The Gustavus football team will travel to Bethel College in Arden Hills for its last road game of the season on Saturday, October 18. The Gusties bring a 3-3 overall record into the game while the Royals are 6-0. Gustavus is 3-2 in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play while Bethel is 4-0 in the conference.
Gustavus has won three out of its last four games, the only hiccup during that stretch came at second-ranked St. John’s on October 4. The Gusties blanked St. Thomas 21-0 on a soggy afternoon last week in St. Peter. Gustavus benefited from excellent field position, six St. Thomas turnovers and two Drew Stifter touchdown runs. It was the squad’s first shutout over St. Thomas since 1980.
Gustavus got on the scoreboard midway through the first period when Stifter capped off a 13-play, 62-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown plunge. Six minutes later Sean Smith connected with Kory Wermerskirchen for a three-yard touchdown toss to give the Gusties a two-touchdown advantage. Stifter tacked on a 10-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to cap off the day’s scoring. Chris Thorson nabbed his first two career interceptions for the Gusties while Loren Havemeier, Greg Baldus, and Tyler Rinquist also had one pick apiece. Stifter rushed 35 times for 132 yards. Smith went 15-of-23 through the air for 159 yards.
Bethel is now 6-0 for the third time in four seasons following last week’s 33-7 win at St. Olaf. The Royals broke a 7-7 tie midway through the second quarter by blocking an Ole punt and returning it 32 yards for a touchdown. Bethel scored 26 unanswered points to close out the game. Ross Muellenberg rushed 14 times for 113 yards and Phil Porta finished with 99 yards on 20 carries. The game was played in a steady downpour which stifled both squad’s passing attacks. Bethel threw for just 36 yards and St. Olaf for 34. Peter Eastlund led the Bethel defense with eight tackles.
Saturday’s blocked punt against St. Olaf was the Royals’ eighth of the season. Sam Lacy was credited with the block, his fourth of the year, a new single season school record. Quarterback Scott Kirchoff is on the verge of breaking the MIAC career passing record. He currently has 5,955 career passing yards, 107 yards behind the all-time leader Kurt Ramler of St. John’s who played from 1993 to 1996. Kirchoff is 77 of 130 for 1,092 yards this season. He has thrown eight touchdowns and has yet to toss an interception.
Bethel has scored 25 points or more in each of its games this season and has allowed more than 19 points just once. The Royals have won at least a share of the conference title two of the last three years and have posted a winning conference record every year since 1994.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 pm on Saturday at Royal Stadium in Arden Hills. Next week Gustavus returns home to face Hamline.
Series: Gustavus leads the all-time series with Bethel 14-10-0. Bethel has won the last three meetings between the two schools, including last year’s 41-20 win in St. Peter. The Gusties will be attempting to win at Bethel for just the second time since 1988.
Interception Spree: The Gusties picked off five St. Thomas passes last Saturday. Chris Thorson had two of those interceptions. It was the first time Gustavus tallied five interceptions in a game since the 2002 season opener versus Alma. Greg Baldus had two picks in that game, which is the last time one Gustie had two interceptions in a contest.
Stingy Defense: The seven first downs Gustavus gave up to St. Thomas were the fewest first downs the Gusties have allowed since Oct. 31, 1998 when Hamline managed only four first downs against Gustavus.
Holding Onto the Ball: Saturday was the first time Gustavus controlled the ball for over 39 minutes in a game since November 1, 1997 versus Carleton.
Smith Continues Hike Through Record Book: Quarterback Sean Smith now has the fifth most completions (300) and sixth most passing yards (3,339) in school history.
Upset Minded: Bethel enters Saturday’s game ranked 12th in the nation. The last time Gustavus beat a ranked opponent was the 2001 season opener when the Gusties upset sixth-ranked
Trinity (TX) 37-26.
First Quarter Heroes: Gustavus has outscored its opponents 58-14 in first quarters this year. Bethel has outscored its opponents 58-7 in first quarters this season.
Forcing Mistakes: Bethel and Gustavus are the top two teams in the conference in turnover margin. The Royals are +5 in the turnover department while the Gusties are +3.
Red Zone: Bethel ranks first in the conference in red zone offense and red zone defense. The Royals have scored on 88.9 percent of their drives inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. They have allowed their foes to score just 40.0 percent of the time in similar circumstances. Gustavus ranks fourth in red zone offense (75.0) and third in red zone defense (64.3).
There Are Reasons Why They Are in First Place: Bethel is also first or second in the conference in the following categories: scoring offense (39.8 ppg), scoring defense (9.5 ppg), punt returns (18.1 ypr), passing efficiency (178.5), and sacks (16).
Road Trip: Gustavus is attempting to avoid losing three true road games in a season for the first time since 1996. The Gusties fell at Buena Vista 37-34 in double overtime in their season opener and 35-13 at St. John’s earlier this year.
Radio: All Gustavus football games can be heard on 1310 AM KRBI. The broadcasts can also be heard on the Gustie sports web site at http://www.gustavus.edu/oncampus/athletics/audio.cfm
Clay Kepner will provide the play-by-play action.