ST PETER — St. Thomas amassed 440 total yards Saturday afternoon at Hollingsworth Field to defeat Gustavus Adolphus 30-22 and ruin coach Jay Schoenebeck’s final homecoming game.
Sophomore running back Ben Wartman carried the ball 27 times for 196 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Tommies improved to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
St. Thomas, which held a 16-0 halftime lead, also got a huge game from freshman wide receiver Fritz Waldvogel, who caught 12 passes for 80 yards and one score. Senior quarterback David Sauer was 15 for 26 for 201 yards.
“I feel bad for our seniors since it was their last homecoming here,” said Schoenebeck, who is in his 15th and final season with the Gusties. “There’s a lot of character and courage on this football team, so we’re looking forward to the six weeks left.”
Wartman’s 32-yard TD burst up the middle capped an 11-play, 79-yard drive on the game’s initial possession.
After the Gusties missed a field goal on its first chance, Eric Taylor’s 26-yard field goal and Ryan McCarthy’s 1-yard TD run closed out the first-half scoring.
“We just weren’t executing our defensive assignments right,” Schoenebeck said. “We weren’t getting gap control very well. Initially, our kids were over-running a lot of plays. I think they came out a little too anxious.”
Gustavus (2-2, 1-2) sputtered on its first two possessions of the second half before senior wide receiver Chad Arlt matched his school-record of a year ago when he hauled in a 99-yard scoring strike from junior quarterback Jordan Becker.
“We called a slant and go, and as soon as I saw there was single coverage, I just wanted to sell the slant and run by him,” said Arlt, the Gusties’ all-time leading receiver. “We made some adjustments at halftime and started taking what they were giving us. We just moved the chains and got into a rhythm. Once we got in a rhythm, we felt like we could open up the playbook a little more.”
Waldvogel’s 43-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the fourth quarter put the Tommies in front 23-7. The Gusties countered moments later when Becker connected with Blake Noennig on a 50-yard scoring pass.
It looked like the Tommies put things away when Wartman banged in from a yard out with 9:05 remaining to make it a 30-14 contest. However, Becker’s 3-yard TD pass to Arlt, followed by a two-point conversion from the same duo, pulled Gustavus within 30-22 with 6:20 to go.
The Gusties defense force a turnover moments later when defensive end Christian Vanek deflected a Sauer pass and linebacker Tony Palma came up with the pick.
Becker’s 9-yard pass to Cody Sukalski produced a first down at the Tommies 16-yard line before an illegal block in the penalty was followed three straight incompletions.
“Our defense was on the field too much in the first half because we couldn’t sustain anything,” said Becker, who finished 26 of 47 for 313 yards. “We took advantage of what they were giving us in the second half and things started to roll.
“We were still confident we were in the game and never got down on ourselves. We decided we were going to put up a fight and we started making the plays we didn’t make in the first half.”
Arlt ended up catching seven passes for 134 yards. Junior defensive back Joe Welch led the Gusties with 12 tackles while sophomore linebacker Zach Lundquist was in on 11 stops.
Gustavus plays Saturday at Pacific Lutheran University.