By Jim Rueda
---- — ST. PETER — Gustavus Adolphus junior cornerback Zach Dilger has been on the field enough to know it's not how you start a football game that's important, it's how you finish.
The Gusties and Dilger got off to a slow start in their homecoming game at Hollingsworth Stadium against St. Olaf on Saturday and trailed 13-7 after one quarter. Gustavus pulled it together soon after, however, and rolled to a 45-19 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory.
Dilger's name first surfaced in a bad way Saturday. St. Olaf was in a 4th-and-10 situation on its own 34-yard line when Dilger swooped in and ran into the punter. Instead of Gustavus taking over possession, the Oles had a first down at their own 49-yard line.
On the next play, however, Dilger stepped in front of Nate Penz's pass near the left side line and picked it off with a 3-yard return. That was the start of Dilger's turnaround, and the rest of his teammates followed soon after.
"You can't stand out there and dwell on the previous play," Dilger said. "You just have to focus on the next play. Fortunately I was able to get us the ball back right away."
Dilger ended up with an impressive game, grabbing two interceptions, breaking up two more passes, recording three solo tackles and assisting on two others. Nick Frandsen and Kellan Euerle also had interceptions for the Gusties.
The Gustavus offense got hot in the second quarter as Jeffrey Dubose scored the first of his three touchdowns from 6 yards out, Jordan Rudenick caught a 33-yard screen pass over the middle for another score, and Tom Schleusener kicked a 22-yard field goal. The result was a 24-13 halftime lead.
Dubose found the end zone again from the 3 early in the third quarter, and Matt Boyce made a highlight-reel catch in the corner of the end zone four minutes later to up Gustavus' lead to 38-13 after three.
Dubose scored from the 1 with 9:42 to play before St. Olaf answered with a 15-yard TD run by David Skandera against the Gustavus reserves on the final play of the game.
Dubose, quarterback Mitch Hendricks and wideout Boyce all had big days. Dubose had 23 carries for 99 yards and three touchdowns, Hendricks completed 29 of 38 passes for 301 yards and two scores, and Boyce hauled in 13 catches for 150 yards and one TD.
"We knew we just had to get it together after we fell behind in the first quarter," Dubose said. "We had some misfires early on, but we stopped making so many mistakes and came back.
"It was a good effort by our offense. We moved the ball well on the ground and in the air. The defense played well, too."
The win for Gustavus (2-1, 1-1 in MIAC) was the first against the Oles (1-3, 0-2) in 11 years. It was also the Gusties' first homecoming win since 2009.