Thole: Give this guy three fingers of your finest Kool-Aid

It’s the calm before the storm for the Stillwater boys’ cross country team, which placed third in Saturday’s Class AA state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield. (Gazette staff photo by Stuart Groskreutz)
It’s the calm before the storm for the Stillwater boys’ cross country team, which placed third in Saturday’s Class AA state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield. (Gazette staff photo by Stuart Groskreutz)

After Minnesota’s victory over Nebraska two weeks ago the air was filled with the smell of roses as fans chanted “Jerry! Jerry!” My retort was let’s see a winning season and three Big Ten wins before we overdose on Kool-Aid.

The inability to beat Indiana in Bloomington had scuttled Gophers teams in the past and the Las Vegas odds makers had made the Hoosiers 9-point favorites.

I had a chance to go with Steve and Dorothy Erban’s Creative Charters group, but after attending losing trips to Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Northwestern and Tempe, Ariz., I thought I would bring Sky-U-Mah better luck by staying home.

Things started well for the Gophers as their opponents looked more interested in the homecoming activities than the one taking place on the field. I know the Hoosiers made a fourth-quarter comeback, but they still look like Big Ten bottom feeders to me.

First off, it took the Hoosier brain trust too long to figure out quarterback Tre Roberson was having a lousy first half while completing eight passes and generating meager offense as the Gophers roared to a 28-13 lead at the break.

Minnesota rushed for 248 yards on the day, with junior tailback David Cobb gaining 188 yards on 29 carries and they looked to be in total command with a 35-20 lead heading into the final quarter.

Don’t forget that no lead by the Gophers ever seems big enough to eliminate last-second angst.

The final quarter was a show between Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfield, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 189 yards and a pair of TDs, and a Gophers defense that came up with a winning play — no fault of their own.

Before I go any further, we don’t have a quarterback controversy here, sports fans. Phil Nelson was 16 of 23 for 298 yards and he should be the starting quarterback post haste.

The Hoosiers scored 26 straight points to take a 39-35 lead that was answered quickly with a 50-yard scoring strike to Maxx Williams, putting the good guys back on top 42-39.

There were a couple of things that happened in the fourth quarter that I won’t understand if I live to be 100. First was Minnesota running a fake punt on its own end of the field that led to the Hoosiers’ go-ahead TD.

Second, with 14 seconds left and second down inside the Gophers’ 10-yard line, Sudfield attempted a swing pass to Tevin Coleman that was a lateral eventually recovered by Gopher Aaron Hill.

Nobody from IU acted aware or even suspected it was a fumble — game over!

I was ready to concede victory until that lateral, but now I am drinking the Kool-Aid. I’ll be at TCF on Saturday, how about you?


Max at M.V.P. on Nov. 19

Mike Max of WCCO Radio and TV sports fame and Courtland Nelson, who is the Director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails, will be the speakers at the M.V.P. (Men.Value.Purpose) event at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater on Tuesday, Nov. 19 from 6-8 p.m. The game and fish fry dinner costs $25 for non-season pass holders. Registration is available on-line at or by calling Julie Jolivette at 651-439-7400, ext. 108.


Prep football playoffs

Roseville was the only team from Section 4AAAAAA to nab a victory from Section 3AAAAAA in the cross-over slate of football playoff games last Friday night.

The Raiders, led by quarterback Jacques Perra, crunched Lakeville South 39-15 with Perra passing for two touchdowns and Matt Peckham rushing for a pair.

The rest of the Suburban East Conference didn’t fare as well, with Eastview upsetting East Ridge 38-3, Lakeville North slipping past Cretin-Derham Hall 14-12 and Rosemount embarrassing Mounds View 42-7.

The Suburban East Conference has struggled under the 6A playoff structure introduced last year. It might prove to be a moot point, however, until someone can figure out a way to slow down the Eden Prairie forest fire that’s wreaking havoc on Minnesota’s largest high schools.

I think that every prep football fan in these parts thought that East Ridge (8-2) was invincible at the start of the season, but they just proved to be passing fancies after that decisive 35-point loss to the Eastview Lightning — ouch!


Thole Poll

Here is the latest edition of the prep football Thole Poll.

1. Eden Prairie (9-0); 2. Maple Grove (10-0); 3. Rosemount (9-1); 4. Osseo (9-1); 5. Roseville (8-2); 6. Totino-Grace (8-2); 7. Hutch (10-0); 8. Lakeville North (8-2); 9. Owatonna (10-0); 10, tie, Brainerd (10-0) and East Ridge (8-2).


In the huddle

The state boys’ cross country coaches had it correct with the top three teams in their poll most of the season based on Saturday’s results. Wayzata with 53 points, Edina (66) and the Ponies (99) were tops at the state meet with Rosemount (159), Hutchinson (198), Mounds View (217), Bemidji (226), Centennial (234), Cloquet (234) and Lakeville North (267) rounding out the top 10. Junior Bailey Hesse-Withbroe (15:59.4) edged his Ponies teammate sophomore Eli Krahn (16:00.6) for 12th place overall. Adding to the effort for the locals were junior Allen-Michael Burback (16:22.9), Tayler Aarness (16:29.6) and sophomore Sam Hanson (16:49.7). Junior Alex Percival (17:13.9) and sophomore Nick Yokanovich also ran at state so you have six of seven set to return for coach Scott Christensen’s legion of primetime runners…. Junior Abby Lange placed 98th in a time of 15:36.5) overall in the girls’ state cross country competition at St. Olaf…. If I agreed with you, we would both be wrong…. A dime is still good for something. It makes a handy screwdriver…. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Ponies diving star Maggie Keefer rebounded from a severe diving accident while training that most people thought would end her career. Hardly. She not only recovered, but she has been setting records and receiving awards ever since. As a Ponies standout, she was a two-time state diving champion and as a captain of the Minnesota Golden Gophers she is a two-time All-American and Big Ten Diver of the Year recipient. Keefer received the Patty Berg Legacy Award last month at the Gopher Fund Banquet at TCF Bank Stadium. The talented ex-Pony, in addition to her academic and athletic success, has displayed the core values of pride, personal integrity, respect for human dignity and loyalty. She is a kinesiology major and I can say from experience that’s not easy, sports fans…. Sorry to see the passing of long-time Stillwater banker Quentin Heimerman at the age of 89…. The person on top of the mountain did not fall there…. finis


Today’s rumination #641

If you want people to notice your faults, start giving advice.

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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 Fridays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: [email protected]