Royals use precision passing to beat Gustavus 41-21

October 20, 2012 | 5:56 p.m.

Erik Peterson carves up the Gusties’ secondary

Sports | Matt Kelley

Royals use precision passing to beat Gustavus 41-21

Sophomore Erik Peterson throws a second-quarter pass against Gustavus Adolphus College on October 20. His 315 passing yards against the Gusties were a career high. | Matt Kelley

ST. PETER, Minn. – In a dramatic contrast to last week’s drubbing at St. Thomas, Bethel flexed its offensive muscle in a 41-21 win Saturday against Gustavus Adolphus.

A week after managing just 160 yards of total offense and seven first downs in a shutout against St. Thomas, the Bethel (6-1, 4-1 MIAC) offense gained 452 yards against the Gusties, totaling 23 first downs and controlling the clock for over 34 minutes. The performance was a return to normalcy after the rare blowout loss last week.

“We didn’t talk about even winning,” said head coach Steve Johnson. “We talked about how we had to play Bethel football – be physical and be fast. Today was really important.”

The offensive explosion was fueled largely by quarterback Erik Peterson. The sophomore completed his first 11 pass attempts and finished the game 27-of-29 for 315 yards and three scoring strikes. In case you don’t have a calculator handy, that’s a completion percentage of just over 93 percent.

The Bethel football record book doesn’t include single-game completion percentage, but Peterson approached the school record for completions at 35. Had the Gustavus offense been able to keep the game closer, Peterson just might have gotten there despite cool and blustery conditions.

“We ran a lot of rhythm passes early to get everyone going, and from there we can spread the ball around deep,” Peterson said. “It gives me a little more confidence to throw deep once we have all those completions, and the protection was great today.”

The incredible performance put Peterson on pace to break the school record for single-season completion percentage, currently held by quarterbacks coach Scott Kirchoff, who completed 62.5 percent in 2000. With three games remaining – plus any possible playoff action – Peterson has completed 68.1 percent of his attempts.

Uncharacteristic of past Bethel teams, however, are struggles with the running game. Saturday’s 160-yard performance was an improvement, but the Royals finished with just 3.4 yards per carry. It was good enough Saturday to move the chains and give the defense rest, but it’s a far cry from the Logan Flannery days.

“Jesse (Phenow) has been hurt. Brandon (Marquardt) has been hurt. We just haven’t been in sync. Part of it is injury, part is us, part is execution,” Johnson said. “But in seven games, we’ve had six different starting lineups on offensive line. That’s not good, and it’s why we haven’t been rushing as well.”

While the offense methodically moved the ball, the Bethel defense was charged with slowing down the Gusties’ option attack, led by quarterback Muresuk Mena. The Royals held Mena to 153 yards of total offense – 70 yards below his average entering Saturday – and intercepted him twice.

After the Royals’ defense was on the field for over 40 minutes last week against St. Thomas, time of possession was key Saturday against Gustavus.

“Getting our offense going was what we needed,” Peterson said. “We wanted to keep our defense off the field today because they had to keep us in the last few games.”

Bethel will return home for their next game, a 1 p.m. affair against Hamline (1-6, 0-6 MIAC) on Saturday, October 27 at Royal Stadium.

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