Football coaches always talk about “next week,” but Minnesota Duluth football coach Curt Wiese admitted the sting of Saturday’s 52-7 loss at third-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato won’t be quite as easy to forget.
“That will be a tough loss for a lot of our guys to swallow for a long time,” he said. “But we also understand we have a good football team coming this weekend and need to move on.”
UMD (4-1) hosts Wayne State (2-3) at 1:05 p.m. Saturday on homecoming at Malosky Stadium looking to put last week in the past. The loss to Minnesota State was UMD’s most lopsided since a 49-0 shellacking at St. Cloud State in 1999, Bob Nielson’s second game as Bulldogs coach. It also ended UMD’s 24-game NSIC winning streak.
“We haven’t lost in two years in the regular season, so that was a rude awakening for us to be embarrassed like that as a program, in a big game, in a big situation,” Wiese said. “That was a tough loss, and it’s always going to be a tough loss.”
Wiese has watched the film and saw how the game got away from the Bulldogs. Mavericks 6-foot-5 receiver Shane Zylstra posted a career-high 220 yards and three touchdowns on eight receptions en route to NSIC offensive player of the week honors. Most of Zylstra’s damage came early, including two TD passes less than eight minutes into the game as the Bulldogs found themselves in the rare position of playing catch-up.
“There were a lot of times where we could have played better, but we were outmatched,” Wiese said. “Their receiving corps did a good job getting themselves open, we struggled defending the run game and on the offensive side we didn’t have a lot of answers to getting back in the game. It was one of those games that spun out of control quicker than we could slow it down. Then at that point, in big games, you start to press, and when we did that, things continued to get worse for us.”
Wiese has served on regional committees before and score differential isn’t one of the factors directly used to rank the top teams in the region, so ultimately, the setback to Minnesota State (5-0) is simply a loss, and a loss to a quality opponent, which helps the Bulldogs’ strength of schedule. However, Wiese said comparative scores do get passed around.
“When you get down to it, you have to find every criteria you can to separate teams in the top seven in the region,” he said.
UMD quarterback John Larson was hurt late in the first half against Minnesota State and was replaced by sophomore Garrett Olson. Larson was seen on the sidelines in the second half with ice on his left, non-throwing shoulder.
Larson was in street clothes at Tuesday's practice and Wiese was hopeful he could go this week.
“He’s going to continue to be day-to-day,” Wiese said.
Minnesota State coach Todd Hoffner joked during Saturday’s news conference that he wasn’t ready to move on quite so fast. Hoffner knows wins against the Bulldogs are few and far between, though the Mavericks have recently had UMD’s number, winning five straight in the series.
“Duluth has a really good football team,” Hoffner said. “Coach Wiese is a great football coach, they have great football players, but it just snowballed on them.”
Hoffner didn’t think the win sent a message about the NSIC South’s superiority over the NSIC North. UMD, after all, had beaten its share of NSIC South teams en route to the 24 straight conference victories, and on Saturday, St. Cloud State and Bemidji State handed the South’s only one-loss teams, Concordia-St. Paul and Augustana, their second losses of the season.
“Seeing some of the scores, I’m not going to go there,” Hoffner said. “I’m not going to say one is better than the other.
“There’s no doubt about it. Duluth has a great football team, and winning 24 in a row isn’t an easy task, but it just got out of hand a little bit on them early. With the playoffs set up the way it is, it wouldn’t shock me if they ran the table and we ended up playing somebody within our conference, and that’s if we can run the table, too, so who knows?”
UMD’s goal is to do just that, run the table, but Wiese said not a lot has changed.
“It’s our goal every week to go 1-0,” he said. “I don’t know if this is added pressure on us or not, but there’s no room for error from here on out, we understand that. History tells us that with two-loss teams, there’s one or two that will get in, but you’re leaving it up to the committee if you’re a two-loss team.”
He said it
“That was kind of the icing on the cake for that game.” -- Wiese, in reference to wide receiver Quincy Woods’ terrific one-handed catch and run against Minnesota State, only to have the play end in a touchback instead of a 64-yard touchdown after Woods fumbled the ball through the end zone.
WAYNE STATE (2-3) AT NO. 23 MINNESOTA DULUTH (4-1)
What: NSIC football game; UMD’s homecoming
When: 1:05 p.m. Saturday
Where: Malosky Stadium
Forecast: High of 39 with a rain/snow mix and 12 mph wind
Radio: KDAL-AM 610 (610kdal.com)