ST. PETER, MINN. -- Gustavus Adophus College scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to rally from a 17-13 deficit and defeat visiting Willamette University, 34-25, on Saturday, Sept. 8 at Hollingsworth Field. The win allowed the Gusties to open the season at 1-0, while Willamette fell to 0-2.
Willamette led 7-6 at halftime and held a four-point lead as the final period began, but Gustavus Adolphus moved in front on a 32-yard pass from quarterback Jordon Stolp to wide receiver Chad Arlt on the second play of the fourth quarter. Stolp kicked the extra point to give the Gusties a 20-17 lead.
Gustavus Adolphus increased the lead to 27-17 on a 17-yard pass from Stolp to John Retka with 2:19 remaining in the game. Willamette gave the ball back to the Gusties with a fumble on the next play from scrimmage. Peter Keegan recovered the ball for Gustavus and Mitch Anderson rushed 12 yards for GAC's final touchdown on the ensuing play. Stolp converted the extra point with 1:59 left for a 34-17 lead.
The Bearcats drove 68 yards in nine plays to score the game's final touchdown on a 10-yard run by Grant Leslie (Jr., QB, Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS). WU picked up two 3rd-and-17 situations during the drive -- once on a 24-yard pass from Leslie to Merben Woo (Jr., FL, Salinas, CA/Hartnell JC) and once on a pass interference penalty against GAC. The pass interference set up Leslie's touchdown on the next play with 10 seconds left. Woo reached the end zone on a double reverse for a two-point conversion to complete the scoring.
Willamette trailed 6-0 when Anderson scored on a 2-yard run at the 4:28 mark of the first quarter. Stolp missed the extra point. Less than two minutes later, the 'Cats took a 7-6 lead on a 4-yard pass from Leslie to senior tight end Josh Lee (Eugene, OR/Air Force Academy) with 2:45 on the clock. Matt Bicocca (Sr., PK, San Andreas, CA/Calaveras HS) kicked the PAT. WU's drive began with a 69-yard run by Woo.
The score remained the same throughout the second quarter. Gustavus had a chance to move in front late in the half, but the Gusties misplayed a field goal snap on 4th-and-2 at the Willamette 7-yard line. The miscue killed an 11-play, 42-yard drive. WU took over with five seconds on the clock and ran one play to reach halftime.
A 56-yard kickoff return by Ethan Armstrong gave the Gusties possession at the WU 33-yard line to start the second half. Stolp used just one play to give GAC the lead, as he threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Arlt. Gustavus led, 13-7.
WU countered with a four-play, 63-yard drive that concluded with a 53-yard pass from Leslie to James Yamashita (Jr., FL, Walnut Creek, CA/Diablo Valley College). Bicocca kicked the extra point to push Willamette in front, 14-13. Bicocca also kicked a 41-yard field goal at the end of a 12-play, 59-yard drive with 5:26 left in the third quarter to increase WU's lead to four points.
Arlt was the top offensive player in the game, as he caught 15 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns for Gustavus Adolphus. Last year against Willamette, Arlt hauled in eight catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-7 win for the Gusties.
In this year's game, the Gusties also benefited from the efforts of running back Mitch Anderson, who gained 116 yards on 23 carries. Stolp was 22 of 42 passing for 293 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 47yards. GAC achieved 457 total yards of offense.
Willamette's offense was led by Leslie, who completed 14 of 27 passes for 161 yards and two scores. He also ran with the ball five times for 12 yards and one touchdown. Yamashita caught six passes for 112 yards and one touchdown. Woo anchored the rushing attack with nine carries for 78 yards. C.J. Washington (Sr., RB, Spokane, WA/Shadle Park HS) ran seven times for 42 yards.
The Bearcats amassed 181 rushing yards on 39 carries. WU also gained 172 yards through the air for 353 yards of total offense. On special teams, Bicocca was perfect on two extra points and a field goal, while senior punter Clinton Moran (Mission Viejo, CA/Capistrano HS) averaged 38.4 yards on eight punts.
Jared Sieling of Gustavus topped all defensive players with 14 total tackles. Keegan added nine tackles and recovered two fumbles. For Willamette, senior inside linebacker Taylor Hermes (Keizer, OR/Southern Oregon University) registered11 total tackles, including 1.5 tackles for losses. Ben Fennimore (Sr., FS, Salem, OR/McKay HS) provided eight tackles and broke up two passes. Matt Banta (So., OLB/RV, Baker City, OR/Baker HS) also recorded eight tackles.
The Bearcats will play their home opener on Saturday, Sept. 15 against California Lutheran University. Game time at McCulloch Stadium is set for 1:30 p.m. (PDT).
Gustavus Adolphus University 34, Willamette University 25 - Box Score