The Gustavus football team opened its season on Sept. 7 with a decisive 50-19 victory over Martin Luther College. For the second year in a row the Knights were able to strike first, but a first half offensive outburst pushed the Gusties through.
“It was a good offensive effort,” said Head Coach Peter Haugen. “There were a couple spots where we got discombobulated and didn’t execute the way that we wanted too, but for the most part I loved what we did. Defensively, against their offense you have to be really disciplined and that’s something early that we had to tighten up. Our defense did a really nice job and turned the ball over and that’s fun to see. The statistics are are staggering when you win the turnover battle and we know it’s really important. Our coaches did a nice job getting these guys ready to go and I can’t give our players enough credit for their efforts. Thankful for the win and proud of our guys, certainly plenty of things we’ll have to get better with but that’s how it is every week.”
Martin Luther received the opening kickoff and the Gusties were able to get a stop, however, the ensuing punt hit a Gustavus player in the foot and the Knights were able to recover. Martin Luther then ran seven plays, including a big fourth down conversion before they punched in an eight yard rush to score the first points of the game. The Knights missed the extra point to make the score 6-0.
Gustavus was quick to respond though when Josh Kirk (Sr., Garvin, Minn.) returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to the Martin Luther 15-yard line to set the Gusties up in good field position. It didn’t take long for the duo of Michael Veldman (Sr., Becker, Minn.) and Brice Panning (Sr., Hamburg, Minn.) to find their groove as Veldman found Panning for a 15 yard touchdown on the first play of the drive. Kirk then caught a pass from Veldman to give the Gusties a 8-6 lead.
Martin Luther got two first downs on their next drive before the Gusties got a stop and forced a punt. A 64-yard pass from Veldman to Kirk got the Gusties to the one yard line before Veldman ran it in himself on the next play to push the score to 14-6. Another successful two point conversion put the Gusties up 10.
Quarter number two was all Gustavus as they were able to extend their lead before half. To start the quarter the Gusties put together a long drive, with Panning notching his second touchdown of the game before the extra point put the Gusties up 23-6. Midway through the second quarter, Veldman connected with David Peal (So., Worchester, Mass.) for a 56 yard completion to the two yard line before Peal plowed one in from two yards out for his first score of the season and to make the score 29-6. On Gustavus’ next possession Veldman connected with Kirk for 36 yards before finding Panning once again for his third touchdown of the game to put the Gusties up 36-6 after the PAT, a score they would hold into halftime
The third quarter was slow with Martin Luther eating a large chunk of the clock with a 17-play drive resulting in their second touchdown of the game to bring the score to 36-12.The Gusties responded quickly though, scoring early in the fourth quarter on another Peal run from six yards out to go up 43-12. Gustavus’s defense was then able to score a touchdown as a Lucas Oleson (So., South St. Paul, Minn.) sack forced a fumble that was recovered by Nicolas Negron (So., Garland, Texas) for a touchdown.
The Knights would score on their final possession of the game before the Gusties ran out the clock for the 50-19 victory.
Veldman was 18-of-27 in the contest for 353 yards with three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. Peal and Dalton Thelen (So., Cold Spring, Minn.) led the ground attack with 48 and 42 yards respectively. Panning caught six passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns while Kirk had six catches for 119 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball Kaleb Scott (Jr., Gardena, Calif.) and Jake Krull (Sr., Plymouth, Minn.) both recorded an interception in the contest. Zach Jakes (So., Mankato, Minn.) led the team with eight tackles, while Ezekiel Sundberg (So., Lakewood, Colo.) had seven.
The Gusties will be in action again next Saturday when they take on UW-Stout for a 1:05 p.m. contest in Menomonie, Wis.