The last two seasons, fluky situations have led to two very gut-wrenching losses for the Bethel University Royals vs. Augsburg University. Saturday afternoon it looked like it might be three in a row when the Auggies jumped out to a 20-14 lead, but the Royals took the lead heading into the half, before putting on an offensive showcase to dominate the second as Bethel won 62-27. Gunnar Bloom helped to lead the onslaught with a single-season high of 188-yards rushing to go along with 2-touchdowns.
The Auggies took the opening kickoff and marched down the field to take the early 6-0 lead. Shannon Storley had a huge 23-yard completion to Lawrence Ogunti on third and 17, but it would be Tiras Bolton’s 30-yard pass to Nick Heenie on the halfback option that would cap off the drive with a touchdown.
Augsburg would look to go for the throat early when they opted for the onside kick and recovered, however, the Bethel Royals defense would make a huge play. Storley moved his team to the Royals 22, where it would be second and 7. The Auggies QB found Raymond Guyton for a first down, but star linebacker Dawson Brown forced a fumble that was recovered by Steven Plocker at the 15.
The Royals would be forced to punt, putting the ball back in the Auggies hands. Once again, the defense would make a huge play. On second and 11 near midfield, Philip Amundson intercepted a Storley pass at the Bethel 34.
That would get the offense fired up. They would move 66-yards in 10-plays to take the lead. Bloom led the drive with four big runs for 34-yards. On first and 10 at the Augsburg 32, QB Jake Marsh hit a wide open Drew Neuville who raced the remaining distance for the touchdown to make it 7-6.
Augsburg would be forced to punt on their next possession, but Lorenzo Hernandez recovered a fumble on a bad handoff by the Royals, giving the Auggies the ball at the visitor’s eight. Bolton would score from one-yard out on the second play and the home team would be back on top, 13-7.
With 1:43 left in the first quarter, the Royals would start their next possession form their own 31. On the second play, Marsh made a great pass to Bryce Marquardt, who corralled the ball and raced 43-yards before he was finally tackled at the Auggies 25. On the 12th play of the drive, Brady Bomsta scored from two-yards out to put the Royals back on top.
The Auggies responded right away. On first and 10 at the Bethel 49, Storley threw a pass to Bolton, who found a seam and raced the remaining distance for the score. That made it 20-14.
With 4:49 left in the half, Bethel would get back on top. Bloom had two huge runs, one for 16- and the other for 11-yards to move the ball to the Augsburg 16. Marsh’s pass to Marquardt on the next play put the Royals back on top 21-20.
On the very next possession for Augsburg, Dawson would make another huge play. The linebacker read Storley perfectly, intercepting the ball and returning it 22-yards for a touchdown to make it 27-20.
It looked like the Royals would get the ball right back when they forced a fourth and 5 at the 30, but a fake punt worked to perfection. Jordan Gallegos kept the snap and raced 70-yards to tie the score at 27.
The Royals would retake the lead just before the half. Following the score by Gallegos, Bloom helped to move the team 53-yards in 9-plays. The running back carried the ball four-times and also made a reception. On second and goal at the three, Bomsta took it up the gut for the score and, after the two-point conversion, it was 35-27 heading into the half.
It had been a crazy first half, but it was only going to get crazier in the second half. Bethel was forced to punt on their first possession of the third quarter, but the defense would make a huge stop to keep the Auggies out of the end zone. With Quentin Lake in for Augsburg, subbing for the injured Storely, he moved the team to the Bethel four, but a pass interference call moved them back 15-yards. On third and goal at the 14, Lake’s pass was picked off by Brett Norling and returned to the 10.
Bloom then got them out of any trouble, carrying for double-digits (16, 11, 12) on the next three plays. On first and 10 at the 47, Marsh threw to Jon Pytiak, who made the catch and raced the remaining distance for the 53-yard touchdown. That made the score 42-27.
Augsburg would have some success moving the ball on their next possession, but would turn over the ball on downs at the Bethel 31. The Royals coaching staff then dialed up the trick play. Marquardt took the ball on the wide receiver sweep, but then threw to Jackson Canfield who made the catch and raced to the end zone for the 58-yard score. That increased the lead to 21.
On the next possession for Bethel University, they would be back in the end zone again. The drive began at their own 35 and they would move to midfield in two plays. On first and 10, Marsh handed to Bloom who shook off two tackles before running the distance for the score.
The Royals would add one more score in the fourth quarter. In the first five plays of the drive they would move to the Augsburg seven. On first and goal, Bloom scored the final touchdown of the game to make it 62-27. That gave Bethel 27 second half points and 35-unanswered points to close out the contest.
It was an impressive showing across the board for the Bethel Royals. The offense rushed for 240-yards and threw for 294. Bloom had 188-yards rushing and 2-touchdowns. Marsh had to throw just 18 times, completing 13 of them for 217-yards and 3-scores. Marquardt had 4-receptions for 72-yards and a TD, and he threw for 58-more and a score.
The defense forced six turnovers (3-INT, 3-FUM), plus they had 5-sacks. Brown had a forced fumble and an interception. Josh Dalki led the team with 8-tackles and had 1.5-sacks. Plocker had 2-sacks and recovered a fumble.
The Bethel University Royals (4-5) will travel down Snelling Avenue to take on the Hamline University Pipers (5-4) next Saturday. Kickoff is 1:00 PM.
By Robert Pannier