St. Olaf took an early lead over Hamline when quarterback Matt Penz 08 and receiver Horace Gant 08 connected on a 19-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. The Oles never looked back, scoring 31 unanswered points before giving up a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. St. Olaf held the Hamline offense to just 128 yards, 63 yards rushing and 65 yards passing.
The Oles played their usual stellar game on offense, accumulating 412 yards on just 63 plays. Making just his third collegiate start, Penz completed 20 of his 36 pass attempts for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Gant caught four passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns, and receiver Andrew Schmiesing 08 caught five passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, eight Oles carried the ball a combined 27 times for 80 yards.
Defensively, six Oles recorded sacks, including team captains James Bechdol 08 and Thomas Warfield 07, Peter Nelson 07, Charlie Mylrea 08, Ben Veach 07 and Brady Swanson 09. Bechdol also forced two fumbles, blocked a punt, and defended a pass. Defensive back Jeremy Lund 07 intercepted a pass, his first of the season.
After an 8-2 campaign in 2005 and a 7-3 season in 2004, expectations are high for the Oles in 2006. Last seasons 8-2 mark represents the best St. Olaf football record since 1978, as the 2005 team finished one win shy of a playoff berth.
Fortunately, the 2006 team boasts several talented returning starters who are ready to pick up where they left off. On offense, Gant, Schmiesing and Preston St. John 08 lead a receiver corps that is easily the deepest in the MIAC and arguably the most talented. Bobby Andrade 07 and Jay Higgins 08 (currently out with an MCL injury) return to a backfield that has been impressive early this season.
St. Olaf also returns four starters to an offensive line that allowed just ten sacks last season, by far the least in the MIAC.
Defensively, Bechdol and Nelson anchor a strong defensive line, with linebackers Warfield, Mylrea and Steven Wood 07 set to plug any leaks. Hutchins and team captain Peter St. Lawrence 07 lead a versatile defensive secondary that can defend the pass or stop the run.
Additionally, the Oles will rely on a handful of impressive new starters at key positions. Penz replaces Jason Wilsey 06, who garnered first team all-MIAC honors in 2005 after leading a St. Olaf offense that ranked fifth in the nation. Though he has big shoes to fill, Penz has proven himself ready; in his first three collegiate starts, he has completed over 60 percent of his passes for 752 yards and six touchdowns, throwing only one interception.
Lund, who was a wide receiver in each of the last three seasons, was called upon to replace first team all-MIAC honoree Matt Dean 06 at cornerback. Offensive coordinators have challenged Lund repeatedly in his first three games, but Lund has responded in turn, garnering a team-high 20 tackles and defending three passes to go along with Saturdays interception.
"Lund is an incredible athlete," St. Lawrence said. "Im not surprised hes making plays. Im just happy that hes on defense."
The Oles will face several challenges on the road to the MIAC title their schedule is arguably the toughest in the MIAC but one thing is certain: the 2006 St. Olaf football team has the talent and work ethic to play with the best teams in the country. If all goes according to plan, Ole fans could be in for another memorable season.