The Gustavus football team struggled to find the end zone in its home opener on Saturday afternoon in St. Peter, Minn., falling to non-conference opponent Mayville State University by the score of 9-6. As the box score would indicate, it was a defensive battle from start to finish. Gustavus was held to just 134 total yards, as Mayville State kept the Gustie offense off balance throughout the afternoon. The Gusties fall to 0-2 on the season, while Mayville State improves to 3-1.
The Comets came into the contest with one game plan in mind – pound the rock and limit big plays. A strategy they didn't stray from and one that turned out to be a winner.
"Hats off to Mayville, they were a physical bunch. Their corners played a lot of man, they crowded the box and we didn't run the ball today like we did a week ago. We've got to give them a lot of credit," said Head Coach Peter Haugen.
The Gusties grabbed a 6-0 lead by the end of the third quarter on a pair of Tom Huepenbecker field goals. Following a Mayville sack on third down, Heupenbecker nailed a 42-yard field goal (3-0) to put the first points on the scoreboard. The field goal is the longest of the junior's career. Five minutes later, following another third down sack, Huepenbecker kicked through his second 40-yarder of the game, this time from 41 yards out.
The two first quarter kicks would be the last points Gustavus would score in the game. The two squads headed to the locker rooms with Gustavus in the lead 6-0. The Gusties ran the ball 23 times for 41 yards (1.8 ypr), as quarterback Logan Becker was 5-for-11 for 43 yards passing in the frame. Mayville picked up 63 yards on 17 carries (3.7 ypr) and threw once for one yard.
Following a three-and-out on Gustavus' first possession of the half, Mayville went to work on the ground, putting together a 39-yard drive that ate up 6:54 of the clock. After being pinned at their own ten-yard-line by a Comet punt, the Gusties were called for intentional grounding in the end zone and Mayville earned two points, cutting the lead to 6-2, on the safety.
Succeeding the safety, the Comets put together a 17-play, 81-yard grind-it-out drive that lasted 10:50 and resulted in a one-yard touchdown. After 16 straight running plays that moved the ball to the Gustavus one-yard-line, Comet quarterback Jake McLain went to the air, finding fullback Caleb Loy on a play-action dive for the touchdown. McLain was 3-for-8 for just 16 yards passing in the game, adding 76 yards on 22 carries (3.5 ypr) on the ground.
"They called a great game. We were rotating guys the best we could, but that was a really impressive drive," complimented Haugen.
The Gustavus offense never recovered from the safety, turning the ball over on downs in its remaining three possessions of the game.
"Offensively, we had a really tough day," commented Haugen on Gustavus' offensive performance. "We have to get better at getting into third down and manageable situations. The offense just isn't built to handle the situations we put ourselves in today."
The Gustavus offense was 3-for-13 on third down conversions and 1-for-4 on fourth down. The Gusties gained 59 yards rushing and 75 yards passing in the game.
Leading the Gusties on the ground was Jeffrey Dubose, picking up 38 yards on 13 carries (2.9 ypr). Logan Becker was sacked three times and finished 9-for-24 for 75 yards through the air. Elliott Herdina led the team in receiving with 35 yards on three catches.
"You have got to give a lot of credit to our defense today. They were on the field a lot," said Haugen. "We certainly played well enough defensively to win."
Of the 11 Mayville State possessions in the game, the Gusties defense was able to force five three-and-outs and one turnover on downs. The defense was led by linebacker Alec Saunders, who made a career-high 15 tackles (5 solo, 10 asst.).
The Comets gained 196 total yards and won the time of possession battle 36:04 to 23:56. Jerril Jenkins led all rushers in the game, running 24 times for 94 yards (3.9 ypr).
The Gustavus football team will re-group and gear up for the start of the MIAC season this upcoming Saturday, Sept. 24, when it travels to Northfield, Minn. to take on St. Olaf at 1:00 p.m
"We are looking forward to St. Olaf. You've got to bounce back. It was a tough loss today, but our guys will respond and are going to be fired up for our first conference game," said Haugen.
- With three catches in Saturday's game with Mayville State University, Elliott Herdina surpassed the 100-recpetion milestone for his career. The senior from Blooming Prairies is the eighth player in Gustavus history to log 100 catches. He sits in seventh place all-time with 101 catches, surpassing Todd Raarup who tallied 100.