The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

December 6, 2012

Courrier column: Wolf a big reason for MSU's success

MANKATO — It was written here in August that the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota State football teams faced similar concerns about their offenses heading into this season.

With unproven quarterbacks, both teams would need to be efficient on early downs in order to be more successful on third down, allowing the team to continue drives, gain a possession time advantage and, ultimately, score more points.

Well, one team has shown an ability to stay on the field with some third-down efficiency, in large part because of a quarterback that has improved steadily into an accomplished playmaker with his feet and arm.

That team is not the Vikings.

Based on the personnel coming back to Minnesota State this fall, you knew the Mavericks would be good in the offensive line, which has bulldozed holes for a nice stable of backs. Adam Thielen is one of the best receivers in program history.

The defense had almost everyone back from a talented unit, and the front seven would be so good at stopping the run that the Mavericks could afford to work in some less-experienced corners and safeties.

The biggest question mark was at quarterback, though unlike the Vikings’ Christian Ponder, Minnesota State’s Jon Wolf keeps improving every game as the stakes have gotten a little higher.

Wolf, who missed three games with an ankle injury, has rushed for 568 yards and 10 touchdowns, often extending plays with his elusiveness. He’s also become an efficient passer, completing 108 of 181 passes for 1,560 yards with 12 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

His 59.7 percent completion rate doesn’t fully tell the story of the many clutch passes he’s completed, helping his team convert more than 40 percent of the team’s third-down plays. On third-down passes, Wolf has completed 40 of 70 (57.1 percent) for 31 first downs and seven scores. On fourth down, he’s completed 4 of 7 passes for four first downs and two scores.

For those who watch professional football, you know that the Vikings’ quarterback doesn’t come near that completion rate or make many plays in clutch situations, despite having the best rusher in the NFL

Wolf has benefited from a strong ground game, and he’s added nicely to the mix. Opponents know they have to devote a lot of manpower to stopping the run, but Wolf can escape the pocket and gain yards on his own or pick out an open receiver down the field.

There were concerns around the Minnesota State program about quarterback play back in August, but that possible weakness has turned into one of this team’s many strengths.

The same can’t be said about the Vikings.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, email Follow him on Twitter @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