St. Peter, Minn. – On what was a drizzly Saturday afternoon at Hollingsworth Field, the Gustavus football team suffered a 16-0 loss to Valley City State University on Homecoming. With a 9-0 lead following three field goals by kicker Thomas Cortez, Valley City State added a late touchdown to hand Gustavus its second straight loss.
With the loss, Gustavus drops to 4-2 overall, while Valley City State is now 5-2.
Relying on a fast and physical defense that bottled up Gustavus quarterback Muresuk Mena (Sr., Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) for much of the afternoon, Valley City Sate made few mistakes on offense and took advantage of its opportunities in the red zone. The Vikings held the time of possession advantage 41:01-to-18:59 and scored on all four of its trips to the red zone.
After a pair of long drives on their first two possessions of the game, the Vikings grabbed a 6-0 lead after Thomas Cortez nailed 31-yard field goal at 10:10 of the first quarter and a 32-yard field goal at 13:39 of the second quarter. Valley City State tallied 132 yards of offense on its first two drives while eating up over 14 minutes of clock.
Gustavus had possession of the ball just four times in the first half, punting three times before time expired on its last drive of the half. The Gusties gained 86 yards of offense in the first half, as Valley City State took a 6-0 lead into halftime.
Gustavus' offense began to pick up late in the third quarter. Mena led a drive to the Valley City State 24-yard-line, where Gustavus elected to try a field goal after an incomplete pass on third down. From 41 yards out, Tom Huepenbecker's (Sr., Middleton, Wis.) field goal try was blocked by Matt Craft and the Vikings took over possession.
Valley City State used the momentum from the blocked kick to drive 54 yards on 13 plays the very next possession. After a third down stop by the Gustavus defense at the Gustie 20-yard-line, Cortez knocked through his longest field goal of the day from 37 yards out to put the Vikings on top 9-0 with 14:50 left in the game.
The Gusties threatened on their next possession, but came up with no points once a 45-yard field goal attempt by Huepenbecker came up just short.
After Gustavus turned the ball over on downs halfway through the fourth quarter, Valley City State capitalized once again. Running back Taylor Cino scored the game's only touchdown when he broke free for a 17-yard touchdown run that brought the score to a final at 16-0 with 5:15 on the clock.
Cino was the leading rusher in the game with 118 yards (4.5 ypc) on 26 attempts. Fellow running back back Derek Elliot followed behind Cino with 85 yards (5.3 ypc) on 16 attempts. Valley City State totaled 199 yards on the ground in the game.
Gustavus gained a total of 224 yards (96 rush, 128 pass) on the afternoon. Phillip Butler (Jr., St. Paul, Minn.) led the Gusties on the ground with 40 yards (6.7 ypc) on six attempts, while Mena gained 36 yards (2.2 ypc) on 16 attempts.
Mena went 11-for-27 for 128 yards with an interception through the air. He connected with six different receivers, yet was sacked three times. Mena's top target was Michael Hintze (So., Brooklyn Park, Minn.) who caught three passes for 54 yards.
Viking quarterback Tommy Zinke was 14-for-23 for 151 yards passing. His top receiver was Ken Ellacin who made five catches for 37 yards. Valley City State tallied 350 yards of total offense, 151 of which were through the air.
Leading the Gusties defensively was Lucas Kleinschrodt (Sr., Alden, Minn.), Joe Haas (Jr., Mission, Kan.), and Xavier Fust (So., Columbia Heights, Minn.). Kleinschrodt recorded a game-high 13 tackles (5 solo), while Haas had 11 (3 solo), and Fust had 10 (2 solo).
The Gustavus football team will look to get back on track at home next Saturday when it plays host to Bethel University at 1:00 p.m. on Hollingsworth Field.