St. Cloud State Football enters 2014 at number 3 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: 12-2 (10-1) Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference
The St. Cloud State Huskies finished second in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference last season by way of their 10-1 regular season finish. Their only regular season loss was in week five, on the road, to a tough Minnesota-Duluth team that finished tied with St. Cloud State for second in the NSIC. It was an uncharacteristically low-scoring affair for St. Cloud State, who went up 7-0 when Phillip Klaphake punched in a TD from three yards out at the start of the second quarter, but failed to score for the remainder of the game. The Bulldogs on the other hand, scored 34 straight to finish the game. St. Cloud State won their final six regular season games and earned a playoff berth as a 6-seed.
In the playoffs, the Huskies went on the road to play the undefeated Henderson State Reddies. Michael Walker had a huge game with 76 yards and two TDs on the ground, and even a threw passing TD to Dan Brown on a fourth quarter gadget play to put the game out of reach. Next they travelled to face another undefeated team – #1 ranked Minnesota State-Mankato. It was a high-scoring contest that the Huskies won 54-48, but their next attempt at a road-upset fell short. A 59-21 loss to eventual National Champs Northwest Missouri State was their final game in 2013.
-Phillip Klaphake QB – 241/408 (59.1%), 3,548 yards, 31 TDs, 6 INTs, 151 carries, 912 yards, 12 TDs
-Michael Walker RB – 183 carries, 914 yards, 20 TDs
-Damon Treat WR/RB – 48 receptions, 666 yards, 4 TDs
-Dan Brown WR – 31 receptions, 633 yards, 11 TDs
-Todd Bestgen LB – 63 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 FFs
-Tate Christopherson LB – 93 tackles, 9 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 3 FRs
-Eric Poggenburg DB – 102 tackles, 11 TFL, 1 sack, 5 INTs, 2 FFs, 1 blocked kick
-Jack Moro DB – First team Daktronics All-American, AFCA All-American, 75 tackles, 4 TFL, 7 INTs, 1 blocked kick
What to Watch For
Turnover on the Defense – Seven seniors from the Huskies’ defense graduated in 2013, and all seven were among the top ten tacklers on the team. The defensive backfield was one of the strengths of the team last season, and a big reason why St. Cloud State finished third in D2 in turnover margin with +1.6 per game. Eric Poggenburg and Jack Moro were first and third on the team in tackles respectively, a rarity for defensive backs, and snagged a combined 12 picks – more between the two of them than 77 D2 teams had all of last season. Jordan Sefon and Kyle Risinger will anchor the secondary as the only returning starters in the unit, as the Huskies have to rely on a lot of fresh faces in 2014.
In addition to their defensive turnover, the offense will basically hit the reset button on skill-position players. They’ll have a new quarterback, a new RB1, and almost an entirely new receiving corps. Of last season’s top seven pass-catchers, only Taylor Berger and Grant Thayer will be back. On the plus-side, they’ll have their entire starting offensive line from last season, so the players who end up throwing, catching, and carrying the ball for the Huskies will be well-protected as they do it. The new guys aren’t going to get any breaks; they’ll start the season on the road against our number one team, one of the teams they knocked out of the playoffs last season: Minnesota State-Mankato. The Huskies will have to gel quickly if they plan on taking that W. Their other toughest game this season will be week six against Minnesota-Duluth at home. It’s certainly not a foregone conclusion they’ll get even one of the two against their conference rivals, but it is a foregone conclusion they need to. The Huskies could end up the highest preseason-ranked team to miss the playoffs if they aren’t careful.