JOLIET, Ill. – Deshawn Jones (Olympia Fields, IL/Rich Central) was going to make certain that his homecoming to the Chicago area Saturday was not going to be ruined by the weather or the Saint Francis defense.
Jones rushed for a school and Great Lakes Valley Conference record 275 yards and four touchdowns as the Miners overcame a wild first half to down Saint Francis (Ill.) 52-30 for their fourth consecutive win away from home in as many weeks.
The Miners trailed 30-28 at the intermission, then once the second half began – following a short weather delay when heavy rain and wind arrived right before the half was set to start – Jones and the Miner rushing attack took control of the contest with the conditions taking the passing game out of the equation.
After S&T punted on its first two second half possessions, Jones handled the ball on five of the six plays of the Miners' go-ahead drive, including a 24-yard reception to help them escape from deep in their own territory and finishing the drive with a 32-yard touchdown run.
The next time the Miners got the ball after a Saint punt, Jones raced 69 yards for his fourth touchdown of the afternoon that gave S&T its first two-possession lead of the game.
That burst would be all the Miners would really need – although the Miners got points in the fourth quarter on a one-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Swart (Dickinson, TX/Dickinson) to Lamar Wilkes(Maryland Heights, MO/Pattonville) and a 22-yard field goal by Ben Styron (Harrisonville, MO/Harrisonville) – as the S&T defense held the Saints to just 59 total yards in the second half and held an opponent scoreless after halftime for the third consecutive week.
Jones started the scoring in a back-and-forth first half as he completed a 36-yard drive – set up by a Landon Compton (Lamar, MO/Lamar) interception on USF's first series – with a three-yard scoring run. However, the Saints answered back when Lexus Jackson returned a punt 55 yards for a score; Luke Nelson missed the extra point to keep the Miners in the lead.
Swart connected with Josh Brown (Gainesville, FL/North Marion HS) on a 39-yard scoring pass late in the first quarter, but the Saints scored on their next play from scrimmage when Jackson ran 75 yards for a touchdown. Swart threw another scoring pass, covering 19 yards to Logan Armontrout(Centralia, MO/Centralia), in the final minute of the opening quarter while S&T had the wind at its back.
But in the early moments of the second quarter, the Saints scored twice in a span of 22 seconds on a pair of quick strikes from Aaron Ellis to Brandon Ruffin. The first touchdown pass covered 69 yards that cut the Miner lead to one, then following a fumble right after the kickoff, Ruffin hauled in a 29-yard pass that gave USF its first lead at 27-21.
Jones scored again on a 27-yard run midway through the quarter to put the Miners back into the lead, but an S&T turnover in its own territory later in the half led to a 25-yard field goal by Nelson that gave the Saints their halftime advantage. Saint Francis had a first-and-goal at the S&T five-yard line but was held to the field goal by the Miner defense.
The Miner sophomore, who currently leads the GLVC in rushing, broke the S&T record of 227 yards by Steve Kubiak that had stood since 1970 and the league mark of 258 set by Southwest Baptist's Bubba Jenkins two seasons ago. It is also the third-most by a running back posted by a running back at the NCAA Division II level this season based on games played through Friday.
Jones' 342 all-purpose yards was also the second-most in Miner history and the fifth-best total in a game in the five-plus seasons of GLVC football. In addition, Jones' four touchdowns – both overall and on the ground – tied the Miner single-game record in that category.
As a team, the Miners' 306 rushing yards was their most in nearly a year as they ran for 311 in last season's victory over Lincoln.
While the Miner offense garnered most of the headlines Saturday, the defensive unit played a big role in the win by shutting the Saints (1-4) down in the second half. The Miners got an interception from Zach Gallina (Vista, CA/Rancho Buena Vista) to go along with the one from Compton, who led the defense with 12 tackles and two for a loss.
The Miners (4-2) recorded six sacks in the game and 10 stops for a loss on Saturday.
S&T will play one more game away in this stretch from home before returning to Allgood-Bailey Stadium, as it will face Lincoln next Saturday in a 3:30 p.m. contest in Jefferson City, Mo.