The Gustavus football team made the trek north to Moorhead, MN last weekend to take on the No. 20 ranked Cobbers of Concordia College. Despite a 14-10 lead going into halftime, the Gusties were unable to hold on and fell 27-17. This loss moved the Gusties to 3-2 on the season and 2-1 in the MIAC.
“Our guys played hard, and it was a tough game played on both sides of the field,” Head Coach Peter Haugen said after the game.
Coming into the game against Concordia, the Gusties had won their first two MIAC Conference games, beating Augsburg 42-37 and Hamline 51-7. They had tallied a MIAC-best 1,997 yards of total offense and had given up the third least yards per game on the defensive side of the ball.
The Gusties came out hot in the first half, looking to continue their trend of MIAC dominance. On the first play of the game, First-year Austin Fest forced a fumble on the kickoff that was recovered by Sophomore Matthew Monplaisir. The Gusties took advantage of a personal foul penalty against the Cobbers to keep their drive alive. Two plays later, they found the end zone on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Junior Michael Veldman to Senior Hunter Johnson. This was Johnson’s third receiving touchdown of the season.
The Cobbers leveled the score with just over five minutes left in the first quarter. After an eight play drive, they scored on a 12-yard touchdown run, and capped it off with an extra point.
The Gusties responded on the very next possession, marching 84 yards down the field in just eight plays. With 1:59 left in the first quarter, Veldman found Sophomore Brice Panning for a 36-yard touchdown pass.
The rest of the first half was relatively uneventful, as each team punted their next three drives before the Cobbers
were able to score again. This time they drove the ball 38 yards on nine plays and added three points with a 29-yard field goal.
The score remained 14-10 going into halftime with the Gusties set to begin the second half on offense. The first drives of the second half for both teams resulted in punts.
Gustavus regained the ball, and one play after a 40-yard pass from Veldman to Sophomore Josh Kirk barely fell incomplete, the Cobbers intercepted Veldman and returned the ball 32 yards for a score.
The Gusties tied the game once more at 17-17 early in the fourth quarter when First-year Quarterback Gavyn Walsh led the offense to set up a 44-yard field goal by Senior Brendan Boche.
Concordia responded on the very next drive with a field goal of their own, going 30 yards on six plays to set up a 32-yard field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Gusties fumbled the ball and the Cobbers recovered at the 23-yard line. Concordia capitalized on this mistake four plays later with a four-yard touchdown run. After an extra point, the Cobbers led 27-17 with 8:39 to go.
Senior Drew Fredericksen returned the kickoff 79 yards to set up the Gusties next drive, which began at the Concordia 15-yard line. Unfortunately, after a three-and-out and a missed 25-yard field goal, the Gusties 10-point deficit remained. On the following drive, the Gusties forced a punt and got the ball back, but they were unable to put together any offense before the time ran out.
Junior Matt Berkner led the Gustie defense with a career-high 14 tackles. This helped hold the Cobbers to just one third down conversion on 10 attempts.
Veldman continues to lead the Gustavus offense, and his 123 completions and 14 touchdowns on the season rank second in the MIAC. For his efforts, Veldman was chosen as one of two September Gustavus Student Athletes of the Month.
“It all came down to a few plays and execution, but I’m proud of the way our guys battled today,” Haugen said.
Despite the loss, the way the Gusties competed with the 16th ranked team in the nation is promising as they look ahead to the rest of the season in conference play.
After a bye week, the Gustavus will take on Bethel University at Hollingsworth Field on October 14.