The Bethel University Royals entered their contest with Gustavus Adolphus on Saturday looking for their third win in four weeks. It has been a tough start to the season, but one area that has been very impressive has been the offense, especially at the quarterback position. Saturday afternoon freshman Jake Marsh continued his maturation, throwing for a touchdown and running for two others in the 32-17 victory over the Gusties. That moved the Royals to 3-4 on the season and dropped Gustavus to 3-3.
The Royals would take command of this game from the very start. Bethel received the opening kickoff and started from their own 25 following a touchback. Three plays into the drive Marsh found Brady Bomsta coming out of the backfield and he raced 16-yards for the first down. Marsh then completed three more passes, including two to TE Drew Neuville, with each completion going for a first down. On second and goal from the one, Marsh kept the ball and burst up the middle to score and make it 6-0.
The Royals defense would force a punt after just three plays, putting the ball right back in the hands of their offense. It would not take long for them to take advantage. Marsh completed a big third down pass to Bryce Marquardt on third and 6 to keep the drive alive. On third and 7 the team looked like they may be stopped again. Marsh went back to pass, but found no one. He opted to keep the ball and raced 58-yards for the touchdown to make it 12-0.
The Gusties added a field goal at the start of the third quarter to cut the deficit to nine. It was an incredible 20-play drive that took 8:42 off of the clock. Luke Martinez was a key to the drive, carrying the ball eight times for 35-yards.
Bethel responded right away to the score. Starting from their own 32, the Royals moved 68-yards in 9-plays before they would find the end zone again. It would be a 33-yard pass from Marsh to Marquardt that put the ball at the three, and Bomsta scored on the next play to make it 19-3.
The Royals had scored on each of their first three possessions and they would do so again on their fourth possession. The key play of the drive came on second and 8 at the Royals 45 when Gunnar Bloom burst outside and raced 33-yards before being forced out of bounds. Two plays later Bomsta scored again, this time from 13-yards out and it was 25-3.
On the Gusties next possession, Gustavus Adolphus was moving the ball, getting into Bethel territory. However, on fourth and 9 at the 43, Steven Plocker forced a fumble that was recovered by Joe Theiler. That gave the Royals back the ball with 2:05 left in the half.
On the first play of the possession, Marsh was picked off by Leeland Lauti. On the very next play, Gusties QB Sam Archer was picked off by Dawson Brown who returned the ball to the Gustavus 20. Marsh then completed his next pass, a perfect strike to Marquardt for the touchdown, extending the lead to 32-3. That would be the score heading into the half.
The Bethel Royals completely dominated the first half, but the second half would be all Gustavus Adolphus. The Bethel defense held the Gusties through their first two possessions, but Marsh’s second interception of the game gave Gustavus the ball at the Bethel eight. Two plays later Archer kept the ball and scored from six-yards out to make it 32-10.
It would stay that way until the final 73 seconds of the game when the Gusties would get back on the board. Gustavus punted but Bomsta fumbled giving the visitors the ball at the 29 of Bethel. Four plays later DaiVon Poole scored from eight-yards out to make it 32-17. That would be the final.
Despite the two interceptions, Marsh had an outstanding day going 16-24 for 214-yards and a TD. He also gained 62-yards on the ground and scored twice. Bomsta also had 2-TDs on the ground to go along with 46-yards rushing. Marquardt had 77-yards receiving and a TD, and Jon Pytiak had 71-yards receiving.
On defense, Dawson Brown continues to look impressive, making 13-tackles and an interception. Josh Dalki had 11-tackles and a sack. The defense, as a whole, held the Gusties to just 5 of 16 on third downs and 299-yards of total offense.
The victory was the 200th of Coach Steve Johnson’s career at Bethel.
The Bethel Royals have their bye week next weekend. They will welcome St. Thomas on October 29.
By Robert Pannier