Football Wins MIAC Opener 36-21 Over Concordia on Homecoming

Posted on September 25th, 2021 by

Dalton Thelen sprints for an 89-yard kickoff return touchdown. (photo courtesy of David Faulkner, SPX Sports)

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SAINT PETER, Minn. – Facing adversity with starting quarterback Michael Veldman (Sr., Becker) lost to injury early in the first quarter, the Gustavus football team rose to the occasion on Homecoming Saturday and used all three phases of the game to claim a 36-21 victory over Concordia in the MIAC opener. The Gusties improve to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the MIAC, while the Cobbers drop to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the league.

Jake Breitbach (So., Golden Valley) stepped in at quarterback for Veldman and the Gusties didn’t miss a beat. Breitbach finished the day, completing 17-of-22 passes for 212 yards. He also was the leading rusher with 16 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s special and an electric type of kid,” Head Coach Peter Haugen said of Breitbach. “I think he learned a ton today, too. He is very athletic and learned that he needs to take care of the ball a little bit better, but he is capable of making really big plays and he wants to make those. He came in in that moment [after Veldman’s injury] and took over. He had a memorable day of college football.”

Dalton Thelen (Sr., Cold Spring) produced big numbers in the running game, passing game, and on special teams as he totaled 289 all-purpose yards. He led the receiving corps with nine catches for 124 yards, along with 10 carries for 76 yards, and added an 89-yard kickoff return touchdown.

“Dalton is a guy that teams have trouble matching up with, speed-wise, and that was the case today” Haugen said. “His return really came at a key time because they went down and scored after a long return and we came right back, and that’s tough on the Cobbers when they just felt like they were right back in it.”

Concordia opened the game with the ball and drove 41 yards on eight plays, but a sack by Isaiah Chambers (So., Houston, Texas) on a third down forced the Cobbers to a 39-yard field goal attempt, which was missed. The Gusties then drove the ball 78 yards in 14 plays, capped by a two-yard touchdown rush by Breitbach one play after Veldman was sidelined with a foot injury. Andrew Abegglen’s (Jr., Mound) extra point was good and the Gusties led 7-0 at the 5:30 mark of the first quarter.

The Cobbers were able to respond on the ensuing possession with a nine-play, 61-yard drive, finished with a 14-yard touchdown pass to make the score 7-7 with 3:05 left in the first.

Gustavus was able to get into the Cobber red zone on the following drive but a sack on third down forced an Abegglen field goal, which he hit from 37 yards out to gain a 10-7 advantage 2:35 into the second quarter. Concordia took the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the Gustavus 30-yard line and scored on the next play with a 30-yard touchdown pass to take a 14-10 lead.

The Gusties fired right back as Thelen took the next kickoff 89 yards to the house for a 17-14 lead, which they did not give up the rest of the game. Thelen’s kickoff return for a touchdown was the first by a Gustie since Greg Lane had an 86-yard game-winning kickoff return touchdown with 39 seconds left in the game at Concordia on Nov. 14, 2009.

On Gustavus’s last possession of the first half, Breitbach started the drive with a 35-yard rush up the right side, eventually setting up a 30-yard field goal from Abegglen and the Gusties took a 20-14 lead into halftime.

The Gusties received the opening kick of the third quarter and put together an eight-play, 70-yard drive, capped by a 22-yard field goal by Abegglen for a 23-14 lead with 11:10 left in the frame. Both teams were held scoreless for the rest of the third, but Matthew Carreon (Jr., Houston, Texas) gave the Gusties a big lift with a diving catch for a 40-yard reception at the end of the quarter. Three plays later, David Peal (Sr., Worcetser, Mass.) punched in a five-yard run for a touchdown and the Gusties led 29-14 with 14:16 left in the game.

Concordia kept it a game by responding on the next drive, going 80 yards in seven plays with a one-yard touchdown run to bring the score to 29-21 with 12:15 on the clock. But the Gusties punched right back with a nine-play, 65-yard drive, capped once again with a one-yard touchdown run by Peal for a 36-21 lead with seven minutes remaining.

The Gustie defense stood tall on Concordia’s final two drive, not allowing the Cobbers to score. Ezekiel Sundberg (Sr., Lakewood, Colo.) led the defense with seven tackles. Andrey Denson (So., El Paso, Texas) added six tackles and a pass breakup.

“Unbelievable job by the defense today and that coaching staff,” Haugen said. “The players responded today and that was a heck of a defensive effort.”

Gustavus outgained the Cobbers 470-369 in total offense. The ground game was productive as the Gusties ran for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Abegglen was productive in the kicking game, accounting for 12 points, going 3-for-4 on field goals and three extra points.

The Gusties hit the road next Saturday for a 1 p.m. MIAC matchup at Bethel (2-1, 0-1 MIAC), who lost to Saint John’s 31-25 today.

 

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