from Goshen.

“Miller had a concussion in the second quarter,” Donley said. “We didn’t find out until the half. (Reserve Wes) Hunsucker was coming back from a wrist injury, but Yoder, it was his time today.”

Was it ever.

Although his first drive was stalled at the Stevens Point 4-yard line when Donley eschewed a field goal, and the next was punted away, Yoder led the Cougars on a scoring drive that ended with him leaning over from the 1-yard line and the ball resting squarely on the numbers of offensive lineman Zach Greiner’s 68.

From there, Yoder got better. He completed five straight passes on a 74-yard drive that had Kyle Mathewson scoring from the 10. Then he hit 2 of 3 that ended with Mathewson again, this time from the 1.

“I went in and did what I could,” Yoder said. “We were down five points. It’s not a big hill to climb. We got a little momentum before halftime (on Antoin Campbell’s touchdown run). It was easy going out there executing plays and everybody making me look good.”

Quarterbacks coach Al Harants said Miller approached him and complained of dizziness.

“He says, ‘I’m having a hard time focusing,’ ” Harants said. “That’s when we called the trainer over.”

While Yoder was the offensive solution, there was still the defense to change.

“Our heads were in the backfield,” said linebacker Brody Kalbaugh, who led the team with 12 tackles. “We weren’t reading our keys. Everyone was biting on the run. They had a good quarterback (Mitch Beau, 303 total yards) who ran the ball, and we all bit on the dive.

“At halftime we came in and realized, ‘Hey, we’ve got to step this up.’ We overcame adversity.”