ARDEN HILLS, Minn.—With the game knotted at 14 heading
into the final quarter, the Bethel University football team
demonstrated perseverance and toughness—two principles the
squad preaches every day—to defeat Wartburg College at home
34-27. The Royals (12-0, 8-0 MIAC) captured their second postseason
victory of the 2013 campaign with four touchdowns, a two-point
conversion, a two-point blocked PAT attempt that was returned
90-plus yards the other way, and a 30-yard field goal to upend the
Knights (9-3, 6-1 IIAC) at Royal Stadium.
Backup quarterback Tom Keefe made a name for himself Saturday, as he was asked to replace an injured Erik Peterson—the 2013 Jim Cristopherson MIAC Most Valuable Player—late in the third quarter. Keefe not only completed an 18-yard pass to Jared Schultz on his first play of the game while facing 3rd-and-12, but he also completed eight of his remaining 11 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Collectively, he and Peterson completed 24-of-34 passes for 387 yards and three TDs, with no interceptions.
"Tom Keefe was the quarterback that stayed," said head coach Steve Johnson. "A senior quarterback behind the league MVP, and he stayed all four years with us. He didn't just stay, but he kept getting better and better and better and the next thing you know, he was right there, right when we needed him."
Keefe and Peterson targeted Jared Schultz and Mitch Hallstrom
heavily throughout the contest. Schultz hauled in four passes, but
all were big, as he raced for 193 yards and two scores—a
career high for the senior wide out. Hallstrom caught 10 passes for
107 yards, his eighth game with at least 95 yards or more this
season and fourth consecutive 100-plus yard performance.
The Royals' defense made several clutch plays throughout the afternoon, but none was bigger than a blocked PAT attempt with 12:21 left in the game. Seth Mathis plunged through the middle of the line and blocked the Knights extra point attempt, and Matt Mehlhorn picked up the lose ball and raced the rest of the way for a BU score. The officials on the field initially called it a one-point play, however, corrected it later in the game—roughly 10 minutes later—and changed it to two points. This correction proved to be critical for numerous reasons down the stretch.On the ensuing possession that followed the blocked PAT attempt, Keefe connected with Jared Schultz on a 56-yard touchdown, which eventually put Bethel ahead 27-20—after Keefe hit Jay Hilbrands in the back of the end zone for a two-point conversion.
The Knights mustered a 12-play, 59-yard scoring drive that
evened the score at 27-27 with 3:11 left on the clock. What
happened next is what senior backup QB Tom Keefe said every kid
dreams of having.
"When you start playing football, this is the situation you dream of being in," said Keefe. "You know when you're in your back yard, it's a big game, time is running down, and you have to make a big play to win the game."
"We had a lot of guys step up and we were able to finish down the stretch," noted Keefe.
Keefe led an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a toss to Brandon Marquardt, who scampered 24 yards for the final score of the day. The Royals defense did bend on the final Knight possession, as Wartburg drove down to Bethel's 13-yard line, but BU didn't break. Landen Strilzuk and Seth Mathis tackled Brandon Domeyer at the 5-yard line as time expired to capture the 34-27 triumph.
Josh Treimer, who had three interceptions against the Knights on
the opening game of the 2013 season, had a big day once again for
the Royals. Treimer was one of the team leaders in tackles with 10,
but also broke up four Logan Schrader passes. Landon Mathis and
Seth Mathis each had 10 tackles, while Kevin Flaherty and Luke
Buttenhoff each recorded a QB sack.
The Royals held Brandon Domeyer to 84 yards on the ground and the entire Wartburg rushing game to 110 yards.
Brandon Marquardt led Bethel's rushing attack, carrying the ball
nine times for 58 yards and on touchdown.
Bethel will host North Central University (Ill.) next Saturday in a NCAA Division III quarterfinal matchup on Bremer Field at Royal Stadium. The Royals and Cardinals are set to kickoff at noon. For more game information about Saturday's postseason matchup and parking please see an official release Monday morning.