Willis, Defense Propel Oles to Opening Season Win, 45-14
NORTHFIELD, Minn. – Senior Khayleb Willis ran for three first-half touchdowns, as the St. Olaf College football team opened up a 45-0 halftime lead and went on to defeat Crown College, 45-14, in its season opener on Saturday afternoon at Klein Field at Manitou.
Willis scored on runs of six, 20 and 10 yards in the first 20 minutes of the game for three of five first-half rushing touchdowns for St. Olaf (1-0). Crown (0-1) scored the lone two touchdowns of the second half on short runs by Avory Caruthers and Ameer Lee.
The Oles gained 262 of their 306 yards in the game in the opening half, outgaining the Storm by a 262-75 margin before the break. Of the 306 yards of total offense for St. Olaf, 210 came on the ground, led by 91 from Willis on 12 carries.
First year Jordan Embry had a 48-yard rushing touchdown late in the second half in his collegiate debut and finished with 75 yards on eight rushes. Classmate Kuzi Mvududu added 41 yards on 15 carries. Sophomore tight end Isaac Coutier led St. Olaf in receptions (6) and receiving yards (63), both single-game career highs.
Senior Leandro Ferreira and junior Jordan Bartholomew each had six tackles, with Bartholomew also contributing a sack. Senior Josh Vannornam returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter.
On the third play from scrimmage, senior Max Karpinske forced a fumble by Crown’s Ameer Lee that first year Payton Schott recovered to set the Oles up at the Crown 35-yard line. Four plays later, Willis scored from six yards out to open the scoring to give St. Olaf a 7-0 lead inside the first three minutes of the game.
A 30-yard field goal by sophomore Ethan March with 7:16 left in the opening quarter stretched St. Olaf’s lead to 10-0 and started a string of six-straight scoring possessions for the Oles.
On the ensuing Crown possession, Vannornam snagged a pass that popped into the air off a Storm receiver’s hands and returned it for a touchdown to stretch the lead to 16-0.
After a three-and-out by Crown, Willis capped a five-play, 50-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown run and the two-point conversion pushed St. Olaf’s lead to 24-0 at the end of the first quarter.
A 33-yard pass from sophomore Lars Prestemon to Coutier on a third-and-10 play on the Oles’ next possession set up a one-yard touchdown plunge by first year Siegel Howard III less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Three minutes later, Willis found the end zone from 10 yards out after a 27-yard run by Embry brought up first and goal for the Oles. Embry capped the scoring for St. Olaf with a 48-yard burst up the middle with 2:39 left in the half.
A one-yard run by Caruthers late in the third quarter and a five-yard run by Lee with 4:03 left in the game were the lone scores of the second half. Lee ran 24 times for 122 yards and a touchdown for the Storm.
St. Olaf was 5-for-5 in the red zone on offense and held Crown to 3-for-17 on third down in the win.
The Oles travel to Luther on Saturday, Sept. 14 for a 2 p.m. kickoff against the Norse. St. Olaf snapped a five-game Luther winning streak in the series with a 34-29 victory at home last season.
By St. Olaf Staff
Photo Credit: Abby Grismer/St. Olaf