November 18, 2013 | 9:41 a.m.
By Jared Johnson, Sports Information Director
The Bethel University football team celebrates with the 2013 MIAC champion banner.
Already crowned 2013 MIAC football champions, Bethel wasn't satisfied with just a title. Instead they were thirsty for something that had only been done once before in program history—finish the regular season undefeated. Instead of looking past Saint John's, the Royals (10-0, 8-0 MIAC) held the Johnnies (7-3, 5-3 MIAC) to seven points and 260 yards of total offense to complete its first undefeated regular season since 2000. The 28-7 victory was the fourth win over a regionally ranked opponent and the sixth against a team with a winning record. Additionally, it was the seventh win over SJU in the past eight matchups.
On Sunday, the Royals learned that they will play St. Scholastica on Nov. 23 at home at noon during the opening round of NCAA Division III play offs. A Royal Gameday celebration, including a rally and brunch, will be held before the game in Brushaber Commons.
Quarterback Erik Peterson said after the game that he wanted to model to his team that physical toughness was essential to beat SJU and what a model he was. 188 yards in the air on 12-of-22 throwing and 55 yards rushing on nine carries, alongside four touchdowns (two rushing, two throwing) were exactly what Bethel needed in the triumph.
Peterson found Mitch Hallstrom seven times for 126 yards and a touchdown—Hallstrom's sixth game with at least 95 yards receiving. Hallstrom's sixth catch—a 20-yard completion in the fourth quarter—helped him secure the all-time record at Bethel for career receptions. The Eden Prairie, Minn., native topped the previous mark that was set by Jeremy Belisle from 1996-1999.
Hallstrom and Jared Schultz each benefited from a Peterson touchdown throw, as Hallstrom caught a 63-yard catch-and-run on 3rd-and-10 on the opening series that went for a BU touchdown. Meanwhile, after Seth Mathis intercepted his fourth pass of the season and a 20-yard run from Brandon Marquardt, Jared Schultz hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass on the Royals third possession—pushing Bethel's lead to 14-0 in the first quarter.
With BU leading 14-7 late in the second quarter, momentum was fairly even and maybe even leaning towards Saint John's, but a critical blocked field goal by Matt Mehlhorn that was returned by Josh Treimer to the SJU 37-yard line set up Erik Peterson's first rushing TD of the day and pushed Bethel's lead to 14 before the half.
The Royals held Saint John's scoreless for the final 43:08—forcing the Johnnies to punt three times in the third quarter. Bethel's Kevin Flaherty was on the receiving end of Connor Brun's second interception of the day late in the fourth quarter at the SJU 33-yard line, which set up Peterson's second and final rushing score of the afternoon.
In addition to the aerial attack, Bethel's ground game finished with 174 yards and seven rushing first downs. Brandon Marquardt rushed for 76 yards on 15 carries—averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
BU's defense was led by Landon Mathis, who collected 17 tackles—seven solo and ten assisted—one sack for five yards, one forced fumble, and two pass breakups. Seth Mathis wrapped up 13 tackles, while recording an interception and a QB hurry. Will Van Duzer muscled down Bruns at the end of the first half for the Bethel's second sack of the day.
Bethel's offensive line kept Peterson on his feet all day long, while also helping the Royals collect 362 total yards. BU turned the ball over once—deep in Johnnie territory—and averaged 5.9 yards per play.