Minnesota State faces CSU-Pueblo this Saturday in rematch
After a ‘down’ season in which the Mavericks went 8-3 and just barely missed the playoffs, the Mavericks are back participating in postseason action. Their first opponent, you ask? The Thunderwolves, from Colorado State-Pueblo. Yes, that same team that defeated the Mavericks in the National Championship a few years ago. I guess you could say MSU is seeking a little revenge in this year’s first round matchup against CSUP.
This year’s senior class for the Mavericks were freshmen when they experienced the gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of the Thunderwolves. Although not many of them played a whole lot, the ones who did cannot wait to try to get a little revenge against CSUP in honor of Maverick players who have moved on from the program.
The Mavericks are the favorite, playing at home and have a chip on their shoulder after the committee completely snubbed them in playoff seeding. Undefeated and number one in all Division-II polls, Minnesota State was awarded a number two seed, or the No. 5 seed overall in the field. Many felt as though the Mavericks got robbed by not receiving a first round bye, but that just makes the motivation that much greater for this squad.
The Thunderwolves from Colorado State-Pueblo come into the contest with a 9-2 record and have won four consecutive games. Playing their best football of the year, CSUP is anxious to get up to Mankato and prove that they are worthy of pulling off the upset.
The Thunderwolves’ two losses both came on the road. They were to a less-than-impressive West Texas A&M squad and a .500 team in Fort Lewis. The Mavericks already have an advantage, given the game is at Blakeslee Stadium.
The Thunderwolves do a number of things well. They score a lot of points on offense (averaging 37.6 points per game) while presenting a balanced attack. They pass for 220 yards per game while rushing for 190 yards per game. This team has also not faced a defense that flies around and creates havoc like the Mavericks this season. Colorado State University-Pueblo is in a considerably weaker conference so the level of play they will see this weekend will be unmatched from any of their opponents so far this year.
At the end of the day, I expect the Mavericks to be just too much for the Thunderwolves to handle. The Mavericks present one of the most dominant rushing defenses in the nation so I expect them to take away the rushing game for CSUP. I also expect a huge day from the Mavericks offense. Although Pueblo gives up just 14.3 points per game, the Mavericks should have no issues finding holes and moving the ball against them as they just faced the top overall defense in the nation in Sioux falls and put up 27 points.
Prediction: Minnesota State should take control of the game early, forcing Colorado State-Pueblo to become one dimensional. Wide receiver Shane Zylstra catches a couple touchdowns en route to a convincing 34-17 victory, showing the committee they made a mistake by not giving the Mavericks a first round bye.