JOLIET, Ill. -- Just 15 seconds was all it took for No. 3-ranked University to establish its superiority at the University of St. Francis in the Cougars season-opener on late Saturday afternoon.
P.J. Dean took the opening kickoff back 55 yards for the Cougars and a personal foul (facemask) added 15 yards to the USF (IL) 26-yard line. On the first play quarterback found Rocky James wide open for the first touchdown of the season and the Cougars rolled to a 56-6 win in their 22nd opening game.
Crable finished the first game of his junior season with a USF-record tying six touchdown passes to five different receivers leading the Cougars on offense to their 20th consecutive season-opening win. The Loveland, Ohio, native connected on an efficient 16-for-22 for 251 yards, 200 yards in the first half with four TD passes. No. 3, Crable's number, became the third player to throw for six TDs in a game joining Nick Ferrer, who did it four times, and Jeremy Hibbeln, who did it twice.
USF led 28-0 at halftime, 49-0 after three quarters after adding 21 points in the third quarter against a Fighting Saints team that lost at top-ranked Morningside College 80-0 last Saturday.
James caught a second Crable 13-yard TD strike in the second quarter that opened up that 28-0 lead. Casey Coll scored on a five-yard Crable pass for USF's second TD in the first quarter and Will Chrisman cradled another Crable toss from the USF (IL) 22-yard line for a 21-0 lead after the Gavin Gardner point-after kick.
After no time to warm up after a long walk from the Armory nearby Joliet Memorial Stadium, USF's Mitchell Thornbury forced a fumble on the first play and Blake Schumacher recovered at the Saints' 35-yard line. Crable threw a 35-yard pass to Duke Blackwell for the TD and a 35-0 lead just 38 seconds into the third quarter. Crable tied the record on an acrobatic catch by Matt Kominkiewicz for the 16-yard TD and a 42-0 lead.
Heath Simmons took over at QB on USF's next possession and he found Kominkiewicz in the end zone again for a 21-yard TD and Eli Wallace scored when he burrowed in from the two-yard line for a 56-0 lead with 9:01 to play in the fourth quarter.
USF's defense held USF (IL) All-American Brandon Ruffin to just 19 yards receiving on two receptions. He had 50 catches for 916 yards and 14 TDs in 2018.
"For the first game, our execution and energy was pretty good," USF Head Coach Kevin Donley observed after his 327th career win starting his 41st season as a collegiate head coach. "We got a good start with P.J.s long return and Matt's first pass was a TD to Rocky. Of course, there's always things to clean up after Game 1, but this was a good start. We got to play a lot of guys in game situations, which is always a plus."
Crable downplayed his record-tying performance.
"That's nice," he said when informed of his effort. "What was most important was our execution, our intensity, and making plays."
Like James, who caught four passes for 64 yards. Dan Ricksy didn't score, but he had five receptions for 63 yards. Crable and Simmons completed at least one pass to nine different receivers.
On defense Nick Lucas led USF with 10 tackles, six solo.
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