The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

August 15, 2013

With eye on national championship, Mavericks focus on process

Many key players back from team that reached semifinals

MANKATO — Minnesota State is only eight months removed from the end of the football season, when the Mavericks advanced to the national semifinals, yet the record is back to 0-0 and nothing has been accomplished.

"Last year is last year," senior linebacker Isaac Kolstad said. "Whatever happened last year doesn't carry over to this year.

"The 2013 team hasn't proved anything. We just have to do what we need to do to get ready for that first game."

The Minnesota State football team is coming off its best season, going 13-1 and reaching the national semifinals. But with nearly everyone returning, those achievements have created expectations that are also at an all-time level.

"Preseason rankings are based on what you've done," interim coach Aaron Keen said. "But you just can't roll the football out there and expect to win. We have to make sure our players understand and remember the work they did to be successful."

Minnesota State held its first practice Thursday, and there are slightly more than three weeks until the first game at Mary. Until then, the Mavericks' coaching staff and team leaders will be working to get their players to focus on the one-game approach that was so successful last season.

"We've been letting everyone know that it wasn't easy," senior quarterback Jon Wolf said. "We had a lot of close games, and some games that came down to the wire. We have to make sure we use that same approach of going 1-0 every week."

Wolf returns at quarterback, as does his backup, sophomore Mitch Brozovich. Wolf rushed for 695 yards and 10 touchdowns and passed for 1,755 yards and 13 scores.

"In the playoffs, (Wolf) was dominant, a difference-maker," Keen said. "I'm looking forward to another year with him."

Running backs Andy Pfeiffer and Connor Thomas combined for 1,728 yards and 19 touchdowns, and they figure to share the carries again. Top receiver Adam Thielen just left town with the Minnesota Vikings, but Keen said that with the number of guys returning who made clutch catches last season, he expects the sum will make up for a lost part.

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