The Mankato Free Press
---- — It was a quite a football weekend around here.
Minnesota State pounded another team, running its season record to 9-0 and sparking debate whether these Mavericks are better than last year when they went to the national semifinals.
Former Mankato West quarterback Philip Nelson led Minnesota to its third straight victory, earning player of the week honors from the Big Ten and pushing Gopher Nation toward a tizzy.
And the Minnesota Vikings lost again, which shouldn’t be newsy, but the NFL rules, even when the hometown team is struggling.
Lost in all this football frenzy was quite an accomplishment over in St. Peter. Gustavus Adolphus defeated St. John’s 23-20 in double overtime.
What was so special about this game? Let’s count the ways.
The Gusties ended a 15-year losing streak to St. John’s, which used to be the best program in the MIAC and was having another good season. And some of the games in this series haven’t been close.
But the Gusties have proven that by beating St. John’s, and giving St. Thomas a good tussle, that they are headed in the right direction.
The victory also guaranteed an end to a string of four consecutive seasons with losing records. Gustavus needs a win in the final two games to have a winning record, but five victories is a sign of progress, which keeps the lads motivated in the offseason and might lure attractive recruits.
The victory proved the Gusties could win a close game against a quality opponent. Over the last five seasons, the Gusties have allowed the winning points in the fourth quarter, sometimes excruciatingly late, eight times. If those eight games go the other way, coach Peter Haugen’s record would go from 18-30 to 26-22.
This season, the Gusties have given up points in the fourth quarter in tight losses to Augsburg and St. Thomas, and had they won those two games, they’d be still in the hunt for an MIAC championship.
Against St. John’s, kicker Thomas Schleusener missed a last-second field goal that would have won the game, something that might have doomed the Gusties in the last five years.
But the defense forced a field goal in the first overtime, which Schleusener matched, and after St. John’s missed a field goal in the second overtime, Schleusener booted the game-winner, perhaps a program-changing moment.
Of course, the Gusties need to follow this up with good games against Carleton and Concordia, get another victory or two, and carry that through the offseason and into next season.
It’s been easy to overlook the Gusties over the last couple of seasons, but on Saturday, they stood out in what was a busy football weekend in the area. The Vikings season will go on for longer than they are relevant but the Mavericks are going to keep playing. And the Gophers are bowl-bound.
Perhaps, the Gusties’ best days are ahead, too.
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.