Despite a three-hour bus ride and intense heat, the Oles rolled to victory Saturday in Decorah, Iowa, winning their season opener 37-13. Although many college football prognosticators had anticipated a close game (especially given the late drama in last seasons match-up game), the Oles jumped out early and never trailed.
Though their opening drive stalled, the Oles scored on a two-yard touchdown run by tailback Jay Higgins 08. Luther matched that score on its next drive, but the Oles pulled ahead less than a minute later on a 44-yard touchdown reception by wideout Preston St. John 08. Running back Ben Roff 08 added a touchdown in the second quarter and the Oles entered the locker room at halftime with a 20-7 lead after a failed two point conversion attempt.
The Oles were equally impressive in the second half, scoring touchdowns on passes to Andrew Schmiesing 08 and Higgins, while kicker Paul Fortman 08 added a field goal. Luther scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter but never challenged St. Olaf for the lead. Several Oles put forth stellar individual performances, including Higgins, who rushed for 133 yards on thirteen carries (for an impressive average of 10.2 yards per carry) and also caught six passes for 71 yards.
Quarterback Jason Wilsey 06 completed 19 passes on 28 attempts, throwing for three touchdowns and only one interception, while St. John caught four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Horace The Man Gant 08 caught four passes for 78 yards.
St. Olafs offensive line held Luthers defense at bay all afternoon, allowing no sacks while leading the way for the Oles 313 total rushing yards.
While the Oles accrued impressive offensive numbers, the St. Olaf defense carried the day, holding Luther to just 4.8 yards per play and forcing a critical red zone turnover in the first half. The first-team defense allowed just one touchdown and shut down Luthers powerful rushing attack. Ole linebacker John Davis 06 led the defense in tackles, amassing an impressive 10.5 tackles, followed by defensive back Peter St. Lawrence 07 who earned 7.5 tackles. Defensive backs Deontae Hutchins 08 and Anthony Rogers 06 each intercepted one pass, and St. Olafs defensive line recorded three sacks.
Even in light of Saturdays impressive performance, the Oles know that they will need to improve if they hope to win their home opener this weekend against Bethel University. The Royals are favored by many to finish in the upper third of the MIAC conference this season and will provide a stiff challenge for St. Olaf. The action gets underway at 1 p.m. at Manitou Field.