JACKSONVILLE, Ill. – A snow-dusted field did not cool down the MacMurray College football team in a 34-20 win over St. Scholastica on Senior Day. The Highlanders tallied four interceptions in the contest, highlighted by two pick sixes.
Three of MacMurray's four INTs came in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore quarterback Bobby Tedesco was 8 of 18 for 224 yards, two passing touchdowns and one rushing TD.
Both Asa Donaldson and Marquez Ellison had solid performances in the run game on a slick field. Donaldson finished with 90 yards while Ellison added 70. Demetrius Curry led the MacMurray receivers with three receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Linebacker CJ O'Rourke put quite the exclamation mark on a stellar senior season with a career-high 18 total tackles. He also forced a fumble and had a 23-yard interception return. Classmate Gino Wendes contributed a 12-tackle performance.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Choosing to receive, MacMurray capitalized early on their fourth play from scrimmage. On a flea flicker, Tedesco found Curry, who stiff armed his defender at the 15-yard line, for a 74-yard touchdown. A failed PAT gave the Highlanders an early 6-0 lead.
On the ensuing possession, the Saints appeared to even the score with a 7-yard run. The TD was called back due to a penalty, and the Highlanders eventually stopped CSS at the 4-yard line.
A MacMurray fumble on the first play of the new drive gave the Saints the ball right back inside the 10-yard line. This time the visitors took advantage of the field position, as Zach Edwards found Aaron Olson for a touchdown. The PAT gave CSS a 7-6 lead with 9:14 remaining in the first.
St. Scholastica added to their lead on their next possession. A lob to Olson was tipped by himself, the defender and back to Olson for a 30-yard pass. O'Rourke added to his stat line by blocking the PAT, keeping the score at 13-6.
Forcing MacMurray to punt, the Saints were poised to add to their lead. Near midfield, Cash Owsley raced in front of Edwards's pass and returned it, untouched, for a 55-yard pick six. With 5:18 left in the quarter, Noah Sandoval's PAT was successful to even the score at 13.
The lone score of the second quarter came from Tedesco – a 3-yard run. The sophomore rushed for the 2-point conversion, pushing the hosts ahead, 21-13, at the half.
Devonta Preston extended MacMurray's lead on their first possession of the third quarter. Tedesco connected with Preston for a 56-yard catch-and-run, where Preston broke two tackles inside the 10-yard line. Following Sandoval's PAT, the Highlanders held a 28-13 lead.
St. Scholastica responded with a 41-yard TD pass to Olson – his third of the day – cutting the MacMurray advantage to eight points heading into the fourth.
CSS knocked on the door, ready to slim the Highlander lead. At the MacMurray 1-yard line, O'Rourke forced a fumble, allowing Wendes to pounce on the loose ball in the end zone for a goal line stop.
Midway through the fourth, CSS looked to rebound from their goal line turnover, starting their drive on the MacMurray 48. Ezechukwu Nwagbaraji had other ideas, stepping in front of Edwards's pass for MC's second interception of the afternoon.
With under three minutes on the clock, St. Scholastica once again found themselves in Highlander territory. Desperate for a stop, Chris Blanchard had his moment on Senior Day, with MacMurray's second pick six of the game. Blanchard's 75-yard INT return was aided by a beautiful block downfield by Javon Muhammad. Despite a failed PAT, the Highlanders went ahead, 34-20, with 2:47 on the clock.
O'Rourke iced the game with an interception on the next CSS possession.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
Four interceptions was the most for MacMurray since a 49-13 win over Minnesota Morris (10/14/17).
Muhammad finished the day with 4.5 TFLs, including 3.5 sacks, to go along with six pass breakups. The senior concludes the year with 32.0 TFLs and 16.5 sacks – both categories he was leading the NCAA in all divisions (FBS, FCS, II and III) heading into Saturday's game.
This was MacMurray's second straight win over St. Scholastica. In 2017, the Highlanders picked up their first-ever win over the Saints.
With 18 tackles, O'Rourke led the team with 94 total tackles this season, third most in the UMAC.
QUOTES FROM THE COACH
"This was such a great way to send these seniors out," said head coach Chris Douglas. "It's always nice to end the season with a win, especially playing the way we did."
Prior to the game, MacMurray honored its large senior class – Blanchard, Muhammad, Wendes, Preston, Ellison, Owsley, Nwagbaraji, O'Rourke, Christian Valdez, Brendan Pfister, Austen Manley, Anthony Fowler, Nick Valentine, Nathan Randall, Willie Mieles, Zach Reische and Trenton Harrelson.
This class has compiled a 29-10 record over their time at MacMurray.
MacMurray concludes the 2018 season at 7-2 overall, 7-1 in the UMAC, including a spotless 4-0 record at home. It marks the fourth straight season the Highlanders finished above .500, and was their best conference record since joining the UMAC in 2009.