The Gustavus football team scored 22 second half points after facing a 16-0 halftime deficit, but it would not be enough as St. Thomas held on for a 30-22 victory to spoil Homecoming for the Gusties on Saturday in St. Peter. St. Thomas running back Ben Wartman ran for 196 yards and two touchdowns as the Tommies held the ball for 39:28 during the game compared to 20:32 for Gustavus. The Gusties dropped to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the MIAC. St. Thomas improved its overall record to 3-1 and its league record to 2-1.
On its first possession, St. Thomas got on the scoreboard when Ben Wartman broke through the middle of the Gustavus defense with a 32-yard touchdown run on the 11th play of the drive to give the Tommies a 6-0 lead. The score remained 6-0 after the failed point after attempt.
Head coach Jay Schoenebeck’s squad marched down the field on the next drive after consecutive gains of 11, 9, and 16 yards to the St. Thomas-24. However, the drive stalled and the Gusties missed the 34-yard field goal wide left to keep the score at 6-0 in favor of the Tommies at the end of the first quarter.
St. Thomas converted three third-down plays on its first series of the second quarter as it chewed seven minutes off the clock and got into the red zone. David Papas (So., Chanhassen, Minn.) and Ethan Armstrong (Sr., Wheaton, Minn.) broke up two pass plays on second- and third-down, forcing the Tommies to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Eric Taylor for a 9-0 score with 6:57 remaining in the half.
Wartman struck again later in the period when he took off along the right sideline before being hauled down by Gustavus safety Hamada Omar (Jr., Minneapolis, Minn.) for a 60-yard run at the Gustie 15-yard line. Four plays later, Ryan McCarthy capped off the possession with a one-yard touchdown run to give St. Thomas a 16-0 lead heading into halftime after the extra point. The Tommies ended the first half with 265 total yards compared to 97 for Gustavus.
The Gustie offensive struggles continued at the start of the third quarter as the unit went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the half. The defense continued to bend against the Tommie offense, but did not break as Dustin Kammerer tackled Fritz Waldvogel for a 14-yard loss at the Gustavus 38-yard line, forcing St. Thomas to punt.
As the ensuing Gustie drive began on their one-yard line, junior quarterback Jordan Becker (Easton, Minn.) dropped back in the pocket and looked up field for an open receiver. He connected with Chad Arlt (Sr., St. Michael, Minn.) along the right sideline around the 35-yard line. From that point it was a foot race as Arlt put Gustavus on the board and got the crowd of nearly 4,700 back into the game with the 99-yard touchdown reception. John Ostertag (Sr., Walker, Minn.) kicked the point after attempt to bring the score to 16-7 with 3:46 left in the third quarter.
St. Thomas answered the big play with one of its own early in the fourth quarter when quarterback David Sauer hooked up with Waldvogel for a 42-yard strike to bring the lead back to 16 points at 23-7. Gustavus responded on the next possession as Blake Noennig (Jr., Norwood-Young America, Minn.) dove for the pile-on after a 50-yard catch from Becker on third-and-10. The point after attempt cut the deficit to nine points at 23-14 with 12:57 left in the contest. Again, the Tommies countered with a touchdown drive of its own to go up 30-14 when Wartman rushed for the one-yard touchdown set up by a 55-yard pass play from Sauer to Waldvogel.
The Gustie offense was not finished, though, as it put together a 10-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in a three-yard touchdown pass from Becker to Arlt. Coach Schoenebeck and his staff decided to go for the two-point conversion to make it a one possession game. The attempt was good as Becker hit Arlt just inside the left side of the end zone. Gustavus now trailed 30-22 with 6:20 on the clock.
On the Tommies’ next offensive possession, Christian Vanek (Jr., Prior Lake, Minn.) deflected a Sauer pass at the line of scrimmage that was consequently intercepted by linebacker Tony Palma (Jr., Lino Lakes, Minn.) at the St. Thomas 30-yard line, giving Gustavus a chance to tie the game. The Gusties were able get to the 21-yard line, but were not able to convert on fourth-and-15 as 3:33 remained on the clock.
The Gustavus defense gave the offense one last possession after Ted Aleckson (Sr., Weston, Wis.) was in on two tackles that forced the Tommies to punt. The offense was unable to move the chains, though, as St. Thomas hung on for the win.
In the offensive duel, Gustavus and St. Thomas combined for 775 total yards on 143 plays from the lines of scrimmage. Jordan Becker finished 26-of-47 through the air with 313 yards, three touchdowns, and zero turnovers. Chad Arlt continued to be Becker’s primary wide receiver as he caught seven passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns including the 99-yard reception in the third quarter. Arlt and Becker tied the school-record for the longest pass play in history, tying the record set by Arlt and Jordan Stolp, who connected for a 99-yard touchdown play against Augsburg a year ago.
St. Thomas maintained a balanced offensive attack as the Tommies recorded 239 rushing yards and 201 passing yards. Tommie quarterback David Sauer ended the game 15-of-26 for 201 yards and one touchdown with the lone interception. Sauer’s favorite target was Fritz Waldvogel, who caught 12 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, Gustavus’ Joe Welch finished with a game-high 12 tackles followed by teammate Zach Lundquist (So., Pelican Rapids, Minn.) with 11. Tommy Becker led the Tommies with 10 stops.
Gustavus will face non-conference opponent Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. on Saturday, October 11 at 3:30 pm (CST).