"He asked me if it was a blocking back position," said Concordia coach Jim Christopherson. "I told him the fullback runs the ball at Concordia College."
Christopherson lived up to his word Saturday at Jake Christiansen Stadium. Crouse carried the ball 31 times for 131 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cobbers to a 22-14 triumph over Bethel in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football.
The Hazen (N.D.) High School product said even he was surprised to see the ball that many times.
"I wasn’t even sure how much I was going to get in," Crouse said. "The coaches told me to not be intimidated and play hard."
Concordia improved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the MIAC with the victory, while Bethel suffered its second straight setback and fell to 3-2 and 2-2.
"It was huge win for us because it did two things," Christopherson said. "It kept us in first place and knocked Bethel out of the title race."
Crouse’s 1-yard scoring dive in the second quarter capped a 6-play, 58-yard scoring march and staked Concordia to a 12-6 lead, one it would never relinquish, with 11 minutes, 56 seconds left until halftime.
Crouse’s score, his second of the game, was set up on the first play of the drive. Halfback Dan Steinbeisser hooked up with split end Tory Langemo on a 41-yard pitch pass, which moved the ball down to the Bethel 17-yard line.
"(Crouse) runs hard and hits the hole quickly," said Concordia guard Jed Seeger. "He had plenty of them today."
Concordia’s ability to run the football played a key role in containing the Royals, who were averaging more than 500 total yards per game. Steinbeisser added 106 yards and one touchdown on the ground for the Cobbers. Concordia held a 17-minute, 52-second edge in time of possession.
"Our job was to control the ball, sustain a lot of drives and take time off the clock," said Concordia quarterback Ethan Pole. "We did that today. It gives our defense a chance to do their job with fresh legs."
Concordia’s defense was solid again, allowing the Royals’ offense in to the end zone once (the other score came on a punt return). Ryan Sannes spearheaded the defensive effort with 11 tackles, two sacks and a blocked field goal.
"(Sannes) is having a fantastic year," Christopherson said. "I hate to single one player out, but I saw him making a lot of big tackles today."
While Bethel was able to move the ball on the Concordia, the Cobbers did what they needed to contain the Royals.
"They’re a good offensive team," Sannes said. "We just got some big plays. We’d come up with an interception or a fumble recovery to stop the drive that’s what we needed to do."
Christopherson said: "The bottom line this is we kept them out of the end zone."
Bethel made the game interesting early in the fourth quarter. Sophomore free safety Kirk Midthun scored on a 70-yard punt return to cut Concordia’s lead to 19-14 with 12:48 remaining. On the play, Midthun faked a reverse before working his way down the right sideline for the score.
But on the ensuing possession the Cobbers ran 5:18 off the clock and drove the ball 46 yards in 12 plays before Clayton Horgen kicked a 30-yard field goal to push Concordia’s lead to eight points.
The Cobbers forced Bethel to punt the ball on its next possession and then controlled the ball for the last 5:56 of the game.
"Whenever we they scored our offefense would come back with a score," Sannes said. "That made it easier on us."
The victory avenges the 41-7 loss Concordia suffered at Bethel a year ago.
"They just didn’t beat us, they really humiliated us," Seeger said. "We had that in the back of our minds all week."
Bethel 8 0 0 6 –14
Concordia 6 6 7 3 –22
B–Belisle 9 pass from Lundeen (Belisle from Runyan)
C–Crouse 2 run (pass failed)
C–Crouse 1 run (pass failed)
C–Steinbeisser 6 run (Horgen kick)
B–Midthun 70 punt return (pass failed)
C–Horgen 30 FG
First downs 15 23
Rushes-yards 31-140 70-245
Yards passing 156 129
Total yards 296 374
Passing 36-17-1 16-8-0
Punts-average 5-45.4 5-41.8
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 4-61 4-40
RUSHING – BC, Houger 13-91, Dickman 3-31, Savageau 3-31, A. Linn 1-10, Hendel 1-3, Lundeen 6-(-23). CC, Crouse 31-131, Steinbeisser 23-106, Ludtke 1-24, Pole 15-(-16).
PASSING – BC, Lundeen 16-35-1 153 yards, Runyan 1-1-0 3. CC, Pole 7-15-0 88, Steinbeisser 1-1-0 41.
RECEIVING – BC, Belisle 7-78, Runyan 2-23, Matthews 2-28, Bengston 2-18, Savageau 1-5, Eklund 1-5, Dickman 1-(-1). CC, Langemo 3-61, Nick 2-20, Rice 1-24, Steinbeisser 1-15, Crouse 1-9.
1997 Cobber Football