The Gustavus football team battled to the end yet could not keep Bethel out of the end zone late in the game, as the Gusties fell 41-27 on Saturday afternoon in St. Peter, Minn. Gustavus drops to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the MIAC with the loss, while Bethel improves to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the MIAC with the victory.
Going by Bethel's opening two drives of the contest, the game looked to be headed for a rout. Bethel running back Brandon Marquart broke free for a 75-yard touchdown run on the Royals' second offensive play of the game, and Jesse Phenow added a 46-yard touchdown scamper on their next drive to put the Royals up 13-0.
The Gusties got on the board at the 14:29 mark of the second quarter when Tom Huepenbecker knocked in a 29-yard field goal to cut the lead to 13-3.
Bethel went right back to work on its next possession, scoring a touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Josh Aakre to Alex Wright to take a 20-3 lead following the extra point.
Gustavus got the offensive spark it needed on the first play of the ensuing drive. Muresuk Mena took advantage of single-coverage on the outside, getting open for a 35-yard reception that led to a three-yard touchdown plunge by running back Phillip Butler.
Down 20-10 late in the second quarter, Gustavus gained another short-field opportunity following a muffed punt. The offensive line provided another surge on the goal line, opening up space for Butler to go up-and-over the pile for his second touchdown of the game (20-17). Butler was Gustavus' leading rusher in the game, finishing with 47 yards on 17 carries (2.8 ypr).
The Gusties carried the momentum into the second half, tying the game at 20-20 on a 34-yard field goal by Huepenbecker. Huepenbecker was 2-for-2 on field goal tries, while pinning Bethel down inside the 20-yard-line on two punts.
Bethel got back to playing its style of game on the next possession, going 67 yards on 12 plays to take a 27-20 lead at the 5:26 mark of the third quarter. Aakre recorded his second touchdown pass of the game on the score, hitting Jared Schultz on fourth down from the four-yard-line.
Gustavus' only turnover of the day turned out to be a costly one, as the Royals took advantage of a Butler fumble on their next possession and turned the give-away into seven points to gain a 34-20 advantage with 13:17 left in the game.
The Gustie defense forced a Bethel punt late in the fourth quarter and took control of the ball on the two-yard-line with 6:41 left to play. After picking up a pair of first downs, quarterback Logan Becker hit Andre Creighton with a 68-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead to 34-27 after Huepenbecker's extra point. Creighton led all receivers in the game with 91 yards on five catches.
The Bethel offense was not phased by the big-play touchown, putting together a seven play 52-yard scoring drive on its next drive. Josh Aakre made his biggest throw of the game facing a third down and 13, hitting Marquart on a 33-yard touchdown strike that put the game out of reach at 41-27 with 1:39 on the clock.
The Royals racked up 458 yards of total offense in the game. Aakre was 12-of-14 for 168 yards and three touchdowns in the passing game, hooking up with three different receivers for points. Brandon Marquart and Jesse Phenow each went over 100 yards in the running game. Marquart ran for 143 yards with two touchdowns, while Phenow totaled 120 yards and added another touchdown.
Gustavus outside linebacker Joe Haas led all defensive players with a game-high 16 tackles (9 solo, 7 asst.).
Gustavus quarterback Logan Becker went 18-for-26 for 208 yards and one touchdown in the passing game. Muresuk Mena made four catches for 61 yards, while Elliott Herdina made three grabs for 25 yards.
The Gusties turned in their best red-zone performance of the season, going 4-for-4 on scoring chances with two touchdowns and two field goals. Bethel was 2-for-2 inside red-zone with two touchdowns, staying true to its NCAA second-ranked scoring percentage inside the 20-yard-line.
The Gustavus football team will stay in St. Peter for its next test on Saturday, Oct. 22 when it takes on Saint John's at 1:00 p.m.
- The Gustavus and Bethel football teams, coaching staffs, and athletic trainers showed their support for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by wearing pink trimmings on the field and sidelines during today's game.