November 25, 2013 | 7:40 p.m.
By Jared Johnson, Sports Information Director
Bethel University's football team made a statement in Saturday's opening round game of the NCAA Division III Championships, as they upended St. Scholastica on the Mall of America Field 70-13. That statement was that the Royals (11-0, 8-0 MIAC) have no intention of leaving the postseason anytime soon.
The Royals will next play host to Wartburg College—a team they faced on the opening weekend of both the 2012 and 2013 season, as well as the 2010 NCAA Division III Playoffs. The Knights defeated Illinois Wesleyan 41-7 on the road Saturday. Opening kickoff is scheduled for noon on Saturday at Royal Stadium.
Bethel held the opposing St. Scholastica Saints (9-2, 9-0 UMAC) to 188 total yards of offense, including just 37 to running back Jake Jensen, who was averaging 125.5 yards per game before Saturday. Meanwhile, Bethel tallied 530 yards of offense on 78 total plays—scoring a touchdown on nine consecutive drives.
Erik Peterson just missed breaking his own record for single-game completion percentage, as Bethel's junior quarterback ended Saturday's contest 25-of-27 (92.6 percent) for 300 yards passing and four touchdowns. Despite not breaking the single-game completion percentage record for the second time, Peterson did break a different record, as he now holds the best mark at BU for yards thrown in a single season. The Orono, Minn., native's performance Saturday pushed him to 2,795 total yards in 2013, which tops the previous record of 2,687 set by Matt Lundeen in 1997. Peterson is also seven completions away from the single-season completions record.
Peterson targeted 10 different receivers—the most this season—with Mitch Hallstrom and Jay Hilbrands leading the charge. Hilbrands caught Peterson's first touchdown on a 16-yard grab in the first quarter and ended with five catches for 57 yards. Hallstrom compiled four catches and 80 yards, while hauling in two TD's in the second half to finish the competition with eight receptions, 127 yards and two touchdowns. Jared Schultz, Grant Mitchell, and Jesse Phenow each had three catches.
The Royals had exceptional production from the ground game as well, finishing with 213 yards on 47 carries—resulting in a 4.5 yard per carry average. Brandon Marquardt carried the ball 15 times for 112 yards and three touchdowns—all three in the first half. Marquardt's sidekick, Marshall Klitzke surged into the end zone twice as well.
Bethel's defense was in lockdown mode all afternoon. In addition to just 188 yards allowed, the Royals forced three CSS turnovers—opposed to none for BU—broke up five passes, and hurried the quarterback twice. Furthermore, seven of the Royals' 62 tackles went for a total loss of 30 yards.
Luke Buttenhoff and Seth Mathis each tallied nine tackles. Buttenhoff collected 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for a total loss of 21 yards, while also batting down two passes and hurrying CSS quarterback, Tyler Harper. Seth Mathis and Matt Mehlhorn each recorded an interception. Mathis's was his fifth of the year and 10th in the last two seasons, whereas Mehlhorn took his third of the year all the way back to the Saints one-yard line—setting up a Marshall Klitzke one-yard TD. Mehlhorn has amassed 135 yards on interception returns.
The Royals owned the Saints in total time of possession—claiming a 15:12 advantage throughout the 60 minutes of play. Additionally, St. Scholastica was forced to punt nine times, compared to Bethel's three. Finally, CSS was charged five penalties, opposed to BU's three.