The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

November 10, 2012

Minnesota State football team finishes regular season perfect

MANKATO — If there was a chance that the Minnesota State football team would be flat Saturday, on either side of the ball, the answer was no.

The defense posted a three-and-out, and the offense followed with a five-play, 54-yard scoring drive that took less than two minutes.

“We talked all week about how we had to play like (Upper Iowa) was the best team in the nation,” senior receiver Adam Thielen said. “It helps that you get a quick stop and a score. It gives you confidence, and it kills any hope they have of getting a win.”

In a season that began with the head coach being put on administrative leave, the Mavericks completed its first undefeated regular season with a 70-7 victory over Upper Iowa on Saturday at Blakeslee Stadium, earning the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and South Division championships.

The victory tied a program record for points in a game and was the second most lopsided victory in program history.

“I feel really blessed and honored to be part of this team,” junior defensive end Chris Schaudt said. “It’s really exciting.”

This was a mismatch from the first play. The Mavericks defense put up four three-and-outs to start the game, while the offense scored on all seven possessions in the first half, amassing 376 yards in the first two quarters and averaging 9.6 yards per play.

“I didn’t know we’d start as fast as we did,” said coach Aaron Keen, still damp from a postgame water-bucket drenching. “We did an outstanding job of running the ball and dominating time of possession, especially against a good passing team. We were really locked in on special teams and defense, too.”

In the first quarter, Andy Pfeiffer, Connor Thomas and Jon Wolf each had a touchdown run, and Adam Thielen had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown, shortly after having another punt return score called back because of a penalty.

“The guys have been blocking well all year, and we hadn’t been able to get one,” Thielen said. “I didn’t get touched on that first one, and on the second one, I just had to make one guy miss. I didn’t have to do much.”

In the second quarter, Thomas and backup quarterback Mitch Brozovich had touchdown runs, and Wolf threw a 6-yard scoring pass to Bryce Duncan just before halftime for a 49-0 lead.

“We talked all week about playing for a ring,” Keen said. “Sole possession of the conference championship is pretty special, and the guys worked hard to accomplish that. I’m very proud of the way they competed; it was a darn good performance.”

Things calmed down in the second half. Jordan Hale made two interceptions, returning the second 14 yards for a touchdown, and Brozovich scored on a 25-yard run that made it 63-0 after three quarters.

After Upper Iowa scored, the Mavericks answered with Kenthen King’s 7-yard touchdown run.

“The guys did an outstanding job of maintaining focus and intensity and holding throughout the game,” Keen said.

The Mavericks totaled 604 yards of offense, with 492 yards rushing. The defense allowed 233 yards, though 110 yards came against reserves in the fourth quarter.

“That was fun,” Schaudt said. “We were feeding off the offense’s energy, and when both sides are playing well, it’s hard not to succeed.”

Brozovich was the top rusher with 91 yards, though six Mavericks rushed for more than 55 yards. Minnesota State had almost seven minutes more in possession time.

“We had the goal of going 1-0 each week, and we did that for 11 weeks,” Thielen said. “We really stuck to one-game-at-a-time.”

With 10 PAT kicks, junior Sam Brockshus became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 224 points.

Minnesota State (11-0) will find out today where it fits in the region playoffs. The Mavericks will be seeded first or second, which means a first-round bye and a home game Nov. 24.

“I feel very special about these guys,” Keen said. “Each week, they believed in the 1-0 approach. When you start throwing about goals like conference championships and region championships, it’s easy to bypass the things you need to do in practice to do those things. They did things the right way.”

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