The Gustavus Adolphus Gusties had to feel pretty good about pulling off the upset in Collegeville Saturday afternoon, as two key mistakes helped to stake them to a 14-7 lead. However, these St. John’s Johnnies are tough to beat at home and, led by seniors Nick Martin and Sam Sura, St. John’s took a 21-14 half-time lead, then dominated the second half on their way to a 49-27 victory. The win moved the Johnnies to 5-1.
Each team was forced to punt on their initial drives of the game. On the Gusties second possession they punted as well, giving St. John’s the ball at their own 39. On the first play of the drive the snap was mishandled and Iker Ortiz battled for the ball, coming up with it at the Johnnies 35 to give Gustavus Adolphus great field position.
The Gusties got to work on the ground, opting for running plays on five of the first six plays of the drive. The one pass was a beautifully thrown ball by Gusties Gunslinger Mitch Hendricks to Matt Boyce for 16-yards. Gustavus Adolphus would take the lead as Leeland Lauti refused to be tackled on his way to the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run. That made it 7-0.
Martin and Sura immediately responded for St. John’s. The Johnnies moved 71-yards in nine-plays to tie the score. Sura carried the ball six times on the drive for 41-yards and Martin had two carries for 15-yards and a pass completion to Sura for 15-more. The drive was capped off by a seven-yard run by Sura to tie the score.
The Gusties would be forced to punt on their next possession and the home team began their next drive deep in their own territory. Starting from their own 15 the Johnnies were able to move the ball out to the 33, but the drive stalled and they were forced to punt. The snap went over the punters head and he recovered in time to get off a kick that did not reach the line of scrimmage. Sergio De Pablo grabbed it at the St. John’s 11 and returned the ball to the one-yard line where it appeared that he fumbled the ball, returning it back to St. John’s.
After a brief discussion with the officials, they overruled their initial call and returned the ball back to Gustavus Adolphus at the one. Two plays later Hendricks found Matt Boyce near the sideline for the touchdown to make it 14-7.
Big mistakes had given the Gusties the lead, but the game was about to change behind the two star seniors. Their next drive got off to an inauspicious start when an illegal block penalty gave the Johnnies the ball at their own 10. Martin was unflappable, completing passes of 13-, 16- and 13-yards more to help move the ball to the Gustavus Adolphus 35. On first and 10, the Johnnies QB found favorite target Josh Bungum for a 35-yard touchdown pass. The throw was a thing of beauty and tied the score.
One possession later the Johnnies would take the lead before half. This time it was Sura leading the charge, busting off runs of 18-, 19-, and 8-yards to move the ball the GAC two. On second and goal with 39 seconds left in the half, Sura moved to his left and found a hole. He burst toward the corner of the end zone untouched to give his team their first lead of the game.
It was just a seven-point game at half, but clearly the field was tilting the Johnnies way. The Gusties were having trouble getting their potent offense going, while Sura gained 121-yards on the ground in the first half, and Martin was 5-9 for 97-yards.
Coming out of the locker rooms, the home team mounted an impressive seven-play, 72-yard drive for a touchdown. Sura gained 10-yards on the second play of the drive and Zack Sundly followed that with a 10-yard run of his own. It looked like catastrophe was about to occur when the snap was bobbled on the very next play, but Martin alertly jumped on the loose ball to maintain possession. He then found Nick Simon two plays later for 17-yards to convert a third and 13-play.
That pass really set the tone for the rest of the game. It showed that Martin was going to make plays when they were needed and no one was going to stop him. Two plays later the Johnnies signal caller rolled to his right and went up top to Bungum, who hauled the ball in for the 29-yard score and a two touchdown lead.
On the Johnnies next possession they would primarily keep it on the ground. Sura carried the ball six times, including a three-yard touchdown run, and Bungum jumped into the act, carrying the ball three times for 12-yards of his own. The one pass play on the drive was a little swing pass to Sura that he turned into a 35-yard catch and run.
Trailing by three touchdowns Hendricks and running back Karim Ortiz helped to get the Gusties back on the board. Ortiz had four huge carries on the drive and Hendricks found Matt Boyce for a 33-yard pass play that moved the Gusties deep into Johnnies’ territory. On third and goal from the one Hendricks threaded the needle to Gabe Boyce for the score to make it 35-21.
On the ensuing kickoff, Bungum took the kick at his own seven, and raced down the sideline for 51-yards before being pushed out of bounds at the Gustavus Adolphus 42. Two plays later Sura burst outside and would not be stopped on his way for a 34-yard run for a touchdown. That made it 42-21.
St. John’s next touchdown came after they had punted, but the ball took an odd hope off of the Gusties return man’s face mask. David Franta recovered the ball, and two plays later Martin found Matt Miller for the 22-yard touchdown to make it 49-21.
Hendricks led a nine-play, 65-yard drive for a Gusties touchdown. His 17-yard pass to Gabe Boyce made it 49-27, and that is how the game would end.
The St. John’s defense had a huge day holding the potent Gusties offense to 27-points and 309-yards of total offense. Meanwhile the Johnnies offense mustered up 489-yards of total offense, led by Sura, who had 2o2-yards rushing and 4 touchdowns on 33-carries. Martin was 11-16 for 212 yards and 3 TD passes, while Bungum had 6-catches for 121-yards and 2 TDs.
Hendricks finished 26-40 for 224-yards passing and 3 scores, and Matt Boyce led the Gusties with 11-catches for 121-yards and a TD.
The victory was another example of how talented Martin is, despite going virtually unnoticed in the conference. Other big name quarterbacks have received all the recognition the last two seasons, but all Martin does is make plays and win games. After the game he talked about the lack of respect that there is for his ability.
“I don’t think that teams respect my ability on the field. That is ok though, because I know what my abilities are. I can let the results speak for themselves.” His arm truly spoke on this day as the senior had three touchdown passes of at least 22-yards.
By Robert Pannier