Football stays unbeaten with Homecoming win over Augsburg

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NORTHFIELD, Minn. – Junior running back Khayleb Willis rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns and the St. Olaf College football team's defense held Augsburg University in check, as the Oles improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2007 with a 33-3 victory in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) action on Homecoming on Saturday afternoon at Klein Field at Manitou.

Willis carried the ball 26 times for a season-high 101 yards and the two touchdowns for St. Olaf (4-0, 2-0 MIAC), which posted its second-straight Homecoming victory. The Oles' defense forced a pair of first-quarter turnovers that led to touchdowns and limited Augsburg (2-2, 0-2 MIAC) to just 14 rushing yards on 25 attempts in the game.

St. Olaf racked up 210 yards on the ground in the win, as senior quarterback Ricardo Johnson III ran for 77 yards in addition to Willis' 100-yard performance. Johnson III, the two-time reigning MIAC Offensive Player of the Week, also threw three touchdowns, going 15-for-22 for 162 yards through the air in the victory.

Two of Johnson III's three passing touchdowns went to first-year Gabe Alada, who posted his second two-touchdown outing of the season. Junior Gonzalo Pirela hauled in a team-high five passes for a team-best 76 yards in the win.

Senior Luke Dahl had a team-high eight tackles for the Oles and added half a sack and a fumble recovery. First-year linebacker Brandon Fostermade five solo tackles and posted two of St. Olaf's five sacks, while senior linebacker Tommy Fleetham had an early interception.

After the Augsburg defense stopped St. Olaf on a fourth-down attempt on the opening possession, Dahl got the ball back for the Oles, recovering a fumble to set St. Olaf up in Augsburg territory. Three plays later, Willis ran around the left side from 15 yards out to give the Oles a 6-0 lead with 8:08 left in the first quarter.

On the next Augsburg possession, Fleetham made an interception after an attempted screen pass went off the intended receiver's hands, again setting up St. Olaf in Augsburg territory at the 36-yard line. On a fourth-and-goal play, Johnson III rolled right and found Alada for a five-yard scoring strike to stake the Oles to a 12-0 lead late in the first quarter.

The Auggies got a 25-yard field goal from Tyler Hanson to get on the board 3:08 into the second quarter, but that was all the St. Olaf defense would allow in the game. After Hanson's field goal, the Oles marched 75 yards in 14 plays, capped by a three-yard touchdown plunge by Willis to extend their lead to 19-3 with 7:06 to go in the opening half. Earlier on the possession, Johnson III hit Pirela for a 13-yard gain on a fourth-and-six play to move the ball inside the 10-yard line.

The score remained 19-3 until Johnson III and Alada connected for their second touchdown of the game with 4:49 left in the third to make it a 27-3 ballgame. Johnson III found Alada near the right sideline and the first-year made a defender miss while weaving his way into the end zone.

The only score of the fourth quarter was a five-yard pass from Johnson III to sophomore Caleb Golberg with 4:24 remaining. The catch was Golberg's first of the season and second of his career, as he found the end zone for the first time in his collegiate career.

St. Olaf hits the road for a visit to Hamline University on Saturday, Sept. 29. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. in St. Paul.

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