Gustie football wins thriller

Parker Burman-

This past weekend, the Gustavus Football team traveled to St. Paul to square off with conference rival St. Olaf in a huge late-season matchup for playoff positioning. In a thrilling 41-40 overtime win the Gusties pulled to 5-3 on the season with a nonconference record of 4-2, positioning themselves well in the race for a conference title.

St. Olaf kicked the scoring off, driving for 11 plays and 76-yards, punching the ball into the endzone on an 18-yard touchdown toss. The Gusties fumbled the ball on their first possession of the game but Senior Cornerback Isaiah Chambers picked off the St. Olaf pass, taking 59-yards to the Oles’ 19-yard line. This swing in momentum helped the Gusties get on the board as Senior Running-Back Rohee Konde punched in the 8-yard score. Gustavus, however, missed the extra point attempt, leaving the score at 7-6 in Oles’ favor.

Each team’s next drive ended in a punt before St. Olaf took their third drive of the game down for a touchdown. The Gusties answered right back going 81-yards on 11 plays for the score to push the score to 14-13. St. Olaf snuck in one more score before the end of the half banging home a field goal to push the halftime score to 17-13.

“We felt we had to come out and keep bringing full effort and execution to every play,” Sophomore Receiver Caden Kleinschmidt said of the team’s second-half mentality.

The Gusties took advantage of receiving the second-half kick-off as Junior Quarterback George Sandven led the offense down the field for the score, finding Kleinschmidt for the 20-yard score. In a game that saw no shortage of offense, St. Olaf answered the Gustie score with one of their own to reclaim the lead 24-20 at the end of the third quarter.

St. Olaf claimed their largest lead of the game in the early phases of the fourth quarter when they drove down for the score on a 26-yard pass to open their lead up to eleven points. “Being down two possessions late in the game is a tough position to be in, but we took things one play at a time. We went to work and went into every play with confidence,” Kleinschmidt said.

Sandven and Senior Receiver Matthew Carreon clicked in the fourth quarter for an unbreakable connection that helped to facilitate a Gustie comeback. The Gustavus offense drove down the field and answered. St. Olaf scored to shrink the deficit to only four points with only minutes on the clock. With only 20 seconds left in the game Sandven and Carreon connected for the touchdown score to put the Gusties up late 34-31.

St. Olaf was not going to roll over even with mere seconds remaining in the game. In the 20 seconds left, they were able to march and position themselves into field goal range and tied the game 34-34 to force overtime, a first for Gustavus since 2018.

“Nothing had changed going into overtime. We knew that we had caught a rhythm and were clicking on all cylinders which gave us confidence to score,” Sandven said.

In overtime, the Gusties converted their opening overtime play, as Carreon was found by Sandven for the 15-yard score. St. Olaf ran in a five-yard touchdown to put them only one point behind Gustavus, but in an aggressive move, they went for the two-point conversion. The play was stopped as Senior defensive back, Taylor Stroh, made the game-winning stop as the rest of the defense rallied around him. This stop secured the 41-40 victory for the Gusties.

“The defense had an incredible game. They were the reason why we were able to get back into it as they made crucial stops throughout the game,” Sandven said.

“It felt good, it was special to find a way to help the team win in a key situation. The only thing in my mind was “go win”. But I can’t take all the credit, as a defense we always pride ourselves in having guys running to the football and I got some help from my teammates to finish the play,” Stroh said.

Gustavus was outgained by St. Olaf 459-380 and the Gusties lost the possession battle by seven minutes but when it came to clutch time both the offense and defense stepped up big time. Sandven went 23-37 for 309 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to Carreon and the other to Kleinschmidt. Senior Linebacker Carson DeKam led the defense with 10 tackles, including seven solo, helping to lead the defense in clutch stops throughout the game.

“I think it just came down to our alignment, key, and technique as a unit down the stretch. You have to give a lot of credit to St. Olaf, they were ready to play from the start. Defensively, we didn’t start the game well. I think we settled in late and guys were trusting each other out there and making plays when it came to them. It’s all about staying connected on game day as a defensive unit and making sure that we all continue to stay calm, collected, and composed in high-intensity moments. I believe down the stretch that we were able to do that,” DeKam said.

The Gusties next play at Hollingsworth Field on Saturday, Nov. 4th against Carleton for their last regular season matchup of the year. Gustavus will be having their Tackle Cancer Game so make sure to come out and support the Gustavus Football team.

“The goal has never changed all year long. Even after our tough losses and great wins, the goal remains the same – Growth, Effort, [and] Trust. We commit to the process of daily improvement while giving maximum effort in all areas of our life and to build deep and meaningful relationships. By committing to this, we trust that our bigger goal of playing for a MIAC championship will come,” Carreon said.