JOLIET – The rain and wind arrived at halftime, to such a degree that the stands were cleared and the start of the second half was delayed for a while.
The thing was, the rain never stopped and the wind did not subside much if at all.
After University of St. Francis led its nonconference homecoming foe Missouri S&T 30-28 after a wild first half Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, the second half was a different game.
With Deshawn Jones rushing for 275 yards in 30 carries, a 9.2 average, and four touchdowns, the NCAA Division II-affiliated Miners (4-2) ran away from the Saints in the final 30 minutes and left town with a 52-30 victory.
“That’s the story between the NAIA and D-II,” St. Francis coach Joe Curry said. “We have a lot of guys who can play D-II or even D-I, but up front, they [good D-II teams] just line up and beat on you. They ran the ball better than we did in the second half. That was it.”
The Saints (1-4) struck in one play throughout the first half. The touchdowns came on Lexus Jackson’s 56-yard punt return, Jackson’s 75-yard run and Aaron Ellis’ 69- and 29-yard touchdown passes to Brandon Ruffin.
Excluding Jackson’s scoring run from scrimmage, USF managed a net of 28 yards on the ground. But that run will be discussed for a long time.
Jackson ran a jet sweep to the left sideline. A defender came up and laid a hit on him, but he bounced off, stayed inbounds, reversed his field, cut through a seam and suddenly was in the clear.
“A play like that is all instinct,” Jackson said. “The safety came up and hit me hard, threw his body into me, but he didn’t wrap up, and I bounced off. Then I saw Brandon Ruffin and Josh McCaskel throws blocks, and I hit.”
Jackson’s punt return for a score was the first for the Saints this season, and he reminded Curry of a promise.
“Last year coach had a taco night for us when we got our first special teams touchdown and he said he would again,” a smiling Jackson said, talking loud enough for Curry to hear. “It’s taco night Monday night.”
“I forgot about that,” Curry said. “I guess we’ll have to do it.”
Ruffin, meanwhile, finished with five catches for 158 yards. He did catch a 49-yard strike from Ellis down the left sideline in the difficult conditions of the second half but was prevented from turning it into another long touchdown by a shoestring tackle.
“Guys like Brandon and Lexus always have been playmakers,” Curry said. “They couldn’t cover Brandon on his post routes in the first half, and we would have liked to keep going there, but we couldn’t.”
Lexus Jackson’s punt return for a touchdown was St. Francis’ first special team scores of the season. His 75-yard touchdown run was a work of art – as was suggested, worthy of an ESPN highlight reel.
Missouri S&T 21 7 14 10 - 52
St. Francis 13 17 0 0 - 30
First: M - Jones 3 run (Styron kick) 12:01
First: USF - Jackson 56 punt return (kick failed) 5:08
First: M - Brown 39 pass from Swart (Styron kick) 2:28
First: USF - Jackson 75 run (Nelson kick) 2:13
First: M - Armontrout 19 pass from Swart (Styron kick) 0:57
Second: USF - Ruffin 69 pass from Ellis (Nelson kick) 13:52
Second: USF - Ruffin 29 pass from Ellis (Nelson kick) 13:30
Second: M - Jones 27 run (Styron kick) 7:36
Second: USF - Nelson 25 FG 0:55
Third: M - Jones 32 run (Styron kick) 5:05
Third: M - Jones 69 run (Styron kick) 1:37
Fourth: M - Wilkes 1 pass from Wart (Styron kick) 12:55
Fourth: M - Styron 22 FG 1:21
First downs - M 23, USF 14; yards rushing - M 306, USF 103; yards passing - M 225, USF 222; total yards - M 531, USF 325; fumbles lost M 3, USF 0; penalties - M 6-40, USF 4-38.
Rushing: M - Jones 30-275, West 10-29, Simms 1-1, Swart 5-14; USF - Jackson 3-81, Barbarin 14-27, Smith 13-22, Vallot 1-6, Ellis 13-minus 32, Team 1-minus 1.
Passing: M - Swart 14-28-0i-225, Simms 0-1-0i-0; USF Ellis 11-23-2i-222, Barbarin 0-1-0i-0.
Receiving: M - Vaughn 5-66, Jones 3-67, Brown 2-37, Griffin 1-29, Armontrout 1-19, West 1-6, Wilkes 1-1; USF - Ruffin 5-158, Moreno 4-26, Pietrzak 1-26, Vallot 1-12.