Lake Forest, Ill. - The Gustavus Adolphus football team completed the non-conference portion of its regular season schedule with a 42-9 victory over Lake Forest College on Saturday afternoon at Farwell Field. With just a 14-9 cushion at halftime, Gustavus's offense found its rhythm and its defense went into lock-down mode over the course of the final 30 minutes. The Gusties scored 28 points and allowed just three first downs and a total of 58 yards over the course of a second half dominated by the Black and Gold.
Gustavus heads into Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play with an overall record of 2-0. The Foresters suffer their first loss at Farwell Field since 2011 and are now 1-1.
"It's a big win and I'm proud of the guys and their effort against an unfamiliar opponent," said Head Coach Peter Haugen. "We improved as the game went on and I'm pleased with the steps we made."
On the opening possession of the afternoon, Lake Forest put together a six-play, 68-yard drive that was capped off by a Anthoney Prestly touchdown run from six yards out. Following a failed extra point attempt, the Foresters found themselves on top 6-0 by the 12:21 mark.
"Lake Forest came out strong at the beginning and we started to get things going as the game progressed," Haugen said about the start of the game. "I'm extremely proud of our defense for holding its own as our offense slowly found rhythm. With the exception of their first drive, the defense did an outstanding job and was flying around the field. We got a tremendous effort by our defensive front and linebackers shutting down the run throughout the game."
Gustavus's offense struggled to get into a groove for much of the opening portion of the game. It wasn't until after being forced to punt three straight times and turning over the ball on downs on the next drive that Gustavus was able to generate some offense. With possession of the ball halfway through the second quarter, quarterback Mitch Hendricks (Jr., Laporte, Minn.) completed three straight passes that covered 60 yards and led to the squad's first touchdown of the day. The third of his consecutive completions was a 36-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Boyce (Jr., Excelsior, Minn.). With Thomas Schleusener's (Sr., Rapid City, S.D.) extra point, the first of his six, Gustavus had its first lead of the afternoon up 7-6 with 8:59 left in the opening half.
The Gustie offense got the ball back quickly thanks to an interception by cornerback Michael Hintze (Sr., Brooklyn Park, Minn.) on the first play of the Lake Forest's next possession.
Following Hintze's pick, it once again took Hendricks just three pass completions to get the ball into the end zone. This time he covered 45 yards and capped the drive 11-yard touchdown strike to Hunter Johnson (Fr., Cannon Falls, Minn.) at the 7:59 mark of the quarter. The touchdown was Johnson's first of his career as he finished the game with two catches for 17 yards.
Lake Forest brought the second quarter's scoring to a close with a 42-yard field goal by Jon Gurchak that cut the lead to 14-9 with :06 seconds on the clock.
At halftime, Gustavus had totaled 172 yards of total offense compared to Lake Forest's 155 yards.
It didn't take long for the Gustie offense come alive in the second half. On their first possession of the third quarter, the Gusties marched 78 yards for a touchdown that gave them a 21-9 advantage and took only 2:44. Hendricks completed 7-of-8 passes on a drive that ended with a 25-yard touchdown reception by Matt Boyce (Jr., Excelsior, Minn.).
From that point on, Gustavus scored on its next two offensive possessions. Hendricks found Gabriel Boyce from 11-yards out to give the Gusties a 28-9 advantage at 6:26 of the third quarter, and Luke Martinez (Jr., Lenexa, Kan.) then put the finishes touches on a 12-play, 98-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run at 12:47 of the fourth quarter.
Gabriel Boyce paced all receivers with nine catches for 105 yards to go along with his two touchdowns. Matt Boyce finished next in line with 74 yards on six catches with one touchdown grab.
Luke Martinez led the way on the ground with 56 yards on 11 carries for an average of 5.1 yards per rush. He also made his presence felt in the passing game with six catches for 48 yards.
After Martinez's touchdown run, Gustavus's defense got into the scoring mix with a touchdown of its own halfway through the fourth quarter. Strong safety Xavier Fust (Sr., Columbia Heights, Minn.) picked off Prestly at the Gustavus 21-yard-line and returned it 78 yards to the Lake Forest one-yard-line. It was at the one that Fust was stripped of the ball by Mike Rantis. Fortunately for Gustavus, Michael Hinzte was on the scene and was able to recover the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, which gave Gustavus a 42-9 lead with 9:23 remaining. Hintze's touchdown signified the end of the afternoon's scoring.
Mitch Hendricks completed a pass to ten different receivers throughout the day and finished 32-for-41 for a career-high 356 yards with four touchdowns. His 356-yard passing total ranks sixth in Gustavus history and is the second time in his career that he has eclipsed the 300-yard mark.
"Mitch is playing so well and commanding this offense with such great confidence and authority," commented Haugen about his junior quarterback. "He has a supporting cast around him that is playing at the top of its game. From his receivers getting open to his young offensive line providing solid protection, it was complete team effort. He threw to ten different guys today – when you have that many targets you believe in, it makes your job a lot easier."
As a team, Gustavus finished with 108 yards rushing and 385 yards passing for a total 493 yards. The Gusties picked up 29 first downs compared to Lake Forest's 10, went 3-for-3 in the red zone with three touchdowns, and won the time of possession battle 31:23-to-28:37.
The Foresters were limited to a total of 213 yards (34 rush, 179 pass). It is the lowest rushing total allowed by a Gustavus defense since 2012 when the Gusties gave up 27 yards to Simpson in the season-opener. Defensive coordinator Corey Shea's until also allowed the fewest amount of total yards since 2011 when it gave up 141 yards to Carleton's offense.
Leading the defense was Zach Martinez (Jr., Lenexa, Kan.) who posted nine tackles (four solo) and one tackle for loss. Nick Frandsen (Sr., North Oaks, Minn.) finished next in line with seven tackles (6 solo), and Zach Burrington (Sr., Plymouth, Minn.) recorded six (four solo).
"It's still a learning process but this is another step in the right direction," Haugen concluded. "We are encouraged by the effort today and are looking forward to getting into conference play next weekend. Our league is one of the most challenging in the country, so we're going to have to stay true to the process and get back to work on Monday."
The Gustavus football team will now prepare for the beginning of its MIAC schedule, which begins on Saturday, Sept. 20 against Hamline University. The Gusties will face the Pipers at 1:00 p.m. on Hollingsworth.