The Gustavus football team was unable to hold off a fourth quarter charge as Concordia spoiled Head Coach Jay Schoenebeck’s final game by defeating the Gusties 27-21 Saturday at Lloyd Hollingsworth Field. Gustavus held a 21-6 halftime lead, but Justin Brantner scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help Concordia pull out the come-from-behind victory. The Gusties wrapped up the 2008 season at 6-4 overall and 4-4 in the MIAC standings, while the Cobbers finished at 6-4 overall and 5-3 in the conference.
The Gusties played inspired football in the first quarter after the seniors and Coach Schoenebeck were honored before kickoff. On Concordia’s third play of the game, linebacker Mike Fabel (Sr., Cold Spring, Minn.) intercepted a Concordia pass at the Cobber-42. Gustavus did not capitalize on the turnover though as Concordia’s defense forced the offensive unit to turn the ball over on downs.
The Cobbers moved down the field after the possession change and appeared to be heading for the end zone before tackles from Tony Palma (Jr., Lino Lakes, Minn.) and Ted Aleckson (Sr., Weston, Wis.) behind the line of scrimmage stopped Concordia in its tracks.
The Gusties took over on offense at their own 27-yard line and proceeded to score the game’s first touchdown when Jordan Becker (Jr., Easton, Minn.) found Blake Noennig (Jr., Norwood, Minn.) in a seam of the coverage for a 40-yard touchdown reception. Gustavus had a 7-0 lead after John Ostertag (Sr., Walker, Minn.) kicked the point after attempt with 5:15 remaining in the first quarter.
On the next Cobber possession, the Gustie defense forced Concordia to go three-and-out. Adam Lukes (Sr., Watertown, Minn.) broke through the line of scrimmage to block the punt, which was recovered by Gustavus’ Lucas Armstrong (So., Wheaton, Minn.) at the Cobber-15. After a delay of game penalty, the Gusties found the end zone again when Becker connected with Elliott Herdina (Fy., Blooming Prairie, Minn.) on a fade route from 20 yards out to make the score 14-0 just before the end of the quarter.
Concordia responded with a scoring drive of its own when Paul Shol carried the ball across the goal line from seven yards out. Brian Berglund (Sr., Lauderdale, Minn.) blocked the point after attempt to bring the score to 14-6 with 14:36 on the clock in the second quarter.
The Gusties made it a two-score contest again on the following drive as the running game found its rhythm with nine carries for 52 yards, including a five-yard rushing touchdown from Herdina. Coach Schoenebeck’s squad held a 21-6 advantage with 9:35 remaining in the half.
Gustavus had other opportunities to score in the quarter as Fabel intercepted two more passes before halftime, but the Cobber defense made two stands at midfield on third-and-3 and third-and-1, keeping the score 21-6 at halftime.
Midway through the third quarter Concordia entered Gustavus territory when the Gustie defense came up with its fourth interception of the game. Cornerback Ethan Armstrong (Sr., Wheaton, Minn.) picked off a pass at the goal line, preventing a Cobber touchdown and returned to the 10-yard line before being brought down. Jordan Becker rushed for a yard on the first play of the drive, but suffered a concussion and did not return for the rest of the game.
On the ensuing Cobber drive, Concordia cut the deficit to 21-13 when Justin Brantner scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 12:16 left in the game. The Gustavus offense struggled to move the ball with Becker out of the game and had to punt on the next possession.
The next two Cobber drives ended with touchdowns from Brantner as he caught a 10-yard touchdown reception and rushed for a 12-yard score. Concordia took its first lead of the game with 1:22 remaining. Gustavus had one last chance to score a touchdown, but the Cobbers intercepted a pass at the Gustie-11 to seal the victory.
Quarterback Jordan Becker went 11-for-20 passing for 122 yards and two touchdowns in before leaving the game in the third quarter. Chad Arlt (Sr., St. Michael, Minn.) had five catches for 62 yards, while Blake Noennig finished with two grabs including the 40-yard touchdown reception. Elliott Herdina caught three passes for 25 yards, one of which was a 20-yard touchdown catch, and also rushed for a score. Senior Ray Wilson rushed for 71 yards on 15 carries.
Defensively, Joe Welch (Jr., Hastings, Minn.) and Tony Palma registered 16 stops each. Linebacker Mike Fabel picked off three Concordia passes in the first half, while fellow senior Ethan Armstrong also added a pick.
The Concordia offense compiled 447 yards of total offense compared to 259 yards for the Gusties, but committed four turnovers in the first half to give the Gusties the advantage. Cobber quarterback Jesse Nelson led the team with 119 rushing yards and threw for 179 yards on 15-for-33 in the air with a touchdown pass and four interceptions. Running back Justin Brantner recorded 34 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, as well as catching a 10-yard TD pass. Defensively, Concordia was led by Brett Abrahamson and Andrew Larson with 12 and 10 tackles, respectively.
Head Coach Jay Schoenebeck finished his 15-year career at Gustavus with an overall record of 74-76 and a conference record of 63-65.