Willis Rushes for 257, Scores 3 TDs, Oles Win, 33-20
DECORAH, Iowa – Senior Khayleb Willis ran for a career-high 257 yards and two touchdowns as the St. Olaf College football team picked up a 33-20 victory over Luther College on Saturday afternoon at Carlson Stadium.
Willis racked up 257 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 33 rushes for St. Olaf (2-0), which gained 294 of its 475 yards of total offense on the ground to defeat Luther (0-2) for the second-straight season. Willis’ 257 yards were the most by a St. Olaf rusher since Leon Clark ’12 ran for 261 yards and a pair of scores in a 34-20 victory over Hamline on Nov. 14, 2009.
After the Norse scored the game’s first touchdown midway through the first quarter, the Oles scored the next 30 points to take a 30-7 lead midway through the third quarter. Luther rallied with back-to-back touchdowns to get within 10, 30-20, early in the fourth before the St. Olaf defense held the hosts off the board for the final 14:10.
Sophomore Lars Prestemon threw for the first two touchdowns of his career as part of a 12-for-23, 181-yard performance. Prestemon connected with classmate Gabe Alada and senior Gonzalo Pirela for lengthy touchdowns less than two minutes apart in the first quarter. Alada posted his fifth-career 100-yard game with four receptions for 105 yards and a score.
Luther got on the board first on a five-yard touchdown run by quarterback Parker Kizer that capped a five-play, 73-yard drive after the Norse stopped the Oles on fourth down. The hosts had plays of 29 and 27 yards on the drive prior Kizer’s first of two rushing touchdowns in the game.
St. Olaf answered quickly when Prestemon found a streaking Alada up the middle of the field for a 62-yard touchdown just over a minute and a half later, but Luther maintained a 7-6 lead after a missed extra point. Five of Alada’s 10 career touchdowns have covered at least 47 yards.
After a stop by the Ole defense and a short punt, St. Olaf took over at the Luther 32-yard line and Prestemon hit Pirela for a 32-yard touchdown for the Oles’ second touchdown in the space of 1:39 of game time. A minute and a half later, sophomore Ethan March connected on a 24-yard field goal to push the lead to 16-7.
Neither team came away with points on drives that entered the red zone on their first possessions of the second quarter, as the Norse missed a field goal and the Oles were stopped on a fourth-and-three at the Luther nine. Willis broke free for a 38-yard touchdown for the lone scoring of the second quarter with 3:56 remaining to extend St. Olaf’s lead to 23-7 at the half.
Willis found the end zone for the second time with 8:07 to go in the third quarter to put the Oles on top, 30-7, to cap a four-play, 80-yard drive. The senior had runs of 16 and 52 yards earlier on the drive as he totaled 71 yards on three carries on the drive.
Kizer scored on a 16-yard keeper with 1:56 remaining in the third before Tre Jensen broke loose for a 52-yard touchdown run 50 seconds into the fourth quarter to bring Luther within 10, 30-20. St. Olaf stopped Luther on a two-point conversion following Jensen’s run to maintain a two-score lead.
March’s second field goal of the game, a 35-yarder with 4:56 to go, was the final scoring of the game. The sophomore is 3-for-3 on field goals this season after having his lone attempt of last season blocked.
Sophomore Brandon Foster was in on a career-high 16 total tackles for the Oles, while senior Shiloh Goodwin totaled 11 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. First year Mark Riley had an interception on Luther’s first possession.
Kizer carried the ball 21 times for 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Luther, but was just 10-for-22 for 65 yards and an interception through the air. The Norse gained 219 of their 313 yards on the ground.
St. Olaf hosts crosstown-rival Carleton College in the battle for the Goat Trophy on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 1 p.m. in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) opener for both teams. The game will be the 100th meeting between the Oles and Knights.
By St. Olaf Staff
Featured Image Photo Credit Abby Grismer/St. Olaf