The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

October 11, 2012

Courrier column: Mavericks must avoid dreaded 'trap'

MANKATO — The definition of a “trap” game: An emotional, hard-fought victory over a traditional rival or successful program, followed by a game against a lesser opponent, with a couple of tougher opponents to follow.

The Minnesota State football team faces a “trap” game Saturday at home against Southwest Minnesota State.

The Mavericks surprised some by starting the season with five straight victories, though only the road victory at St. Cloud State was noteworthy.

Then last weekend, Minnesota State went to Augustana, where the Mavericks hadn’t won since 1998 and came away with an impressive 52-14 victory.

That’s Step 1 of the “trap.”

In the next two weeks, the Mavericks have road games at Winona State and Wayne State, two more programs that are tough to beat on their home fields. That’s Step 3 of the “trap.”

Step 2 is Saturday against Southwest Minnesota State, a team that hasn’t had much success in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and has not beaten the Mavericks in 10 tries, here or at Marshall.

It might help that the Mustangs posted an impressive 40-24 win last week over Wayne State, ending a three-game losing streak for their second victory of the season. Southwest Minnesota State has potential with its passing game, which averages 232.2 yards per game, though the forecast of rain Saturday doesn’t seem conducive to throwing the ball effectively.

The Mavericks’ defense has been rock-solid against both the pass and the run. The offensive line has been punishing opponents, allowing the playmakers to improve each week, despite an injury to the starting quarterback.

That’s a pretty good combination to avoid the “trap” of playing a less successful opponent in the middle of three road games that will define the season.

The Mavericks are the last undefeated team in the Northern Sun and stand five victories away from claiming an overall conference championship. Any slip-up dooms those chances, as well as the possibility of qualifying for the playoffs. You might remember last season that the Mavericks finished in a three-way tie for the Northern Sun title, but the other two teams got into the playoffs, while the Mavericks settled for the Mineral Water Bowl.

Despite its record, Southwest Minnesota State provides a tricky test this week. If the Mustangs get the passing game firing, there could be trouble.

The Mavericks are the better team, but only if they prepare properly and don’t underestimate the Mustangs. Through six games, there’s no reason to think Minnesota State won’t play well.

But that’s the “trap.”

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports Columns
  • Courrier: There are no winners in MSU football saga Where to start? In 28 years in the business, there has never been a more odd, twisted, rollercoaster story than the Todd Hoffner saga. And that was before he came back to the Minnesota State campus this week, when strange became tragic and the chance

    April 17, 2014

  • Thoma column: Twins are scoring lot of runs; can this continue? The Minnesota Twins entered Sunday's play with the American League's second-highest number of runs scored. And, they haven't had the advantage of hitting off their own pitching staff. OK, it's dreadfully early in the season, far too early to draw co

    April 14, 2014

  • Courrier: Masters is first sign that winter has been conquered Don't know if anybody noticed but it's been a tough winter, with brutal cold and piles of snow that are now just disappearing. If not for an exciting season of local basketball and hockey, it would have an unbearable four months. Minnesota State had

    April 10, 2014

  • Thoma column: We all know the Ryan Braun saga: Winner of the National League MVP award, flunked a drug test, convinced the arbitrator to toss his suspension on the basis that his sample was mishandled, was snagged anyway in the Biogenesis investigation, suspended

    April 7, 2014

  • Focus will be on Mavericks' QBs this spring The Minnesota State football team began its spring practice period this week, 14 workouts in 27 days, trying to see who has been working hard to maintain a starting position and which backups might be ready to get more playing time in the fall. The b

    April 4, 2014

  • Thoma column: For the remade Twins, 2014 looks like more losing The start of the baseball season is supposed to be about fresh beginnings, wide open promises and the hope that springs eternal in the human breast. I'm here to quash that kind of optimism among the followers of the Minnesota Twins. (I strive to be a

    April 1, 2014

  • Shot clock isn't answer for high-school basketball A few weeks back, the state's basketball fans were all riled up that during a state-tournament game, the Hopkins boys spent much of the four overtimes holding the basketball, preferring not to shoot until the final seconds of each extra period in the

    March 28, 2014

  • Thoma column: Projected lineup is Mauer, Arcia and a bunch of outs The Minnesota Twins begin play in earnest in less than a week -- weather permitting -- and wow, do they have lineup issues. They scored 614 runs last season, 13th in the 15-team American League and almost 100 under the league average (702). Justin Mo

    March 26, 2014

  • Thoma column: Perkins extension may not be such a relief over time In the abstract, long-term contracts for relief pitchers are bad bets for teams. Nobody seems to be too concerned about that rule of thumb when it comes to Glen Perkins' new deal with the Twins. The contract, worth more than $21 million in guaranteed

    March 17, 2014

  • Courrier: No. 1 seed has brought no guarantees for MSU Since the Minnesota State men's basketball team started this nearly annual tradition of playing in the NCAA II tournament, the home team has almost been unbeatable in the regional. The Mavericks have played in nine of the last 10 national tournaments

    March 14, 2014