November 14, 2013 | 7 a.m.
By Jared Johnson, Sports Information Director
Bethel University will return to the NCAA Division III Playoffs for the eighth time in the last 14 years, as Saturday's 47-0 shutout against St. Olaf earned BU their fifth MIAC Football Championship in program history. The Royals (9-0, 7-0 MIAC) held the Oles (1-8, 0-7 MIAC) to just 11 first downs, including just one in the first half, and 192 total yards of offense, while piling up more than 500 yards of total offense.
Bethel's defense was dynamic throughout the entire 60 minutes of play. Collectively, the Royals allowed just 86 yards rushing and 107 yards passing, while forcing three Ole turnovers. Daniel Leidall intercepted Nate Penz on St. Olaf's second drive, while Seth Mathis intercepted Penz with 5:09 left in the first half, which resulted in a 28-yard return for a touchdown. The "pick-six" was Mathis's second of the season. Matt Mehlhorn recorded his second interception of the year midway through the fourth quarter at the BU seven-yard-line—putting a screeching halt to the Ole's best drive of the day.
Luke Buttenhoff provided great pressure at defensive end, as the senior finished his day with six tackles, which included 2.5 for a loss of nine yards. Jesse Moeckly, who replaced an injured Phillip Peterson—who replaced Ben Wahlquist two weeks ago—filled the outside linebacker position nicely, as he led the team with 11 tackles. Mathis finished with seven tackles and Kevin Flaherty wrapped up four tackles, including two for a loss of 12 yards.
In addition to the Royals exceptional defensive performance, Bethel's offense also executed well, recording a total of 507 yards. In fact, BU didn't lose yards on a play until the final drive of the game.
Brandon Marquardt carried the ball 16 times for 128 yards and three touchdowns—averaging 8.0 yards per carry. Altogether the Royals ground attack amassed 212 yards on 38 carries and four touchdowns, which amounted to 5.9 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, Mitch Hallstrom caught seven passes for 179 yards and two scores, including a 59-yard pass-and-catch that resulted in Bethel's second TD of the day. Hallstrom averaged 25 yards per reception. Hallstrom helped quarterback Erik Peterson complete 14-of-26 passes for 266 yards and two throwing touchdowns, while also using his legs to score another—BU's first of the day.
Josh Werness, who replaced Phillip Peterson at punter, had a commendable day considering Saturday's wind gusts of 22 mph. Werness averaged 39.2 yards per punt, including a kick of 52 yards. He and Bryce Marquardt pinned St. Olaf inside the 20-yard-line once, as Marquardt recorded two exceptional solo tackles as Bethel's gunner on the outside.
The Royals senior day was celebrated in style Saturday, as Bethel captured its first conference football title since 2007. BU's three other MIAC championships came in 2000, 2001, and 2006. The Royals will attempt to capture its second undefeated regular season with next weekend's finale at Saint John's. The only other season Bethel has gone unblemished was in 2000—the year BU first went to the postseason. The Royals and Johnnies are scheduled to kickoff at 1 p.m. in Collegeville, Minn.