FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Things just snowballed all day for St. Ambrose.
A 19-point first-quarter deficit became 39 by halftime, leading to a 60-14 loss to top-ranked and two-time defending national champion Saint Francis (Ind.) Saturday at Bishop John M. D'Arcy Stadium.
"They dominated the football game in every way," St. Ambrose head coach Mike Magistrelli said. "We didn't come out ready to compete. I don't know if we were overwhelmed by the situation, but it just snowballed on us. Complete domination."
It's the second-worst margin of defeat for the Fighting Bees under Magistrelli and their largest since 2008, a 52-0 loss to NCAA Division I FCS South Dakota.
"I thought we'd respond better to the situation. I thought because we were a young team we didn't really care if they were No. 1, but we seemed overwhelmed, part by them and part by the moment," Magistrelli said. "They are good. They don't have any holes. They know they're good, and they're relentless and suffocating."
Saint Francis (3-0) jumped out to a 19-0 lead after the first quarter, which included a safety from the Cougars defense.
Jake Osterberger cut the lead to 19-7 with a 4-yard touchdown catch from Jake Romani, but Saint Francis put the game out of reach by taking advantage of a string of St. Ambrose (2-1) miscues.
After the Cougars took a 26-7 lead, a punt from Adam Sigwarth was blocked by Saint Francis, and Matt Crable threw a touchdown pass to Rocky James on the game's next play to up the lead to 32-7.
P.J. Dean broke off a 76-yard touchdown run on the Cougars' next drive, then Wilmer Cole intercepted Romani and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 46-7 at halftime.
"The only thing we were consistent at was being consistently poor," Magistrelli said. "We just struggled. They dominated the line of scrimmages, and it would be one thing if one phase played well, we struggled in all three phases, and that's a result of what's going to happen against a top-caliber opponent like that when you do struggle like we did."
The Bees gave up 682 total yards and only mustered 144, minus-29 yards rushing.
Romani finished with 142 passing yards and two touchdowns, the second one a 38-yard pass to Hunter Thompson to make the score 53-14.
St. Ambrose now looks to turn the page to next week's game against Missouri Baptist and avoid a similar skid like it suffered last year. Last year's loss to the Cougars triggered a five-game losing streak, resulting in a 4-6 season.
"We talked on the field after the game and I said, 'By the time get to the locker room I'll have moved on to Mo Bap and you guys have to do the same,'" Magistrelli said. "We've got to have all of our focus and concentration moving forward."