The Gustavus football team was defeated by Bethel 40-26 in Arden Hills on Saturday. The Royals sped out to a 25-7 halftime advantage and held off a late Gustie charge to secure the victory.
Trailing 33-13 heading into the fourth quarter, the Gusties rallied with two Sean Smith touchdown passes to cut the Bethel lead to 33-26. Smith lobbed an eight-yard toss to Nick Tiegland who got one foot in the end zone for the score. The extra point was blocked, which left Gustavus down by 14. After the Gustie defense forced a three and out on Bethel’s next drive, Smith hooked up with Kurt Bauerly for a 38-yard scoring strike to bring Gustavus within a touchdown with 7:13 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Bethel milked most of the clock by moving the ball to the Gustavus seven yard line where the drive stalled with 1:46 left. A 24-yard field goal attempt was blocked, giving the Gusties one last chance for a game-tying drive. After picking up one first down, Smith was intercepted by Bethel’s Jake Schneider who returned it 39 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.
Smith led the Gusties by completing 30 of 48 passes for 342 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Bethel quarterback Scott Kirchoff became the MIAC’s all-time leading passer by going 15 of 26 for 212 yards. He now has 6,128 yards, breaking the previous record held by Kurt Ramler of St. John’s.
Bethel got on the scoreboard first midway through the first quarter with a six-yard fumble return by Sam Lacy. Smith was hit and lost control of the ball as he brought his arm up to pass. The officials ruled that the ball came loose before Smith’s arm came forward in a throwing motion and that the loose ball was a fumble, which Lacy turned into six points.
Gustavus answered back with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Nate Novak to tie the game 7-7. The Royals responded with a field goal to take a 10-7 lead six minutes later.
Bethel scored two touchdowns in the last 3:15 of the second quarter to take a 18-point halftime lead. The two squads traded touchdowns in the third quarter to head into the fourth quarter seperated by 20 points.
Novak was the game’s leading receiver with 88 yards on nine grabs. Drew Stifter, who left the game in the second half with an injury, had a team-high 32 yards rushing on 15 carries including a touchdown.
Bethel, ranked 16th in the country, improved to 7-0 on the season, 5-0 in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Gustavus fell to 3-4, 3-3 in the MIAC. The Gusties will resume conference play next Saturday by hosting Hamline at 1:00 pm.