The Gustavus Adolphus football team opened the 2006 season in exciting fashion Saturday with a 35-7 road victory over Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
Sophomore running back Adam Lukes (Watertown, Minn.) ran for three scores, while junior quarterback Jordan Stolp (Mankato, Minn.) found sophomore receiver Chad Arlt (St. Michael, Minn.) for two other scores.
Arlt helped set up the first touchdown by Lukes as he recovered a Bearcat fumble on the game’s opening kickoff at the Willamette 22-yard line. Two plays later, Lukes broke a pair of Willamette tackles at the Bearcat 10-yard line and found the end zone for 15-yard touchdown run to give the Gusties a 7-0 lead just 1:08 into the game.
After the teams traded punts, the Gustavus linebackers stepped up as Taylor Beahrs (Sr., North Oaks, Minn.) sacked Willamette quarterback Kevin Whipps, while Jared Sieling (Jr., Watertown, Minn.) tipped a pass which was intercepted by Adam Miron (Sr., Princeton, Minn.) at the Gustavus 48-yard line. The Gusties wasted no time with the opportunity as Stolp found Arlt on a 46-yard pass play on third down to get to the 3-yard line. Lukes went over a pile two plays later for his second touchdown of the day to give Gustavus a 14-0 lead. The Gusties made the score 21-0 with 27 seconds remaining in the quarter as Stolp found Arlt down the visitor’s sideline for a 44-yard touchdown strike.
Willamette opened the second quarter by embarking on their first sustained drive of the game. The Bearcats gained a pair of first downs during the drive — one courtesy of a Gustie pass interference call — but the drive stalled as a Whipps pass intended for Jonathan Irizarry was intercepted by defensive back Neil Petrash (Sr., Farmington, Minn.). The Bearcats were given a good opportunity later in the quarter, though, as a fumbled exchange by the Gusties gave Willamette the ball at the Gustavus 47-yard line. Willamette converted a fourth-and-one play to extend the drive, but the end result was a 45-yard field goal attempt that fell just short.
Given relatively good field position due to the missed field goal attempt, the Gusties steadily moved their way down the field as the half drew to a close. The Gusties capped the drive with three seconds to play as Stolp found a wide-open Chad Arlt in the corner of the end zone for the 3-yard touchdown. A Stolp extra-point kick gave Gustavus a 28-0 lead as the teams headed to halftime.
The Gusties pushed the lead to 35-0 in the third quarter as Lukes found the end zone from two yards out for his third touchdown of the game. The key play in the 8-play, 41-yard drive was a 17-yard pass from Stolp to wide receiver Kerry Zajicek (Sr., Glencoe, Minn.) on fourth-and-two at the Willamette 33-yard line.
The Bearcats avoided the shutout as a result of an unlikely series of events. With 12:43 remaining in the game, Gustavus defensive back Isaac Perry (So., Wabasha, Minn.) intercepted Willamette backup quarterback Grant Leslie at the Gustavus 14, but fumbled the ball after colliding with a Bearcat player. Willamette running back C.J. Washington, who was trailing on the play, advantageously scooped up the ball and ran it in from 10 yards out to cut the Gustavus lead to 35-7.
Willamette stopped Gustavus on four straight running plays from inside the 5-yard line in the game’s final minutes and was driving for another score when the game’s final gun sounded.
The Gusties outgained the Bearcats 363-251, including 239-118 through the air. Jordan Stolp finished 16-of-21 through the air for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Stolp moved into sixth place on the Gustavus career passing yardage chart with 4,126 yards, passing Eric Lande (3,962). Chad Arlt was Stolp’s primary receiver on the day, making eight grabs for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Kerry Zajicek added three catches for 32 yards, while Patrick Wieneke (Sr., Jackson, Minn.) added three catches for only eight yards. Mitch Anderson (Jr., Sleepy Eye, Minn.) led the Gusties on the ground with 66 yards on 11 carries but was kept out of the end zone, while Adam Lukes collected 43 yards on nine carries with three touchdowns.
Defensive back Kevin Hegland (Sr., St. Michael, Minn.) led the Gusties with eight tackles, while Taylor Beahrs and Ted Aleckson (So., Weston, Wis.) each added five tackles and combined for three sacks. Aleckson picked up both of his sacks on the same drive, including one on fourth down that returned possession of the ball back to the Gusties. Jared Sieling registered three tackles, moving past two-time All-American Kurt Ploeger into 13th place on the Gustavus all-time tackles chart with 197 tackles.
The Bearcats finished with 133 yards on the ground on 33 attempts from 10 different rushers. Kevin Whipps was 6-of-12 for 53 yards and two interceptions before being replaced in the second half by Grant Leslie, who completed three of seven passes for 65 yards and an interception.
Willamette linebacker Phil Sweet led all players with ten tackles, while rover back Tyler Gill added eight tackles (six solo) and Taylor Hermes and Devin O’Rourke made six stops each.
Stolp now needs only 63 yards to move past Sean Smith (2000-04; 4,188 yards) for fifth place and 125 yards to move past Dean Kraus (1985-88; 4,250 yards) for fourth place on the Gustavus career passing yardage list.
Gustavus (1-0), which snapped a three-game losing streak in season openers, opens the 2006 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule at 1 pm next Saturday when they face St. Thomas in the home opener. Willamette (0-2) travels to California Lutheran University for a non-conference game.