By Chad Courrier
---- — MANKATO — Chris Schaudt said the Minnesota State football team is the same group today that it was on Sunday, even though the national polls say differently.
"Obviously, it's a proud moment for the football team to be No. 1 for the first time, but it still feels the same," the senior defensive end said. "It's just another ranking. I think it might make us push even harder."
The Mavericks (6-0) were ranked No. 1 in the weekly American Football Coaches Association poll on Monday, marking the first time that the program has ever topped any national poll.
"Something we always try to sell to players and rectuits is the opportunity to be successful and compete for national championships," interim coach Aaron Keen said. "This shows that if you do the right things, you have that chance. As coaches and players, we love to be in this position. We welcome high expectations."
Minnesota State, which received 26 of 32 first-place viotes, was followed by Northwest Missouri State, Colorado State-Pueblo, Missouri Western State and Henderson State. Defending national champion Valdosta State, last week's No. 1 team, lost on Thursday to West Alabama, which moved up to No. 8. Valdosta State dropped to No. 12.
The D2football.com poll, which had Minnesota State at No. 2 last week, comes out today.
"It's very exciting for our players, coaches and the alumni to know that their team is ranked No. 1," Keen said. "But at the end of the day, we're still going to keep doing the things we're doing, going 1-0 each week and try to stay on a roll."
The last Minnesota State team to be ranked No. 1 was women's soccer, which topped the polls on Oct. 16, 2012 and stayed there for two weeks.
The women's basketball team was ranked No. 1 three times in 2009, including the final poll after winning the national championship. The wrestling team, which won the National Duals in 2008, reached No. 1 twice in the 2007-08 season, and the men's basketball program went to No. 1 during the 2005 season but then lost the next two games at St. Cloud State and South Dakota.
"It's nice to see that our hard work is being noticed by people outside the program," Schaudt said. "When you're in high school or college, it was always a notch in your belt if you could beat someone who was ranked higher than you, but we're already used to getting the best effort from our opponents."
Minnesota State (6-0) plays at 6 p.m. Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State. Last season, at Blakeslee Stadium, the Mustangs led 24-10 with seven minutes remaining before the Mavericks rallied for a 34-31 overtime victory.
"Southwest has a great offense, and we have something to prove from last year," Schaudt said. "We want to hold on to the ranking and prove we deserve it."