Gustavus will take on St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. for a Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest. The Gusties come in to the game at 6-2 overall and 4-2 in the MIAC and in a four-way tie for first-place in the conference standings. The Oles enter the contest at 4-4 overall and 2-4 in the league. Last week, Gustavus defeated Bethel University 17-10 in Arden Hills behind four interceptions by the Gustie defense. St. Olaf held on for a 28-25 win over Concordia College in Moorhead as the Oles forced five turnovers.
Tom Wheeler and Ken Erickson will broadcast the game on KNUJ 860 AM and through the Gustavus Athletics website. St. Olaf will be providing a live video feed of the contest available here.
Saturday’s contest will be the 56th match-up between Gustavus Adolphus College and St. Olaf College. The Gusties lead the all-time series at 35-20-0 with the Oles winning the last five meetings. Matt Penz threw for 362 yards and six touchdowns in St. Olaf’s 59-19 win over Gustavus last season in Northfield.
Meet the Head Coaches
Gustavus Head Coach Jay Schoenebeck (’80) improved his career record to 74-74 overall and 63-63 in the MIAC while in his 15th season at Gustavus. First-year St. Olaf Head Coach Jerry Olszewski served as the defensive coordinator at his alma mater UW-Stevens Point for two seasons before taking over the Ole program. Olszewski also spent a total of seven seasons as an assistant coach at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
A Glance at the Gusties
Gustavus moved into a tie for first place in the conference standings after defeating Bethel University 17-10 on Saturday afternoon in Arden Hills. Linebacker Tony Palma intercepted a pass at the Gustavus seven-yard line with 00:48 remaining in the contest to seal the victory. Coach Schoenebeck’s squad tied the score at 7-7 in the second quarter when quarterback Jordan Becker capped off an eight-play drive with a two-yard scamper for the touchdown. The Royals broke the tie on their first drive of the second half after a 27-yard field goal to make the score 10-7. Gustavus went back on top 14-10 when Logan Becker connected with Richard White on an 18-yard touchdown pass. The Gusties extended the lead to 17-10 when John Ostertag kicked a 27-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter. Joe Welch and Palma recorded interceptions on Bethel’s last two possessions en route to Gustavus’ fourth consecutive win.
Joe Welch and Tony Palma led the Gusties with 12 tackles and one interception each. Ethan Armstrong and Isaac Perry also recorded interceptions. On offense, Elliott Herdina compiled 104 yards of total offense with 79 rushing yards on 19 carries and 35 receiving yards on five receptions. Jordan Becker threw for 106 yards on 11-of-19 passing, while rushing for 22 yards on nine carries and a touchdown. As a team, the Gustavus offense cis averaging 131.8 rushing yards and 196.2 passing yards per game. Jordan Becker is ranked third in the MIAC at 192.2 passing yards per game and total offense at 208.2 yards per game. Chad Arlt has been the primary receiver for Becker with 49 receptions for 788 yards and four touchdowns. Ray Wilson leads the team with 409 rushing yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and two touchdowns. Joe Welch leads the defensive unit with 76 total tackles including 43 solo stops.
A Look at the Oles
St. Olaf’s defense forced Concordia to commit five turnovers in the Oles’ 28-25 win in Moorhead on Saturday. Antonio Jennings caught the eventual game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass from John Haberman with 8:14 remaining in the fourth quarter to give St. Olaf a 28-17 lead. After trailing 7-6 at halftime, the Oles got into the end zone on their first possession of the third quarter when Haberman hit wide receiver Leon Clark for a 38-yard touchdown to give St. Olaf a 14-7 edge after the two-point conversion. Following a 32-yard Cobber field goal, the Oles extended their lead to 21-10 on the next drive with a 13-yard rushing touchdown from Haberman. Concordia cut its deficit to 21-17 early in the fourth quarter, but the Ole defense recovered a Cobber fumble that led directly to Jennings’ score. Concordia scored a touchdown with 00:52 remaining in the contest, but could not recover the on-side kick, sealing the win for St. Olaf.
John Haberman accounted for all four Ole touchdowns, two rushing and two passing, with 202 total yards of offense. He finished the day with 187 yards in the air on 16-of-33 passing with one interception and 15 yards on 11 carries. The St. Olaf defense gave up 380 yards of offense to the Cobbers, but recovered three Concordia fumbles and picked off two passes. Eric Werdahl recorded 10 total tackles including a sack and three tackles-for-loss.
The Ole offense has been balanced this season, as St. Olaf is averaging 130.0 rushing yards and 153.1 passing yards per game. All-conference running back Coty Watkins leads the Ole rushing game with 549 yards and four touchdowns. John Haberman has stepped into the starting quarterback role, filling the spot vacated by two-time All-MIAC quarterback Matt Penz. Haberman has completed 106-of-184 passes for 1,162 yards, eight touchdowns, and ten interceptions, while also rushing for four touchdowns. Evan Endsley has been Haberman’s favorite target this season with 36 receptions for 354 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, St. Olaf is limiting opponents to 291.8 offensive yards per game including an average of 97.9 rushing yards per game. Linebacker Eric Werdahl paces the team with 32 solo tackles and 22 assisted stops. Defensive end Michael Williams, Jr. leads the Oles with 4.5 sacks and twelve tackles-for-loss for 53 yards.
Palma Receives MIAC Honor– Linebacker Tony Palma was named the MIAC Defensive Player of the Week for his role in the Gusties’ 17-10 win over Bethel last Saturday. Palma compiled six solo tackles, six assisted tackles, and an interception. His interception came at the Gustavus seven-yard line with 00:48 remaining in the game to seal the victory for the Gusties. Palma is second on the squad with 57 total tackles. This marks the fourth time this season a member of the Gustavus football team has been recognized. The others were running back Ray Wilson (Oct. 20), quarterback Jordan Becker (Oct. 27), and linebacker Paul Stommes (Sept. 15).
Defensive Takeaways– After tallying four interceptions against Bethel, Gustavus is tied for ninth place in Division III with 17 passes intercepted. The Gusties have recorded a pick in seven of their eight games including four or more interceptions in three games. Safety Joe Welch leads the team with five interceptions this season. Welch is the first Gustavus player to record five picks in a season since Brian Sorum did it in 1998.
NCAA Automatic Bid Scenarios– Gustavus is in contention for the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. However, the Gusties will need some help along the way. Concordia will receive the automatic bid if the Cobbers win their remaining two games. Saint John’s will earn the automatic bid with the combination of two Johnnie wins and a Concordia loss. Gustavus will receive the automatic bid with the combination of two Gustie wins and a Saint John’s loss. The Gusties, who face St. Olaf and Concordia in their last two games of the season, will be working to earn their first NCAA berth since 1987.
Keeping the Streak Alive– The Gusties will be looking to win their fifth consecutive game on Saturday when they face the Oles in Northfield at 1 p.m. Gustavus has not won five consecutive games in a season since 1998 when it finished the season at 8-2 overall and tied for second in the MIAC standings at 7-2.
Crunch Time– Gustavus has had a game-winning touchdown drive in its last possession of the game in each of its four wins over league opponents. The Gusties’ average margin of victory in MIAC play is 4.5 points with no game decided by more than seven points. Gustavus defeated Hamline by seven points, Augsburg by three points, Carleton by one point, and Bethel by seven points. The margin of victory increases to six points when considering all six victories since the Gusties defeated Coe by eight points and Pacific Lutheran by ten points.