DAVENPORT, Iowa — Time was an ally for University of Saint Francis quarterback Nick Ferrer in the No. 1 Cougars’ 49-21 win at 23rd-ranked Saint Ambrose on Saturday afternoon.
With the temperature climbing into the high 80s on a summer-like afternoon at Brady Street Stadium, USF put the heat on the Fighting Bees early scoring the first two touchdowns of the game, weathered a scoring dual through the second quarter, then kept SAU off the scoreboard in the second half to move USF Head Coach into a tie for 11th place for career wins not to mention a Dan Ricksy record-tying performance.
The USF offensive line gave Ferrer time to find open receivers, especially in the first half when the senior right-handed QB wasted little time setting a new USF career high for TD passes. Ferrer entered the game needing four TD passes to pass for USF connected and with the help of the USF defense, he took advantage of the new, unexpected opportunity to rewrite the career TD passes record. His 35-yard pass was snared by Ricksy to give Ferrer the record with 49 seconds left to play in the half. USF led 35-21 at halftime.
Ferrer left former Cougar QB Jeremy Hibbeln (1998-01) No. 2 on the USF career TD passing list with 107. Ferrer added two more TD passes in the second half — one for 39 yards to Ricksy and the other to Nate Carson — to finish with six, his third six-TD passes game for the Cougars. It tied the single-game record set by Hibbeln (twice). The last connection was the fourth TD reception for Ricksy and it tied the record set by Jeremy Dutcher (1998-00) in two different games.
Leading 28-21, Ferrer was sacked, fumbled, and SAU recovered at its 28-yard line. On the third play of the SAU possession, Ryan Johnson forced the fumble with a solid shoulder tackle and Lee Stewart III recovered at the SAU 35. Ferrer found Ricksy on the first play of the drive and SAU never recovered
“That was really big,” Stewart recalled. “They had scored on three consecutive possessions, so we had to make a play on defense, I was just blessed to it was suddenly right there and all I had to do was fall on it. It was definitely and blessing.”
“That’s what we do and thankful defense got the turnover to give me a second chance late in the first half,” Ferrer said. “Dan made some big plays out there today, the O line gave me time to find the open receivers, you’ve got to have all those things in sync to win against a quality opponent, and we did. I can’t do it without the help of everybody and it was nice to win here today at the site of my first career start.”
Saturday Ferrer started his 32nd game and earned his 28th win as a starter. He finished with a personal best 508 yards passing and has thrown for at least two TD passes in 29 consecutive games. And he crossed the 9,000 career yards passing plateau and has 9,403 yards, which ranks fifth in Mid-States Football Association history.
Ferrer connected with 10 difference receivers and three finished with 100+ yards receiving — Ricksy with 169 yards (11 receptions), James with 134 (6 receptions) and Sean Boswell with 104 (6 receptions).
In case you were wondering about the USF running game, junior Justin Green had it under control rushing for 162 yards on 23 carries for USF.
Defensively, Piercen Harnish had 13 solo tackles, one sack and four tackles-for-loss for 10 yards. Wilmer Cole had 10 tackles, Stewart had an interception and Blake Schumacher had a fumble recovery.
USF improved to 8-1 as the NAIA No. 1-ranked team after notching its 12th consecutive win dating back to 2016.