Thole: Manziel is the real McCoy — and so are Bison

Your columnist George Thole stands alongside the Bison Hall of Fame bus that bears his name prior to one of North Dakota State’s playoff victories at the Fargodome. The Bison went on to defeat Sam Houston State to collect the program’s 10th national championship in football. (Contributed photo)
Your columnist George Thole stands alongside the Bison Hall of Fame bus that bears his name prior to one of North Dakota State’s playoff victories at the Fargodome. The Bison went on to defeat Sam Houston State to collect the program’s 10th national championship in football. (Contributed photo)

I thought the experts were off base when they awarded the Heisman Trophy to Johnny Manziel, the redshirt freshman quarterback from Texas A & M, last month.

But I’m prepared to eat crow after watching this young man account for 516 yards of total offense during his team’s 41-13 rout of 12th-ranked Oklahoma (10-3) in the Cotton Bowl.

The Aggies (11-2) averaged 40 points per game and Manziel is the whole show. I was so impressed that I called Jerry Foley away from watching Army defeat Robert Morris 5-zip in hockey. I should cut him some slack because Marty Rossini’s grandson Willie Faust scored a pair of goals for the Black Knights of the Hudson.

Anyway, this 18-year-old Manziel was a thrill-a-minute by setting an FBS bowl record with 17 carries for 229 yards (13.4 avg.) as he completed 22 of 37 passes for 287 yards. This guy provides more excitement than Penelope Cruz and Beyonce.

This brings me to my beloved North Dakota State University Bison (14-1), who won the NCS Championship with a 39-13 victory over Sam Houston State on Saturday. Two of the Bearkats’ losses this year were to Baylor and the Manziel-led Aggies.

NDSU beat Sam Houston State 19-7 last year in this same FCS title game in Frisco, Texas. My NDSU football buddy Dale Hinkle offered to take Lake Elmo’s Stuart Helgason, a former Bison linebacker and moi to Texas for the game. Helgason played on two NDSU national championship teams while Hinkle and moi couldn’t manage even a conference title during our playing days.

We had other commitments so as Hinkle donned his green and gold toggery and joined nearly 14,000 Bison fans in Texas.

Stu and I, plus our wives, headed for Todd and Erica Fultz’s place and their huge-screen TV with plush theater seating. We were joined by 18 or so others decked in various forms of Bison apparel (I even managed to squeeze into my 53-year-old letterman’s jacket).

It was a great game and the Bison broke open a 13-13 contest with huge fireworks in the second half. They might be looking at a three-peat next fall as the Bison return 18 starters. Now, for your information, NDSU has won 10 national titles in football.

Well, even though we couldn’t make it to the game in person, we were still among several football types at the Fultz venue. Todd was a standout wide receiver at Forest Lake and St. John’s and he also coached at SAHS my final season.

My wife Karen was a Bison cheerleader from 1958-60 and Dr. Brian Ness played football at Park High School. Kevin Klancher ’93 was an all-state Ponies quarterback who set records at the U of North Dakota, Steven Thein ’88 was a Ponies and St. John’s placekicker, Scott Kragness ’86 was a Ponies wide receiver, Bryan Allen played football at Cambridge and UM-Morris, and Dr. Gene Kelley was a whirling dervish running back/defensive back at Garden City High School many moons ago.

A good time was had by all.

Next year, NDSU opens its season at Kansas State in Manhattan and the process repeats itself. Don’t forget, there are 34 players from Minnesota on NDSU’s roster.


Mail call

Coach Thole,

I recently read your great article on Taco Bealka and it brought back some great memories. Taco was a fantastic person and he will be missed!

You are right, while not only being a great trainer, Taco was quite a philosopher as well. He was always spot on as to what you needed to do to get back on the field. Taco was one of a kind and your article was a very nice tribute.

I hope you are well. Good luck to your NDSU Bison in the national championship game. My alma mater St. Thomas went to the national championship as well, only to fall short, but a great season. Would have been nice to add a football title to the recent national championship basketball title UST won in 2010.


Jon Valsvik ’79


GT: Valsvik was an all-conference Ponies basketball and football athlete.


In the huddle

I’m not surprised that the members of Stillwater’s state champion boys’ cross country team voted Wayde Hall its MVP award. This young man won seven races, including the individual state title, plus conference and section crowns. Hall, Eric Colvin and Eli Krahn earned all-state honors and joined Sean Bjork, Bailey Hesse-Withbroe, Matt Fronczak, Tayler Aarness, Matt Thomas and Edoardo Tagliaferri on the all-conference team. The locals won their fifth state title in the last 17 years…. The Ponies gymnastics team is ranked eighth in the state with an average score of 135.03. Kylie Wittl is sixth in the all-around with a score of 36.15 and she is solidly listed in the state coaches rankings in the vault (9.25), bars (9.3), balance beam (9.2) and floor (9.4). Alex Holmberg is fifth in the vault (9.35) and Lillyan Pan is listed on the honor roll in the vault (9.1) and all-around (34.3). Conference rival Roseville is listed third in the state team rankings with a 142.92 mark…. Coach Brian Luke’s boys swimmers are going great guns and are ranked eighth in the state, led by Liam Gibb, Brady Anderson, Tom Windett, Brennan Rosell and Marcus Green. The Ponies recently won the Apple Valley Invitational…. I’m not sure I know what classical Nordic skiing is, but I do know that SAHS skier Shelby Strong won the classic state title in 1998. Anyway, our Big Red Ponies won the girls’ conference classical race while edging Roseville 479.5-466.5 for the title. Megan Weaver took individual honors in 19:04 while Vessa Pearsall was third in 19:36 and Haley Beech was fifth with a 20:39 clocking. Forest Lake took the boys’ title at 470.5 points with Stillwater placing third in 448.5. Paul Larson placed fourth in 16:55 to lead the Ponies…. The Stillwater wrestlers of coach Rich Keller parlayed four pins and two other victories into a 31-29 win at Mounds View last week. Slipping past the Mustangs brought the Big Red’s season record to 6-10, but more importantly, kept the locals tied with Hastings and Woodbury atop the conference, each with 3-0 records. Stillwater’s margin of victory came from pins by Jason Wood at 126 pounds, Austin Jordan at 145, Collin Olson at 152 and Sebastian Dingle at 182. All four of the falls were recorded in the first period. The locals won just six matches to eight for Mounds View. Eighth-grader Christian Bahl won an 8-1 decision at 113 pounds and Andy Jordan won a 10-0 major decision at 138…. The Stillwater girls’ hockey team (9-8-1) crushed rival White Bear Lake 6-2 last week, led by a pair of goals by Jane Vezina and single goals from Hannah Okerstrom, Carlie Hart, Kourtney Jancze and Sara Bustad. Assists were provided by Hannah Heacox, Dana Milan, Katie Casto, Taylor Naugle, Okerstrom, Jancze and Hart. Okerstrom also had two goals as the locals crushed Hastings 7-0 on Saturday…. Former Pony Anne Boldt, a freshman on the Grinnell College women’s basketball team (4-2 Midwest Conference, 5-7), contributed 15 points and two steals in the Pioneers’ 62-55 victory over Beloit College on Jan. 2…. Don’t tread on me, because I’m fading fast…. finis


Today’s rumination #600

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet the youngest you’ll ever be, so enjoy this day while it lasts.

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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: [email protected]