Thursday, September 29, 2011

MSU football season begins for real

The South Division of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football season is nearly always going to be a four-team race between Minnesota State, Winona State, Augustana and Wayne State.

Which means Saturday's homecoming game between the Mavericks and Winona State is one of the three most important contests of the season.

Minnesota State's first three games were more of a preseason, with two victories, then last week, the Mavericks eased into the South Division games with a road win at Concordia-St. Paul.

Winona State is the best team the Mavericks have faced yet, and the winner keeps alive hopes of a South Division championship and postseason invitation. The loser will need to win out and get help, either from other league teams or the regional committee, to make the playoffs.

At this point, Winona State has been very impressive, rolling up 677 yards and 72 points in a victory against Upper Iowa. The Warriors also have a win over St. Cloud State, which was ranked ninth in the country at the time.

Augustana lost in the much-hyped opener to Minnesota Duluth, then lost games to Bemidji State and Mary, probably falling out of postseason contntion in the first month. It's tough to say what a win against Southwest Minnesota State last week will do for the Vikings, who remain a dangerous team.

Wayne State got done by Nebraska-Kearney in the opener, then struggled against hapless Minnesota Crookston. A 7-0 victory over Minnesota Duluth opened some eyes so Wayne State probably is still a threat in the South Division.

The Mavericks are also a wild card. The loss at Northern Michigan was explainable, and the victories against Northern State, Minnesota Crookston and Concordia-St. Paul haven't been much of a test.

That makes the game with Winona State a lot of fun. In this league, you don't get a marquee matchup every week. You need to enjoy them when you can.

Friday, September 23, 2011

LIVE BLOG: West football vs. Faribault

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Getting you ready for MSU football

The Mavericks take on Minnesota Crookston on Saturday at Blakeslee Stadium in what should be a good tune-up for the next three games, which are at Concordia-St. Paul and St. Cloud State with a home game against Winona State in the middle.

The Mavericks weren't impressive in a 32-10 win over Northern State, nor were there any reasons to panic. Quarterback Jon Daniels was efficient as the offense moved the ball and controlled the clock.

Freshman running back Andy Pfeiffer, who went to Mankato West, was the most impressive runner, gaining 111 yards on 14 carries with a 53-yarder mixed in. He's listed as the starter this week.

Defensively, the Mavericks limited Northern State to nearly nothing in the first half, then made an impressive goal-line stand, stopping four plays at the 1, in the final minute.

Minnesota Crookston shouldn't provide much of a test, though the Golden Eagles forced Wayne State into the fourth quarter before the Wildcats scored the final 14 points in a 35-24 win.

Running back Richard Haley has gained 379 yards on 60 carries to pace Crookston.

The Mavericks should enjoy a victory Saturday because the next three weeks will determine this season's success. With already one loss, the Mavericks can't afford any more losses.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A few thoughts from Minnesota State's football victory

Just got done writing about Minnesota State's 32-10 victory over Northern State at Blakeslee Stadium.

It was a good win for a program that lost its opener at Northern Michigan, which is a better team than Northern State. The Mavericks dominated play for most of the game, accumulating 485 yards of offense to 212 for the Wolves.

Quarterback Jon Daniels had a nice game, completing 13 of 19 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown. Receiver LaMark Brown had a touchdown run and reception, breaking a few tackles to complete the 70-yard scoring pass. Receiver Adam Thielen made six catches for 84 yards, pushing him over 1,000 yards for his career.

Running back Andy Pfeiffer rushed for 111 yards, including a 53-yarder in the third quarter. The offensive and defensive lines were too big and fast for Northern State.

Defensively, the Mavericks were pretty stingy, including a goal-line stand to end the first half. Northern had first down at the 1 and went nowhere in four plays.

Northern State isn't the worst team that the Mavericks will play this season, though the Wolves are unlikely to be a .500 team. It was a good win for Minnesota State, not something you can draw many conclusions from.

Around the league, Minnesota Crookson gave Wayne State all it could handle before losing 35-24. Bemidji State upset Augustana 30-27 in overtime.

It's good to have college football back.

LIVE BLOG: Minnesota State football vs. Northern State

Thursday, September 8, 2011

LIVE: Mankato West football vs. Austin