For the first time since 2007, the St. Olaf football team has started the season 4-0 after beating Augsburg College at home on Homecoming this past Saturday. They opened the season by beating Crown College 49-14 and then defeated Luther College 34-29.
St. Olaf then won the “Cereal Bowl” and retained possession of the Goat Trophy for the fifth straight season, beating Carleton 33-21.
The team currently sits tied for first in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), and it is looking to take control of the conference in upcoming games against Hamline (Sept. 29), Bethel (Oct. 13) and St. Johns (Oct. 20).
The team is supported by a high scoring offense and a robust defense. On the offensive side, the team is led by Ricardo Johnson III ’19. Johnson has scored 17 touchdowns in just four games thus far – 13 through the air and 4 on the ground. He sits second in the MIAC in passing yards (218.3 yards per game), passing touchdowns and rushing yards (99 per game).
Along with an explosive quarterback, receivers Gonzalo Pirela ’20 and Gabriel Alada ’22 have also flourished. Pirela has averaged 88.8 yards per game on 25 total receptions. First-year Alada is leading the entire conference with five touchdown catches so far.
On defense, the team only gave up three points to Augsburg, allowing just 14 rushing yards and sacking their quaterback five times for a loss of 45 yards. The St. Olaf defensive line has been stellar as well. Luke Dahl ’19, Shiloh Goodwin ’20 and Jordan Bartholomew ’21 make up a big part of the defensive unit. This trio has combined for 75 tackles, a third of all tackles made by the team – 16 of those going for a loss of yards.
The Manitou Messenger had the chance to catch up with Bartholomew to ask him a few questions about the undefeated start to the season. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What has the team done differently this year than in years past to start the season so well?
I think the change in culture has helped the team the past two years, being undefeated is a reflection of the new mindset we have adopted and the hard work we’ve put in during the off-season. We are able look at some teams and their culture and know we can win solely based on how they act. When teams walk on the field and aren’t disciplined during the game, it’s a good sign we can overpower them and win with a high level of discipline and play.
Q: What are your expectations and goals for the rest of the season?
“Our expectations for the rest of the season are to win each and every moment and take advantage of the opportunities given to us. Every game is a new learning experience to test what we know and learn from the mistakes. The goal is obviously to go undefeated, but that starts with taking each game one at a time, to win each and every week.”
Q: Your defense has only allowed 16.8 points per game, on 250 yards. What is the defense’s mindset going into each game?
“Our defense has always been a strong unit. Our coaches teach us to strive for excellence and never take our foot off the gas pedal. Even though we only allowed Augsburg to score three points, we should have held them to zero. A few mistakes and some missed tackles allowed them to score. Our defense has adopted the mindset of, ‘Know your job, do your job and do it with maximal effort.’”
Q: What goes on during the week to prepare for the upcoming game?
“Before each game, we have “Teaching Tuesday, Work Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday and Flow and Go on Friday.” We try to focus on ourselves during the week instead of our opponent. We don’t care how many wins or losses they have or how many points they’ve scored. It’s important for us to get our mind right so we are focused and ready for whatever happens on Saturday.”
Q:The team is full of upperclassmen this year. How does this leadership help on and off the field?
“There is a lot of leadership on the team and in each and every class. This leadership is important because we want to lead our younger players to where we want to go with our program. The leadership helps improve the team dynamic to hold each other accountable.”
Q: How are the Hamline Pipers and how are you preparing for them this week?
“We’re going to prepare for Hamline like we prepared for every game this season. Our offense is going to continue to score and control the clock, and the defense is going to stop them on third downs and get turnovers. We expect a lot and don’t settle for anything less than good enough. Expect another great game on Saturday.”