A complete team performance helped Bethel finish the MIAC
regular season with a 27-22 win over Saint John's on Saturday. The
Royals (8-2, 6-2 MIAC) held the Johnnies (5-5, 3-5 MIAC) to 52
yards rushing and 258 yards passing on 49 attempts, while totaling
484 yards of offense. Saturday's results gave BU a chance at a Pool
C bid in the NCAA Division III Playoffs, while also giving the
Johnnies its first losing record in conference play since 1973. In
addition, the win gives Bethel its sixth win over Saint John's in
the last seven years and helps the Royals finish the 2012 season
undefeated at Royal Stadium.
Erik Peterson (So., Orono, Minn.) was electric Saturday, finishing the game 22-of-33 for 267 yards passing, alongside 104 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Peterson and the Bethel offense drove down to the Johnnie 11-yard line on the first drive of the game, before Nathaniel Van Loon (Fr., Faribault, Minn.) kicked his second field goal of the season from 27 yards out.
The points continued on the Royals next drive when Jesse Phenow (Jr., Richfield, Minn.) plunged into the end zone from one-yard out to give Bethel a 10-3 lead late in the opening quarter. Phenow's touchdown was set up by a 28-yard pass and catch between Peterson and Brandon Marquardt (So., Champlin, Minn.) who was tackled at the SJU one-yard-line.
Saint John's tallied another 40-plus yard field goal thanks to kicker Jimmie Matson at the 11-minute mark in the second quarter, before Bethel put together another touchdown drive with 6:14 remaining in the half. An 11-play, 78-yard drive that included another Marquardt reception for 30 yards led to a Peterson rushing TD on 4th-and-1 to give the Royals a 17-6 advantage.
The Johnnies answered BU's score with a 12-play, 71-yard scoring drive that lasted 4:50. Harry Awe completed the drive with a two-yard draw, narrowing the gap to 17-13 in favor of the Royals heading into intermission.
Following the half time break, Bethel's defense came up with a critical play when senior linebacker Erik Smith (Henning, Minn.) intercepted a Connor Bruns pass at the Johnnie 37-yard line, which gave BU great field position to start the second half. The Royals executed nicely and finished with the second Jesse Phenow touchdown of the day, giving Bethel a 24-13 advantage.
Jimmie Matson kicked his third field goal of the game in the ensuing Saint John's drive, putting the Johnnies eight points back with 5:37 left in the third quarter. Royal Stadium then witnessed the game's first punt with 1:51 left in the third, when Philip Peterson (Fr., Richfield, Minn.) pinned the Johnnies inside their own 25-yard-line.
The Johnnies were forced into a 3-and-out before punting to the Royals, who then completed a 14-play, 75-yard drive with a Van Loon field goal from the Johnnie's nine-yard-line.
Trailing 16-27 with 1:04 left in the fourth quarter, Saint John's intercepted a Peterson pass at the SJU two-yard line and managed to score a touchdown on a Bethel prevent defense with 0:11 left in the game, giving way to the 27-22 final.
Bethel finished with 217 yards rushing, while throwing for 267 more. Peterson led all BU carriers with 106 yards on the ground, averaging 8.8 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Jesse Phenow carried the ball 24 times for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
Peterson connected with seven different receivers, with Mitch Hallstrom (Jr., Eden Prairie, Minn.) leading the way with nine catches for 123 yards. Hallstrom continues to have the most catches in the MIAC with 61 receptions on the year. Brandon Marquardt also finished with four catches for 59 yards.
The Royals' defense was just as dynamic, holding the Johnnies to three field goals and a touchdown, before SJU's final touchdown with 11 second remaining. Brett Skoog (Sr., Long Lake, Minn.) finished with eight tackles, including one for loss as well as a pass breakup and quarterback hurry. Additionally, Trent Duppenthaler (So., Sherwood, Ore.) led the team with 11 tackles.
With Saturday's 27-22 victory, Bethel remains hopeful for a berth into the 2012 NCAA Division III Playoffs. There are seven teams included from Pool C in the postseason, which are all at-large teams hoping for a playoff game. The Royals will discover their fate tomorrow at 4 p.m., when the NCAA releases the 32-team field.