Winona State Football enters 2014 at number 21 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 6-5 (6-5) Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference
The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference is no joke, but if you’re reading this, you already knew that. Our preseason top 25 features nine teams from the NSIC while no other conference has more than six. This is the biggest reason Winona State finished 6-5 and out of the playoffs: they have to play one of the toughest schedules in D2 football.
The Warriors started the season with a surprising 34-27 overtime loss to underachieving Bemidji State at home. They then had to travel to St. Cloud State, where last week’s loss turned into this week’s losing streak. Winona State would bounce back though, to the tune of five consecutive wins, scoring 45 points or more in each contest, including a 45-40 win at Sioux Falls, and a 45-41 win over Wayne State. Three of their final four games were on the road, and the Warriors were in good position to challenge for a playoff spot at 5-2. But that final stretch was brutal. They lost all three road games to Minnesota State-Mankato, Southwest Minnesota State, and Concordia-St. Paul (with a home win over Augustana in the middle) to finish 6-5, no playoffs.
-Richard Lilla OL – Second team All-SAC South
-Chichi Ojika RB – 191 carries, 1,152 yards, 9 TDs
-Alex Jensen TE – 25 catches, 343 yards, 4 TDs
-William Sherard DL – 25 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 5 sacks
-Parker Detjens DL – Honorable mention All-SAC South, 31 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1 sack
-Turrell Foster LB – 49 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 4 FRs, 2 FFs
-Patrick Lazzara DB – 86 tackles, 3 TFL, .5 sacks, 3 INTs, 1 FF
What to Watch For
NSIC Offensive Newcomer of the Year – Jack Nelson, quarterback, freshman. Nelson’s first year out of high school was a big one. Only three WSU QBs have ever thrown for more yards in a season than Nelson did last season, and only two have ever thrown for more touchdowns. Get this kid some eyeblack and a tinted visor, because his future is bright.
Besides their 44-10 blowout-loss at the hands of Minnesota State-Mankato, Winona State football kept their losses tight last season. The average margin of defeat in their other four losses was less than a touchdown, and two of them were in overtime. Tight games were kind of their thing, and they won their fair share of them as well (45-40 at Sioux Falls, 45-41 over Wayne State, and 28-24 over Augustana). Now that quarterback Jack Nelson has a full year under his belt, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect the Warriors to have an even better record in close games this season.
Our preseason rankings here at HeroSports are based on a team’s recent performance, the strength of their conference, and their historical strength within that conference. Winona State won the NSIC South in 2012. As tough as last season was for Warriors fans, this team seems primed to return to the top of the NSIC South table. Eleven Warriors were named either first team, second team, or honorable mention All-NSIC South performers, and eight of them will be back. We’re predicting these guys make the playoffs this season and challenge Southwest Minnesota State for the South Division title.