Gustavus stepped out of conference play to host NAIA power Azusa Pacific (CA) on Saturday in St. Peter. Azusa Pacific scored on its first play from scrimmage and held on for a 23-10 victory.
James Keeler ran for a career-high 166 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns to lead the ninth-ranked Cougars to their seventh win of the season. Nate Farris accounted for the other Cougar touchdown, as he streaked down the left sideline to receive a 58-yard touchdown pass from Sean Davis on the squad’s first play from scrimmage to give Azusa Pacific an early lead.
Gustavus quarterback Sean Smith was 21-of-36 through the air for 126 yards and an interception. He was sacked seven times and was called for intentional grounding in the end zone that gave Azusa Pacific a six-point lead in the third quarter after the Gusties had trimmed the deficit to 14-10 at halftime.
Trailing 14-0 early in the third quarter, Gustavus had an 11-play, 60-yard drive stall at the Azusa Pacific 20-yard line. Kase Niles nailed a career-long 37-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 11 points. Three minutes later the Gustie defense recovered a Cougar fumble at the Azusa Pacific 25-yard line. Gustavus capitalized on the short field when Smith scored on a quarterback sneak on fourth and goal from inside the one-yard line. The extra point brought the Gusties within 14-10, the closest they would get all day.
Anthony Diggs was credited with the safety for Azusa Pacific, as he was the player who put the pressure on Smith to throw the ball away midway through the third quarter. The Cougar defense limited Gustavus to just 143 yards. The Azusa Pacific run defense was particularly tough, limiting the Gusties to 17 yards on 33 carries.
Keeler was filling in for the injured Ben Buys, who has 996 yards rushing this season. Keeler scored on runs of 33 yards and one yard. He had 107 yards by halftime and finished the day with an average of 6.1 yards per carry.
Gustavus wraps up the season next week by hosting St. Olaf. Azusa Pacific resumes play on November 15 by hosting Chapman.