St. Peter, Minn. – After trailing 13-7 at the outset of the second quarter, the Gustavus football team rattled off 38 unanswered points to capture a 45-19 victory over St. Olaf on Homecoming Saturday at Hollingsworth Field. The Gusties racked up over 400 yards of total offense and came up with four interceptions of St. Olaf quarterback Nate Penz on their way to the 26-point win. Gustavus improves to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the MIAC, while St. Olaf falls to 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the MIAC.
"It means a lot to play like we did today," said Head Coach Peter Haugen. "We talked about it being a 'hinge' moment for us all week, and I think the biggest thing was that you could see our guys had energy and they kept believing. It was just a great team effort. I felt like each guy did what they're being asked to do. We had a lot of energy and it was certainly a big win for us."
On the first possession of the game, with St. Olaf's punting unit in place, Gustavus cornerback Zach Dilger (Jr., South St. Paul, Minn.) committed a roughing-the-kicker penalty that gave the Oles a first down and kept the drive alive. On the very next play, Dilger made up for his wrongdoing by pulling down his first of two interceptions on the day near midfield. The Gustie offense proceeded to march 53 yards in eight plays on its first possession of the game, which was capped off by an Aaron O'Gorman (Sr., St. Peter, Minn.) 10-yard touchdown run. O'Gorman's first career touchdown gave the Gusties the early 7-0 lead at the 8:30 mark of the first quarter.
"St. Olaf is a big rivalry game for us, so the whole week the intensity was building up to today," said Dilger. "We were ready to go, so it was nice to come out here and get off to a fast start."
St. Olaf responded with two touchdowns in the next two minutes, the first of which was a 55-yard strike from Nate Penz to Joel Reinhardt. After the Gustavus kickoff landed out-of-bounds, the Oles needed just three plays to tie the game at 7-7. On the second play of the ensuing Gustavus drive, quarterback Mitch Hendricks (So., Laporte, Minn.) made his only mistake of the day, throwing an interception at his own 30-yard line. After a two-yard return, the Oles took over at the Gustavus 28 and wasted little time in reaching the endzone. St. Olaf scored two plays later with a 9-yard pass from Penz to Jake Schmiesing. The extra point failed to keep the score at 13-7 in favor of the Oles. St. Olaf would threaten again late in the first quarter, but a Dilger interception in his own endzone would extinguish all hope of extending the lead any further before the quarter break.
As if it were a ticking time-bomb, the Gustavus offense exploded with production in the second quarter. The Gusties got the ball back with 11:08 remaining in the frame and would proceed to score on six of its next seven possessions to score 38 unanswered points. Jeffrey Dubose (Sr., St. Paul, Minn.) kicked things off with his first of three touchdown runs on the day. Just over four minutes later, Hendricks found Jordan Rudenick (Sr., Nicollet, Minn.) down a seam in the middle of the field after a play-action fake. Rudenick bulled his way across the goal line to give Gustavus a 21-13 lead with 2:17 to play in the opening half. Two plays later, the Gusties had the ball back after Kellan Euerle (Sr., St. Cloud, Minn.) intercepted a pass on the first play of the next St. Olaf drive. Gustavus took over at its own 38-yard line and after methodically moving the ball down the field, a Thomas Schleusener (Jr., Rapid City, S.D.) field goal with :17 seconds left in the half put the Gusties on top 24-13 heading to the break.
"In the first quarter we were getting settled in," said Matt Boyce (So., Excelsior, Minn.). "We needed to see what they were running defensively and adjust accordingly, so we threw some different formations at them. By the second, we had it figured out and our coaches did a great job with our play-calling."
Boyce provided a spark coming out of the break. The sophomore returned the opening second half kickoff 61 yards to the St. Olaf 28-yard line. Five plays later, Dubose scored his second touchdown of the afternoon to extend the lead to 31-13 with 12:49 to play in the third quarter. Boyce followed four minutes later with an incredible diving catch in the endzone on the ensuing possession. Matt made an adjustment on a deep ball thrown over the top of his head toward the sideline and still managed to keep a foot in-bounds to put the Gusties on top 38-13. Dubose would cap Gustavus' scoring output for the day on his third and final touchdown of the afternoon, a one-yard run with 9:42 left in regulation that brought the score to 45-13. St. Olaf would score on the final play of the game to cut the lead to 45-19, but it was too little, too late for the Oles as the Gusties walked away with the 26-point victory.
On the day, the Gustavus offense amassed 433 yards of total offense (301 passing, 132 rushing). Mitch Hendricks led the way through the air, completing 29 of 39 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target, Matt Boyce, hauled in 13 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. Phillip Butler (Sr., St. Paul, Minn.) came next with nine catches for 71 yards. Jeffrey Dubose tallied three touchdowns and 99 yards in the ground game on 23 carries.
"We knew coming in that they play a lot of cover three and we could attack them with certain routes, so we worked on those all week," mentioned Boyce. "Our scout defense was phenomenal, especially our secondary. They are a huge part of our success today because of their work hammering it out during practice all week."
Defensively, the Gusties held St. Olaf to 282 total yards (207 passing, 75 rushing) and forced four turnovers, all of which were interceptions led by Zach Dilger with two. Kellan Euerle and Nick Frandsen also recorded a pick on the day. Gustavus also sacked St. Olaf quarterback Nate Penz three times for a total of 29 yards lost. Cameron Cropsey (Jr., Eagan, Minn.), Anthony Boyce (Jr., Excelsior, Minn.), and Xavier Fust (Jr., Columbia Heights, Minn.) all had one sack each.
"They have great receivers, and they were really hurting us in the first quarter with the intermediate passing game," stated Haugen of his defense's play. "We switched some things up, gave their quarterback a few different looks defensively, played a little man-to-man, and I think that really helped us."
Gustavus will now look to carry the win into next week's contest against Hamline. "We need to bring the same kind of focus we brought this week into next week's practices," finished Dilger. "We can't take a step back. We have to keep moving forward with more focus and determination and we will get it done next Saturday."
Haugen echoed his junior cornerback's mindset, "Moving forward, we need to demonstrate that we are a mature football team," finished Haugen. "If you have one solid week, a mature team follows it up with another solid week, so I think that needs to be the message this week. We need to continue to grow, be critical of mistakes that we have and fix those mistakes, and play cleaner."
The Gusties will be back in action next Saturday, Oct. 5th when they travel to St. Paul to take on Hamline for a 1:00 p.m. kick off at Klas Field.