Big plays and forced turnovers were key in Gustavus’s 42-14 victory over Hamline on Hall of Fame Day Saturday afternoon in St. Peter, Minn. The Gusties scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to propel them to their second consecutive MIAC victory of the season. With the victory, Gustavus improves to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the MIAC, while Hamline falls to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the MIAC.
Offensively, the triple-headed attack of quarterback Logan Becker, running back Jeffrey Dubose, and wide receiver Cody Sukalski accounted for four touchdowns and 445 of Gustavus’s 502 yards of total offense, which is the most total yards picked up by a Gustavus offense since 2007 (601 yards-Hamline).
Defensive coordinator Brian Bergstrom’s defensive unit turned in another solid performance, intercepting four passes, allowing 288 yards through the air and just 11 yards on the ground. It is the fewest rushing yards gained by a Gustavus opponent since the Gusties held Macalester to -16 yards in 1999.
The hogs of the Gustavus offensive line opened up running lanes all afternoon as the Gusties turned in their best single game rushing outing of the season with 318 yards. It is the third best single-game rushing performance since 1996 for a Gustavus team, sitting behind a 354-yard game against Augsburg in 2008 and a 344-yard game against St. Olaf in 1996.
The Gusties got out to a fast start, forcing Hamline to a three-and-out on the opening possession, then driving 46 yards on four plays for a touchdown (7-0). Becker hit Muresuk Mena a short pitch-and-catch and Mena took it in for a 17-yard score. Mena brought down six catches for 52 yards in the game.
Gustavus extended its lead to 14-0 at the 3:17 mark of the first quarter when Becker dropped a ball over the shoulder and into the arms of Cody Sukalski for a 28-yard touchdown. Becker displayed his speed and agility all afternoon by keeping plays alive with his feet and tucking the ball down and running when pressured. He broke a 20-yard scramble before hitting Sukalski on the touchdown scoring drive.
“He’s just getting better. He is dangerous with his feet and has a great ability to get not only himself out of trouble, but the team as well,” said Head Coach Peter Haugen.
Hamline gained momentum in the second quarter with a big goal-line stop on fourth down. The Pipers then marched 95 yards on 14 plays for a touchdown (14-7) on their next drive. Hamline running back Zach Cornish ran the ball in for the two-yard touchdown.
Gustavus took the momentum back on the ensuing possession when Becker hit Sukalski on a slant in the end zone for a three-yard touchdown, capping off a 14 play 85 yard drive and giving the Gusties a 21-7 heading into halftime. The Gusties recorded 286 yards (139 pass, 147 pass) in the first half compared to Hamline’s 117 yards (93 pass, 24 rush). Becker was a very efficient 9-for-13 for 139 yards through the air, while Hamline quarterback was 7-for-17 for 93 yards.
Following an interception thrown by Becker at the start of the third quarter, the Pipers had comeback their minds. Adam Meyer completed a touchdown pass to Anthony Iten from 23 yards out, cutting the lead to 21-14 at the 10:20 mark of the third quarter. The Gusties responded in a big way, as Jeffrey Dubose bursted out of a pile of bodies at the 15-yard-line, accelerating 85 yards for a touchdown (28-14). Dubose’s run is the second longest in Gustavus history behind Scott Anderson’s 91-yard touchdown run in 1991. Dubose finished the game with 202 yards on 21 carries (9.6 avg) and one touchdown. His performance is the 14th best single game rushing performance in Gustavus history.
“To have a huge run like that deep in our own territory was pretty special,” commented Coach Haugen about the play.
Dubose’s run was the first in a series of three big plays by the Gusties. With :36 seconds to play in the third quarter, Jason Cook came untouched and blocked a Hamline punt at the Piper 25-yard-line. Greg Lane picked up the blocked punt and returned it 25 yards back for a touchdown (35-14). Three minutes later Brad Kruckeberg snatched a tipped Meyer pass out of the air and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown (42-14). It is the longest interception return since Adam Miron’s 74-yard interception return against Carleton in 2006. Kruckeberg recorded six tackles and two interceptions in the game, the first coming late in the first quarter on a high pass over the middle by Meyer.
“The defense did a really job creating a lot of turnovers. When we are forcing turnovers that means our guys are flying around and playing fast,” said Haugen.
Becker was 15-for-22 for 184 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while running nine times for 59 yards in the game. Sukalski was his top target, making five catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Hamline quarterback Adam Meyer finished with 272 yards passing (24-44). Tim Queck led all receivers with six catches for a game-high 116 yards. Paul Stommes led the defense with nine tackles. Hamline was 6-for-17 on third down conversions, while Gustavus was 5-for-12. The Gusties dominated the time of possession 35:59 to 24:01
“We are improving and that is what we are most excited about. We have to stay steady and continue to make improvements each week,” said Haugen about the future of the team.
The Gustavus football team will begin its toughest stretch of MIAC matchups next Saturday when the Gusties take on Bethel at 1:00pm in Arden Hills, Minn.