Football sets sights on next fall

The St. Olaf football team’s 2015 season was filled with plenty of improvements but lacked in actual wins. The Oles finished with a 2-9 record, with wins against Northwestern University and their biggest rival, Carleton College.

The offense, led by senior quarterback Nate Penz ’16, was successful at scoring points throughout the season. The Oles scored above 30 points in five of their games, after having zero games with 30 or more points in the 2014 season.

Running back J.J. Strnad ’16 helped lead the explosive Ole offense as well, averaging 104.14 rushing yards and 44 receiving yards per game and scoring 13 total touchdowns during the season.

Penz threw for over 2,000 yards to a young yet talented wide receiver core. Nate Bauer ’16 and Spencer Malick ’16 were the only two senior receivers to record a catch, which demonstrates the youth of the current squad. Troy Peterson ’18 finished the season with 565 reception yards and three total touchdowns, certainly proving that he will create problems for opposing defenses in coming years. Connor Yahn ’17 had a solid year as well, racking up 500 receiving yards, and Connor Henderson ’18 and Jorgen Salveson ’18 saw significant playing time and look to make even more of an impact next year.

The looming question on the offensive side is who will replace Penz as quarterback. Jack Goldstein ’18 seems to be the leading candidate for that position next year, as he has spent the last two years developing his skills and learning the offense. Mike Perry ’19 looks to push him for that starting spot next training camp. Whoever wins the job will have at least two years to be the starter, which is good if the Oles hope to maintain a strong offense.

The defense was racked by injuries this year, losing one of its best players, safety Coleman Foley ’17, for the final seven games. The Oles will have him back next year but will lose four experienced starters in the secondary and young players will be expected to step up and fill these roles.

Finally, there are some questions in the coaching staff as to whether head coach Craig Stern will return next year. There have been rumors that St. Olaf may be looking for someone to take its football program in another direction. Stern is 4-26 as head coach in his three years at St. Olaf. The Oles are hoping many of these questions can be answered next year and that they can become a viable competitor in a tough MIAC division.