St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus Adolphus football team kicked off its 2013 season with a 28-21 victory over Simpson College Saturday afternoon at Hollingsworth Field. Trailing 7-0 late in the first half, the Gusties rattled off 28 unanswered points heading into the fourth quarter to take a 28-7 lead. Simpson did not go quietly, however, as the Storm scored twice in the final six minutes of the game to pull within seven. In the end, the Gusties drained the remaining 2:29 on the final drive of the afternoon to hang on for the 28-21 win. Gustavus begins the season 1-0, while Simpson drops to 1-1.
"It's a great feeling to win a football game," remarked linebacker Joe Haas (Sr., Mission, Kan.). "We have been working towards this since last season, and to come out here and play like we did, it feels amazing."
After an empty outcome on its first possession, Simpson drove the ball 74 yards in seven plays and 2:44 to take an early 7-0 lead. A pair of big plays on the ground from Ethan Calvert and Tyler Kenny for gains of 17 yards and 23 yards, respectively, highlighted the drive, which was capped off by an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Taylor Nelson to Ryan Olson.
On Simpson's next possession, Joe Haas recovered a fumbled snap for the first of what would be four straight turnovers between the two teams. The Gusties returned the favor two plays later with a fumble inside the Simpson five-yard line only to get it right back on an athletic interception by Torey Asao (Sr., Chaska, Minn.). Three plays later it was Simpson's turn to force an interception and the flurry of turnovers was finished.
Gustavus threatened on each of its next two possessions, but could not find a way to put points on the scoreboard until the final :26 seconds of the half. Following a pair of 20-plus-yard completions, Jeffrey Dubose (Sr., St. Paul, Minn.) carried off right tackle for a two-yard touchdown run to even the score at 7-7 heading into halftime.
"I think we did a nice job of keeping our composure in the first half when we weren't playing how we wanted to, especially on the offensive side of the ball," mentioned Dubose. "We stuck with it and took the momentum when we scored at the end of the half."
The 15-minute halftime break could do nothing to break the spirit of the newly rejuvenated Gusties. They proceeded to score on each of their first three possessions of the second half to open up a 28-7 lead midway through the third. On its opening drive following the break, Gustavus marched 69 yards down the field in 11 plays to score the half's opening touchdown on an 11-yard run by Jeffrey Dubose. On the play, Dubose surpassed the 2,000-yard rushing milestone, becoming just the 11th player to do so in the history of the Gustavus football program.
"It means a lot to me," admitted Dubose of his accomplishment. "A big reason why I have gotten this far is because of the coaches and my teammates. The coaches have kept their faith in me and my teammates have been willing to block for me. From the offensive line out to the receivers, it has really been a team thing. They put the yards in front of me and I just had to grab them."
The Gusties needed just two plays on the following drive, thanks to a 53-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mitch Hendricks (So., Laporte, Minn.) that would set up a score and extend the Gustavus lead to 21-7. After Xavier Fust (Jr., Columbia Heights, Minn.) recovered a fumble inside the Simpson nine-yard line, Hendricks scored his second touchdown of the day with a four-yard touchdown run.
However, Simpson would not go quietly. In a 28-7 hole, Simpson came back to score two touchdowns in the final six minutes of the game to pull within seven points. The Storm scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Mike Kuhn to narrow the lead to 28-14 before Taylor fired another touchdown pass to Nate Connealy.
"Simpson has a great offense, we learned that last year, and they showed it today when they scored two touchdowns in two minutes," said Haas. "We held together as a defense and got the turnover we needed to make a stand on the goal line."
In the end, however, the Gusties drained the final 2:29 with the final drive of the game to hold on for the 28-21 win.
"We came out and moved the ball the first few drives of the second half and rode the momentum," added Dubose. "They came back at the end, but we just had to turn the page and get back on track. Sometimes you have lows during a game, but you have to stay steady. I think we did a good job of doing that."
Gustavus was led offensively by Mitch Hendricks. In his first start as a Gustie, Hendricks completed 27-of-42 passes for 220 yards and also carried the ball nine times for 57 yards and two touchdowns. He was joined in the ground game by Jeffrey Dubose, who carried 22 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Phillip Butler (Sr., St. Paul, Minn.) led all receivers with 11 catches for 53 yards.
Defensively, Joe Haas recorded seven tackles, while also forcing a fumble and recovering a fumble. Jake Forcier (Jr., Watkins, Minn.) registered five tackles and an interception on the day.
The Gusties will be back in action next Saturday when they travel to Minneapolis to take on Augsburg at 1:00 p.m. Even with the win, Head Coach Peter Haugen knows there is room for improvement heading into next week.
"I think we need to play cleaner," stated Haugen. "Offensively in the first half, there were plays to be made and we were close to making them but just couldn't seem to figure it out. We ended up doing that in the second half, but we need to play cleaner from the start."