Reusse: Backup QB leads St. Thomas over upset-starved Gusties

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 13, 2013 - 12:32 AM

Alex Fenske threw two touchdown passes as St. Thomas avoided a loss.

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Gustavus cornerback Zach Dilger went low and lifted Tommies quarterback John Gould in the air on a tackle during Saturday’s MIAC game in St. Peter, Minn.

Photo: Photo by Dan Coquyt • courtesy of Gustavus Adolphus,

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– Gustavus Adolphus has won 22 titles in MIAC football. The downside is that only one has come in the previous 40 seasons. Dennis Raarup won a title in 1987 and then retired.

Peter Haugen is the third coach since Raarup to try to get the Gusties back among the MIAC’s contenders. He was the surprise selection among a large field of candidates when the Gustavus job opened after the 2008 season.

Gustavus went with Haugen’s résumé, rather than the fact he was a Bethel graduate (1991) and not a Gustie. Haugen had spent 15 seasons at Minneapolis Washburn, won 11 City titles and posted a 76-8 conference record.

Haugen and his family get big points for the way they have involved themselves in the campus and the city of St. Peter. That community work only takes a football coach so far at Gustavus.

The Gusties were 13-27 overall and 10-22 in his first four seasons. He was asked early on Saturday morning what it will take for a turnaround.

“We haven’t competed poorly,” Haugen said. “We’ve been close. We haven’t been able to finish. We have to start doing that.”

The Gusties didn’t finish in the MIAC opener and lost 19-16 at Augsburg. This was followed by two walkovers: 45-19 over a St. Olaf team that’s down this year, and 52-7 over a Hamline team that’s down this quarter-century.

There was a potential program turner on Saturday afternoon, as St. Thomas came to Hollingsworth Field. The Tommies had showed vulnerability with a shocking, home-field loss to St. John’s two weeks ago.

Also: Gustavus won twice in the MIAC last season, and St. Thomas reached the national championship game, yet the Gusties played the Tommies within 28-14 in St. Paul.

So, there was hope … and wind, a roaring wind that swept over the plateau on which the Gusties’ splendid, seven-year-old stadium rests.

Alex Fenske comes from Marshall, Minn. That’s near hundreds of wind turbines that overlook the prairie of southwest Minnesota.

“Those turbines had plenty of wind to generate power today,” Fenske said around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, after the Tommies survived with a 20-12 victory.

Fenske, a 6-foot-4, 206-pound sophomore, was the No. 4 quarterback in the Tommies’ preseason camp. Backup Ben Duncan was injured. Last week, starter Matt O’Connell missed a game with pneumonia. John Gould and Fenske alternated in a 65-6 romp against Carleton.

O’Connell was back on Saturday. And then he wasn’t.

The Tommies were leading 7-6 in the second quarter. O’Connell was going to throw on first down from the Gusties 46. There was heavy traffic, he got rid of the ball, there was a collision and the bottom of a leg went the wrong way.

Soon, there were players from both teams waving for help. After five minutes, O’Connell left sitting on a stretcher.

Coach Glenn Caruso was not ready to confirm the injury as a broken ankle that would end O’Connell’s season. What he said was: “Obviously, it doesn’t look good.”

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