Southwest Minnesota State Football enters 2014 at number 9 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 7-5 (7-4) Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
It was not an easy season for Southwest Minnesota State, from start to finish. They opened with BR3 St. Cloud State at home, followed by BR9 Sioux Falls, BR1 Minnesota State-Mankato, BR15 Upper Iowa, BR21 Winona State, and BR23 Augustana College (SD). All of these (except the games against Upper Iowa and SW Minnesota St.), were at home – but for the most part the Mustangs failed to capitalize on these opportunities. They were 3-3 in those six games against BR Top 25 teams – their only wins at Upper Iowa (52-48), vs Winona State (51-44 OT), and at Southwest Minnesota State (34-24).
The Mustangs finished the season with a 5-2 conference record, good for second in the NSIC South, but missed playoffs. Instead, they earned themselves a berth in the Mineral Water Bowl to play Pittsburg State, though after the game they might have wished they hadn’t. They lost 90-28 (not a typo) and went into the offseason riding the lowest of lows.
-Brandon Puffer OL – First team All-NSIC South
-Jake Thiel OL – Honorable mention All-NSIC South
-Kyle Johnson OL – First team All-NSIC South
-Alex Sedrel OL – Starter
-Justin Knakmuhs OL – Starter
-Anthony Dean WR – First team All-NSIC South, 48 receptions, 1,010 yards, 18 TDs
-Cody Condon TE – Honorable mention All-NSIC South, 43 receptions, 462 yards, 6 TDs
-Dashawn Miller LB – Honorable mention All-NSIC South, 78 tackles, 9 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 2 INTs, 4 pass defences, 2 FRs, 1 FF
-Tate Bunkers S – Second team All-NSIC South, 102 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3 pass defences, 2 FF, 1 blocked kick
What to Watch For
Offensive Line – Most of the time when I write the word “offensive” in a football article, I mean, “of or relating to the team or player who is seeking to score,” but in this case, I’m talking about the other definition. The Mustangs great offensive line featured five senior starters last season, two of whom were named to the All-Conference first team, and one was an honorable mention. But now they’re gone.
Southwest Minnesota State boasted the fifth-best offense in D2 last season, where they gained an average of 524.6 ypg, and scored the 13th-most points in the division with 40.8. They did it mostly on the ground, where they averaged 246.5 yards per game. Without the entire starting line from last season, that might be tough to duplicate. It’s not all bad news though: they’ll bring back every player who carried the ball more than twice last season, including the NSIC’s leading-rusher – Tyler Tonderum. He’ll run behind an entirely new offensive line for his senior season. Uh oh.
Second team All-NSIC QB Charlie Kern and First team Daktronics All-American RB Tyler Tonderum made a great pair behind arguably the best offensive line in the NSIC in 2013. The star duo will have their work cut out for them this year. Kern lost three of his top five receivers and of course that vaunted offensive line.
The Mustangs scored 40.8 points per game last season, but even the fifth-best scoring offense in D2 doesn’t always translate into wins when it’s accompanied by a defense that allows 40.3 points per game. That defense featured two second team All-NSIC performers and four honorable mentions. Second-teamer Tate Bunkers is gone, as are honorable mentions JJ Bobrowicz and Dashawn Miller, and you can be sure that losing some of the best performers on this already shaky defense isn’t going to take any pressure off of Kern and Tonderum.
Expectations can be tough to gauge with so many player-losses. Top end, it’s not out of the question that the new line figures it out quick and the defense experiences an “addition by subtraction” type situation. This would result in the Mustangs finishing right around where they did last year – second in the NSIC South (even assuming the best-case, they just don’t have what it takes to beat Minnesota State-Mankato). The low end projection is significantly worse, and unfortunately for Southwest Minnesota State fans, significantly more likely – this is the one where they take steps back across the board and finish near the bottom of the conference. Hope for the best, but expect the worst, Mustang fans.