So many thoughts, so many memories.
With the greatest three-game stretch of excitement in the history of the Minnesota State football program and Blakeslee Stadium still fresh on the brain, there is much to reflect on and appreciate.
Here are a few of the highlights:
The 25-21 comeback victory at St. Cloud State in Week 3 seemed to signal that something special was about to happen. Playing with backup quarterback Mitch Brozovich, the Mavericks scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:33 to play, then held the Huskies on four plays to grab a rare win at St. Cloud.
Three weeks later came the rout at Augustana, in which the Mavericks played their finest offensive game for a 52-14 whooping. Minnesota State rushed for 262 yards and controlled the ball for more than 36 minutes to stun the Vikings, whose season didn’t go nearly as planned.
The comeback against Southwest Minnesota State the next week, trailing by 14 points with 7:36 to play and then persevering in double overtime, showed that the Mavericks’ could win by throwing the ball. It was a confidence boost for quarterback Jon Wolf, who had just returned from injury, and the start of a really impressive eight-game streak for receiver Adam Thielen.
Any win at Winona State is special, and that 30-20 victory on Oct. 20 pretty much eliminated any doubt that the Mavericks would be invited to the playoffs.
The surprisingly easy 27-13 home victory against league newcomer Sioux Falls in Week 10 cemented the Mavericks’ playoff berth.
The victories against Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Western State were among the best games ever played at Blakeslee Stadium. It looked like the Mavericks would lose to Northwest, which had rallied from a 21-0 halftime deficit, but an interception by Justin Otto in the end zone in the second overtime set up Sam Brockshus’ game-winning field goal.
The victory over Missouri Western was also in doubt until the Mavericks put together an impressive 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter that both produced a touchdown and ate up much of the remaining time.
Even the loss to Valdosta State was exciting. The Blazers have a set of receivers not seen in Northern Sun programs, and they did the damage in this national semifinal. Had the Mavericks gotten more than 10 points out of three early drives, the outcome may have been different, but Valdosta State was a worthy victor that day.
There were many individuals who blossomed in this special season. Wolf answered a lot of questions as he became one of the top dual threats in the conference, and backups Brozovich and Trent Cummings didn’t allow the production to fall off when they were needed.
The offensive line continued to grow, a process that began about midway through the 2011 season, and remains a unit that should be dominant again next season.
The defense was spectacular, as linebacker Marcus Hall-Oliver flew all over the field and Chris Schaudt wreaked havoc in the opposing backfield.
Thielen is one player who won’t be replaced. He had a spectacular season, catching almost any ball that hit his hands. It’s a mystery why more teams didn’t double-team him more often because there wasn’t a defensive back in this league who could cover him.
This season, which carried a lot of promise before it began, could have imploded when the head coach was arrested, but Aaron Keen and the Minnesota State assistants didn’t let anything derail this team’s goals.
It made for an interesting start to a really fun season.
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out his local sports blog at www.mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.