Last season, Gustavus Adolphus ran over, around, and through opponents thanks to running back Jeffrey Dubose, who finished the season with 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns.
One year later, things have changed in St. Peter. The Gusties are doing it through the air these days, and they have junior quarterback Mitch Hendricks to thank for that.
Two years after he transferred in from St. John’s (Minnesota), Hendricks is putting up video-game numbers for Gustavus Adolphus. Through five games, he’s already thrown for 1,967 yards and 24 touchdowns to lead D3 by a healthy margin, with just one interception in 179 attempts.
He’s already eclipsed his 1,938 yards and nine touchdowns from 2013.
“I knew I would be a bigger part of the offense this year but I never expected this to happen,” Hendricks told the Bemidji Pioneer.
The 5-11, 160-pound Hendricks has the Gusties rolling. They are 5-0 and hold the BR-24 spot to go along with their scorching 92 Heat Score. Hendricks and the Gusties are for real too — their lowest offensive output of the season was in a 42-9 win over Lake Forest. Their tightest margin of victory was 24 points — a 55-31 win over Augsburg in which Hendricks went 33-for-38 for 504 yards with 7 TDs and 1 INT.
Hendricks has won four of the five MIAC Offensive Player of the Week awards this year. In his latest performance, Hendricks threw for 383 yards and four touchdowns on 24-of-28 passing in a 50-0 win over Carleton.
The Gusties focus on the passing game has played a key role in Hendricks’ success, so has an additional year of experience. Of course, a talented group of wide receivers have helped as well.
“I guess you could say that I’m in a groove,” Hendricks said. “This year we have had a shift in how we run our offense. Last year we had a good running back and this year we have some very good receivers so we are throwing the ball more often. The coaches also are putting their trust in our skill players.”
If he maintains his current completion percentage of 79.9% for the remainder of the year, he’ll destroy the D3 record of 75% set by Mount Union‘s Greg Micheli in 2008. “In a groove” indeed.
It’s not going to be easy to maintain his pace though. Especially later this season, when the Gusties face BR-8 Bethel at home, and a two-game road trip to BR-19 Concordia-Moorhead and BR-20 St. Thomas to close out the year. As playoffs creep closer, we’ll see just how good Hendricks can be. Given what we’ve seen so far, we wouldn’t bet against him.