Autumn Zierman – Staff Writer
Gusties crowded the stands and hills of the Gustavus Football Stadium on the West side of Lund Center this last Saturday, September 25. The halls of Jackson Campus Center were crowded with milling alumni, all gathered together to cheer on the Gustavus Football team in the annual homecoming game which was against our longstanding rival Concordia. This game marked the MIAC opener and set the team on track in victory to deliver on this year’s motto, “Get 23”, referring to a 23rd MIAC championship for the team.
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 improved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the MIAC, while the Cobbers dropped to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the league.
“Concordia has always been a big rival; we always have to really buckle down. Offense has a few sayings; ‘be confident, not cocky”’and ‘we are all here for a reason’. In 2019 [against Concordia] we ran with 14 seconds left on the clock- we had the momentum but had to put those games to rest. I wouldn’t say we were overconfident, but we trusted each other.” Junior Wide Receiver Matthew Carreon said. Matthew Carreon gave the Gusties a big lift with a diving catch for a 40-yard reception at the end of the third quarter.
Another standout player in the team, sophomore Jacob Breitbach, stepped up as quarterback after Michael Veldman, the senior starting quarterback, was lost to injury earlier this season. 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.
“It felt good playing QB, especially getting a win for my first game. I just had a lot of trust in my teammates and coaches and relied on my training. Getting a win on homecoming was very fun, and super special for me considering it was my first ever college homecoming game. The energy at the game was great and it felt good to get a win for the school and all the fans out there supporting us”, Breitbach said.
“He’s special and an electric type of kid. 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”, Head Coach Peter Haugen said of Breitbach.
Trust is pushing the team forward this season. Trust which is built on the back of an intense training schedule the football team has built unity on and off the field.
“We have a very strong team- a lot of the guys, we trust each other’s skills and we show each other what we can do. Everyone has their certain niche, and there are guys you trust to be in the right spot right time, Off the field we spend a lot of time doing team exercises, we take practice very seriously- there are no off days and we build trust in each other. To get all of these guys to buy in is huge- everyone buys into the program, all of our guys have bought in and trust the process.” Carreon said.
Senior Dalton Thelen produced big numbers in the running game, passing game, and on special teams as he totaled 289 all-purpose yards. Thelen led the receiving corps with nine catches for 124 yards, marking his second consecutive game with over 100 yards receiving. He added 10 carries for 76 yards and had an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Thelen’s kickoff return touchdown is the first by a Gustie since 2009. For his performance, Thelen has been named MIAC Football Special Teams Player of the Week.
“Winning player of the week means a lot to me. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and coaches putting me in positions to be successful. Football is an all around team game and I give credit to everyone on the team because I truly couldn’t have done it alone. I’m looking forward to more conference games and taking it week by week in trying to pursue our goal of winning the MIAC championship”, Thelen said.
Gustavus outgained the Cobbers 470-369 in total offense. The ground game was productive as the Gusties ran for 220 yards and three touchdowns. The Gusties hit the road next Saturday for a 1 p.m. MIAC matchup at Bethel (2-1, 0-1 MIAC), who recently lost to Saint John’s 31-25.