After freezing at the Gophers-Sparty grid game last Saturday, I came to the conclusion that my days as a non-snowbird are coming to an end. I, for one, miss the comfort of the Metrodome.
The fact that the Ponies enjoyed a plethora of football playoff success there has nothing at all to do with my thesis. Discovering that my 73-year old body has little defense against Jack Frost, however, has everything to do with it.
While watching our beloved Minnesota eleven taking a 38-14 drubbing from Nebraska the previous week at least the weather was reasonable. The difference being the 26-10 drubbing from Michigan State forced the senior citizen contingent to exit early and often.
I’m proud to report that we stayed to the bitter-cold end that included a Gophers turnover. Last year, when we hobbled Illinois, I deserted my wife, son and grandson and headed to Applebee’s in the third quarter. That was then and this is now — and it appears that I’ve grown soft.
As for the Gophers, the rotating of Phil Nelson and MarQueis Gray produced 96 yards of total offense, or 24 yards per quarter from the quarterback position. The score was the only thing that remained close as Goldy led 7-6 after the first period and trailed only 13-7 at the break, despite Sparty’s huge edge in yardage and first downs.
Spartans running back Le’Veon Bell rushed for 266 yards (7.6 avg.) while the Gophers could muster up only 4 yards in that department. With the Spartans’ 21-7 edge in first downs, you might expect a bigger margin of victory than 16 points, but credit Minnesota’s defense for that.
Let’s not forget that Sparty was ranked 12 in the preseason polls and played everyone tough during their 6-6 campaign.
Goldy (6-6) could still end the season on a winning note with a bowl victory that would show improvement for coach Jerry Kill and company. The extra practice time the team will get will pay dividends for a young outfit.
It looks like Minnesota will play a Big 12 team in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on in Houston on Dec. 28. The Big Ten has seven bowl eligible teams with the likes of Nebraska (10-2), Michigan (8-4), Northwestern (9-3), Wisconsin (7-5), Purdue (6-6), Minnesota (6-6) and Sparty (6-6). Consider that Ohio State (12-0) and Penn State (8-4) are on NCAA probation and are ineligible for the Big Ten title or a bowl game.
I think the Big Ten looks formidable when you consider 9 of 12 teams had records good enough to qualify for bowl games and a sometimes salty Iowa (4-8) didn’t.
Karen and I will journey to the Fargodome this Saturday to see our beloved NDSU Bison (10-1) host South Dakota State (9-3) in the second round of the NCS Tournament. The Jackrabbits beat Eastern Illinois 58-10 last week. No matter what happens, we will remain warm.
The Bison are the defending national champs.
Here is the final prep football Thole Poll: 1. Eden Prairie (11-2); 2. Totino-Grace (13-0); 3. Wayzata (9-2); 4. Edina (9-2); 5. Osseo (6-4); 6. Lakeville North (11-2); 7. Hutchinson (14-0); 8. Prior Lake (9-2); 9. Stillwater (8-2); 10. St. Thomas Academy (10-2).
My Prep Bowl picks were 5-2, good for most but bad for me.
In the huddle
Former Ponies basketball coach and top-notch football official Duane Mutschler refereed his final college football game at Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio on Nov. 17. As a tribute, he was presented with the game ball…. Stillwater’s Maureen Stormont, a former SAHS soccer standout, has finished as UM-Duluth’s leading scorer for the second year in a row. The talented Bulldog sophomore and All-NSIC performer has been selected to the Daktronics All-Region Second Team. The All-Region Team(s) consist of players from institutions belonging to the NSIC, Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association and Great American Conference…. Augsburg sophomore midfielder Molly Allen has been a solid performer for the Auggies (12-5-3). Allen, who collected 11 assists, was named to the honorable mention MIAC squad, along with other former SAHS standouts Estee Berg and Amanda Cartony — a pair of juniors at Gustavus Adolphus (6-11-0)…. Goalie Brett Ylonen has been named to the MIAC All-Conference Team while starring for the Gusties (14-2-2). The talented sophomore from Lake Elmo has a 0.47 goals against average (14th best in the nation) and a .892 save percent (sixth best in the country and tops in the MIAC)…. Former Ponies tight end Andrew Johnston ’98 is district sales manager for Johnson Brothers. Andy and his lovely wife Beth (Aronson) ’98 reside in Baytown with children Casey, 5, Collin, 4, and Tyler, 2…. Psst, a little birdie tells me that Ponies star quarterback Nate Ricci will take his game to UM-Duluth next fall…. Sorry to see the recent passing of a pair of great people from Stillwater last week in Martha Kriesel at the age of 69 and George Schmitt at the age of 76…. I had a chance to talk to coach Mike Grant and his son Taylor, who plays at North Dakota, right after Eden Prairie snuffed Lakeville North 28-7 on Friday for its eighth state football championship since 1996. I couldn’t get any feeling on the St. John’s coaching position that opened up after the iconic John Gagliardi retired last week. I’m sticking with the little birdie who told me Grant is heading to Collegeville — in fact, I’m doubling down on it…. Don’t tread on me because I’m just not in the mood…. finis
Today’s rumination #594
This is your first game son/daughter, I hope that you win. I hope that you win for your sake, not mine, because winning is nice. It’s a good feeling, like the whole world is yours, but this feeling passes and what lasts is what you learned.
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George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org