ST. BONIFACIUS, Minn. – Senior quarterback Ricardo Johnson III threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns, as the St. Olaf College football team raced out to a 35-0 halftime lead on its way to a 49-14 victory at Crown College in its season opener on Friday evening at KleinBank Stadium.
Johnson III connected with first-year wideout Gabe Alada for a pair of touchdowns as the senior established a new career-high with his 298 yards for St. Olaf (1-0). Alada caught five passes for 119 yards on the night, while Gonzalo Pirela and Ben Smithsonalso hauled in touchdowns from Johnson III. Defensively, the Oles limited Crown (0-1) to 107 yards in the game, while racking up 403 yards of their own.
Pirela finished with six receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown, with Smithson bringing in two catches for 51 yards. Ben Danielson, Vernon Green and Khayleb Willis each rushed for touchdowns as well. The victory was St. Olaf's fourth in a row in season openers. The 49 points were the most for the Oles since a 56-13 victory over Grinnell in last season's opener, giving St. Olaf 105 points in its last two season-opening games.
After the teams exchanged punts on their first two possessions, the Oles opened the scoring on a 29-yard strike from Johnson III to Alada with 7:50 to cap a brief four-play scoring drive. The St. Olaf defense forced a three-and-out on Crown's next possession, including back-to-back tackles for a loss by Josh Vannornam and Shiloh Goodwin, before the offense put together its second-straight scoring drive. This time, St. Olaf covered 63 yards in eight plays, culminating in an eight-yard touchdown run by Willis on a fourth down and one play.
Leading 14-0 after one quarter, the Oles broke the game wide open in the second, scoring three more touchdowns to open up the 35-0 lead. Just 1:54 into the second, Johnson III hit Smithson for a 51-yard touchdown pass on a third down play for the first score of the quarter. A little over two minutes later, Green found the end zone from four yards out in his first collegiate game following a 44-yard connection between Johnson III and Alada that set the Oles up in the red zone.
St. Olaf closed the first half's scoring in the two-minute drill, as Johnson III found Pirela for back-to-back first downs and, two plays later, again hit Pirela for a 13-yard touchdown with 35 seconds remaining in the half.
Neither team managed any points in the third quarter until Alada caught his second touchdown of the night from Johnson III with 3:45 to go in the quarter to make it a 42-0 game. After taking over in the backfield late in the third quarter, Danielson scored from nine yards out for his first-career touchdown on the first drive of the fourth for St. Olaf's final score of the game.
Crown's Jared Gilmore threw a five-yard touchdown to George Green and a 25-yard scoring pass to Domonquie Guy to get the hosts on the board in the final 7:23 of the contest.
Vannornam had a team-high seven tackles for St. Olaf, including two and a half for a loss with half a sack. First-years Nick Sabatinoand Stephon Kindle both had interceptions for the Oles, who limited the Storm to an average of 2.1 yards per play for the game and to 2-of-13 on third down.
Next up for the Oles is the team's home opener against Luther on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 1 p.m. at Klein Field at Manitou.