The quest for more than just wins
Augustana football’s head coach has bigger plans for the program this year than focusing on the win. At the end of the day, he wants the team to feel like a family, and for that feeling to be felt throughout the Augustana community.
Augustana head football coach Jerry Olszewski wants more than wins for his team and Augustana College, and his players share his passion.
“They’ve committed to this program and it’s a different culture now,” Olszewski said. “We’re not going to dog whip them and yell at them and scream at them. We’re going to teach them the game of football and teach them the game of life, and I want our student body to be excited about it.”
The enthusiasm shouldn’t end with the players, Olszewski says. He encourages Augustana students to go outside in the sunshine on game day and watch their fellow students play ball.
“I want our students to be proud of our football team and to be a part of it,” he said.
Olszewski takes the family aspect of his program seriously.
“We do things as a football team that others may not do to include each other. Year doesn’t matter, freshman to senior, that’s not important to me. It’s more being a part of something bigger than yourself. To me, that’s Augustana College. To me, that’s our football program. That’s who we’re going to be. When we say family we mean it.”
His players agree.
“Everybody is bought in and we are all ready to fight for the common cause with passion, and we truly are a family this year,” senior Noah Huisman said.
Senior defensive lineman Joel Slinden echoed Huisman’s thoughts.
“When Coach OJ came in, he told us that each and every one of us will care about one another,” Slinden said. “I have started to see this in the locker room and on the field. We all have each other’s backs because we are brothers.”
Slinden shares the team-high 2.5 sacks through three games, as many as all of last year.
“When one of us gets a sack, we see it as all of us getting one because it means everyone did their job,” Slinden said.
Olszewski said an important aspect of family in the program is that it should not matter who gets the credit.
“As long as we’re all doing the work, it shouldn’t matter whose name pops up on the top of the board,” he said.
Olszewski admits that building a solid program takes time and effort.
“I believe in these young men. I think I have some great young men on this football team, and they want to win. They want to do well and we will. When we’re ready to win, we’re going to win all of the time. But it’s a process of getting there.”
DOING THEIR PART
“I want to create an atmosphere here at Augustana where the football game, and the basketball game, and the volleyball game, and the soccer games are a student body opportunity,” Olszewski said.
“This is a special place, and I certainly want to do our part in football.”
Augustana football certainly did its part last Saturday by shutting out Bemidji State 24-0 at Kirkeby-Over Stadium in front of over 3,500 fans.
After a triple-overtime loss a week prior to Minot State, Augustana rebounded with exceptional defense, efficient offense and well-played special teams.
Sophomore Steven Miller recovered a fumble to set up a 30-yard field goal for Lucas Wainman, also a sophomore. Wainman knocked in the opening score to give Augustana the only lead it would need all day, but the Vikings did not stop with a three-point lead.
With under four minutes left in the second quarter, Bemidji elected to punt on fourth-and-one at their 32-yard line. Augustana junior Teagan Brown batted down the attempted punt and ran in the loose ball for a quick score.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Trey Heid decided 10 points was not enough for the first half. The versatile slinger found junior tight end Nick Lee for a 26-yard score, his only catch of the day, with 1:20 remaining in the second quarter.
The tide did not turn at the break. Augustana continued to dominate Bemidji.
Heid threw another touchdown in the third quarter, this time to Huisman to seal the victory at 24-0.
“Trey and I have continued to get more and more comfortable with each other and knowing what each other are thinking on every play,” Huisman said.
Augustana did not score in the final quarter, but the defense held solid, shutting out Bemidji.
Brandon Mohr continued to rule the tackles column. The sophomore linebacker racked up nine tackles, ranking him first in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference for the season with 32 – an average of 10.7 per game.
Junior Nate Kirby recorded 1.5 sacks and six tackles in the shutout performance. Junior Jake Lee added a sack and five tackles.
Heid ended the game with 159 passing yards, 57 rushing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Dajon Newell and CJ Ham combined for 83 net yards rushing.
“We adjusted to the things we needed to work on,” Olszewski said.
Augustana improved to 2-1 on the season with the win.
The Vikings head to St. Cloud State for a 6 p.m. battle against the 20th-ranked Huskies on Saturday, Sept. 28.
“It’s going to have to be a fairly mistake-free game for us to compete with them, and we’re capable of doing that,” Olszewski said.
He’s right in many ways. Augustana leads the NSIC with a +6 turnover margin. Augustana has given up fewer total yards and touchdowns defensively than St. Cloud. However, the Vikings have given up the fourth-most passing yards with all seven scores coming through the air.
St. Cloud senior quarterback Phillip Klaphake scored six passing and four rushing touchdowns in the opening three games this season. The Viking defense will be put to the test against a team averaging over 37 points per game.