Turnovers proved costly for the Gustavus football team, as it dropped the season opener 27-6 to Wartburg College on Saturday afternoon in St. Peter, Minn. Gustavus had two fumbles and two interceptions in the game, as the Wartburg defense allowed just 239 total yards of offense on the day. Wartburg linebacker Blake Suckow recorded a game-high 13 tackles (10 solo, 6 asst.), while defensive end Matt Tschetter had two and a half sacks and tackles for loss. Gustavus quarterback Logan Becker went 17-for-29 for 117 yards through the air, and had 15 rushes for 42 yards in his first collegiate start. Gustavus falls to 0-1 on the season, while Wartburg improves to 2-0.
The Gusties jumped out to an early 6-0 lead on a nine-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Muresuk Mena. The play capped a 14 play, 71-yard drive that was kept alive by a roughing the punter penalty on Wartburg. Kicker Tom Huepenbecker’s point after attempt was blocked by Brandon Moeller. It would take just 1:02 for the Wartburg offense to answer. Quarterback Dan Stiefel connected with receiver Levi Helbling on a 64-yard pass that brought the Knights down to the Gustavus one-yard-line. Stiefel tied the game at 6-6 on a quarterback from the one-yard-line sneak and kicker Marcus Williams put the Knights on top 7-6 with the extra point.
Becker would turn the ball over on a fumble following a 29-yard run on the ensuing Gustavus possession. Wartburg’s Ben Rector forced the fumble and Matt Tschetter recovered it the ball on the Wartburg nine-yard-line.
After a series of punts and three-and-outs by both squads, Gustavus cornerback Jason Cook intercepted a pass at the 11:53 mark of the second quarter. On the following play, Becker through an interception to Matt Tschetter, giving the ball back to Wartburg on the Knight 40-yard-line.
Wartburg took lead 13-6 two drives later at the 3:29 mark of the second quarter. Brandon Sims scored a touchdown on a 13-yard run, capping off a seven-play 45-yard drive. Wartburg recorded 188 of total offense in the first half, while Gustavus had 102 yards. Stiefel was 9-for-20 for 130-yards passing, while Becker was 6-for-11 for 42-yards.
Wartburg opened up the second half with an 82-yard scoring drive. Reese Thompson hit a hole and scampered 75-yards down to the Gustavus two-yard-line. Stiefel registered his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon with another sneak from the one-yard-line, putting the Knights on top 20-7. The Knights extended their lead to 27-6 at the 6:00 mark of the third quarter on a four-yard touchdown run by Thompson.
Gustavus running back Lucas Armstrong earned some tough yards in the second half, finishing the game with seven carries for 29-yards and three catches for 25-yards. Elliot Herdina was the leading receiver for Gusties, recording three catches for 27 yards. The Wartburg secondary check Herdina in check all afternoon, as his first catch came at the 5:41 mark of the third quarter.
Zach Lundquist led the team in tackles with seven and a half, while Paul Stommes had four and half tackles and an interception at the end of the first half.
Wartburg totaled 432-yards of offense in the game, 266-yards rushing and 166-yards passing. Stiefel was 11-for-24 for 166 yards through the air. Thompson had a game-high 23 carries for 173 yards and one touchdown, while Sims had eight carries for 57-yards. Leading the Knights in receiving was Levi Helbling and Jason Roskam. Helbling had one catch for 64-yards, and Roskam had three catches for 63-yards. Wartburg punter Robby Salmon did an outstanding job of pinning the Gusties deep all afternoon, as he recorded six punts for a total of 268 yards (44.7 avg.).
Gustavus had the edge in time of possession 32:19 to 27:41. Both team struggled on third downs, as Gustavus was 4-of-16 and Wartburg was 2-of-10. The Gusties struggle in the red zone, scoring once on three chances, while Wartburg scored on four of its five red zone opportunities.
The Gusties will next take on non-conference opponent Northwestern Saturday, Sept. 18, at 1:00pm on Hollingsworth Field in St. Peter, Minn.