Kidder, Kunkle Carry Royals to Victory over Gusties, 34-9
The Bethel University Royals looked to get back into the win column after suffering a tough loss to St. John’s last Saturday, and thanks to a spectacular defensive performance and big days from Joey Kidder and Bryce Kunkle the Royals rolled to a 34-9 victory over Gustavus Adolphus. Kunkle rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns and Kidder had four catches for 102 yards and two scores. The defense picked off Gusties quarterback Jake Brietbach four times in the contest and held the QB to 210 yards passing.
Bethel took a 14-0 lead, scoring on each of their first two possessions. The Gusties received the opening kickoff but, on the second play of the game, Tavian Swanson picked off Breitbach at the 49, and raced 24 yards before being tackled at the Gustavus Adolphus 25 yard line. Five plays later, Kunkle scored from 7 yards out to give Royals a 7-0 lead.
GAC was forced to punt on their next possession, giving Bethel the ball at their own 20-yard line. From there, quarterback Jaran Roste lead the team on a methodical drive that moved the ball 80 yards in 10 plays before the Royals would score again. Sid Boros got the drive started with an 8-yard run, and Roste gave his team a fresh set of downs with a 12 yard completion to Micah Niewald. After another Boros 8-yard carry, Roste found Kidder for 9 yards and another first down. The team stayed on the ground for the next four plays, with Kunkle carrying the ball three times for 25 yards. On first and goal at the nine, Roste found Kidder in the end zone to make it 14-0.
The Gusties cut the deficit to eight, scoring a little over two minutes into the second quarter. The Gustavus Adolphus defense forced a turnover on downs at their own 34, and the team moved 66 yards in seven plays the score their only touchdown of the game. Breitbach capped off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown completion to Matthew Kipper.
GAC added a 23-yard field goal by Andrew Abegglen just before the end of the half. This was an impressive drive that saw the team start at their own 7-yard line and move 88 yards down to the Bethel five. Unfortunately, with just three seconds left on the clock, the team had to settle for a field goal. That made it 14-9 heading into the half.
Coming out of the break, it was all Bethel. The defense was dominating, holding the Gusties to 120 yards of offense in the second half. That included intercepting two Breitbach passes.
The Royals extended their lead to 11, taking the opening kickoff of the second half and marching 70 yards before Roste scored from 2 yards out. Gustavus Adolphus looked like they were going to make a big play defensively when Jack Nelson intercepted a Roste pass and returned it 42 yards to the Bethel four. However, a pass interference call against the cornerback gave the ball back to the Royals. Roste then completed back-to-back passes to Niewald to move the ball to the Gustavus Adolphus 18. After a 14-yard completion to Niewald put the ball at the GAC 2, Roste scored to make it 20-9.
Bethel scored on their next possession as well. After the Gusties turned the ball over on downs at the Bethel 23, Roste found Kidder open near the Gustavus Adolphus 40-yard line. He made the catch, then raced the remaining distance for a 73-yard touchdown to make it a 26-9 lead.
The Royals would add one more touchdown just before the end of the third quarter. Nate Farm set up the drive when he made his second interception of the game, picking off a Breitbach pass at the Gustavus Adolphus 41. Bethel kept the ball on the ground, as the team ran seven straight rushing plays before finding the end zone. Kunkle led the way, carrying the ball three times for 26 yards, including the final seven for his second touchdown of the contest. Kunkle also scored on the two-point conversion to make it 34-9.
From there, the team was content to just let their defense control play. Gustavus Adolphus was forced to punt on each of their next two possessions and Kamari Durmas added the fourth interception of the day for the Royals defense.
The Bethel defense had a big day, recording a forced fumble and four interceptions. Farm led the way, leading the team with seven tackles and recording two interceptions. On offense, Roste completed 11 of 15 passes for 185 yards and two scores. Kidder was his primary target, making four catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Kunkle carried the ball 14 times for 72 yards and two scores and Boros added 66 yards on 12 carries.
Breitbach finished 15-28 for 210 yards with a TD and four picks. Kipper had seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Zachary Jakes led the Gusties with 11 tackles.
Bethel University (3-1) will welcome Hamline University (3-1) next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00.
by Robert Pannier