For all the talk that surrounds the discussions about strength-of-schedule and who played tougher competition throughout the season, the Chargers and Mavericks are eerily similar. When the facts are laid out on paper one thing becomes apparent about both schools — they feasted on the weaker competition and have inflated stats because of that.
Consider this: Minnesota State's four wins against teams with a winning record were by an average of 14.25 points, while their six wins over teams with .500 or worse records were by an average of 29.3 points. Hillsdale had an average winning margin of 11 points per game against the three .500-plus teams they beat, and they dominated their .500 or worse opponents by 27.7 per game.
2. They make big plays, but in a different fashion than the Chargers
While the success of the Mavericks is predicated on the running game, which is evident by the 214 yards they chalk up on the ground per game, don't let that fool you.
That doesn't mean they aren't capable of the game-breaking, highlight reel sort of play.
They aren't known for doing it quite the way the Chargers do, i.e. hitting a streaking Andre Holmes down the sidelines or throwing it across the middle to AJ Kegg hoping he can make tacklers miss until he hits the end zone.
Instead, Minnesota State has intercepted 28 passes on the season, and has a +19 turnover margin that ranks second in the nation.
And in senior defensive back Kelvin Rodgers the Mavs have a guy who can make opponents cry.
In his career he has four kick returns for touchdowns, two punt returns he took the distance, a pair of INTs returned for scores and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
3. The Mavericks can be mistake prone
For all the big-play ability their defense possesses and the reliable running game they count on, the Mavericks can certainly help the opposition out once in a while.
They've only thrown eight interceptions on offense, but they've lost 10 fumbles (comparatively, the Chargers have three), have missed four extra-points and have a red zone success rate of 81 percent, 11 percentage points lower than the Chargers. They also are averaging 84.4 yards of penalties per contest. Last week they paid the price for not finishing out drives. Minnesota State looked like it was going in for the tying score late in the second quarter against St. Cloud St. when Ernest Walker was stripped of the ball at the 1-yard-line, and the Huskies recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback. Then during a third-quarter drive, the Mavericks drove to the Huskies 6-yard line, but two penalties drove them back to the 20 before St. Cloud safety Tyler Niedfeldt intercepted a Pachan pass at the 1. St. Cloud St. dealt the Mavericks their only loss of the year, 26-21.
4. Houston, they just might have a quarterback problem
The cat is not out of the hat on this storyline, but watch for it to emerge in the coming days.
As of right now, there is a chance that the Mavericks are going to be forced to use their third-string quarterback as Saturday's starting signal caller — and he usually plays receiver.
Senior QB Ryan Fick missed five games earlier this season with a broken leg, and upon his return he suffered a broken collarbone.
Then last week junior Steve Pachan (19 TD, 6 INT on the year) went out during the fourth quarter with a leg injury and Hoffner is staying mum on the issue to this point.
No one knows what the status of Pachan is outside of the Mavericks' facilities right now (although neither he or Fick are currently on their two-deep depth chart) but a fact that is out in the open is that Fick and Pachan are the only two quarterbacks listed on the roster. Insert Cody Rose, a wide receiver by trade, who played QB in high school. He has thrown just 25 passes all season, one being a touchdown.
Troy Weatherhead vs. former high school QB sounds pretty good for Charger fans.
As does Drew Berube against a relative nobody.
5. Todd Hoffner isn’t afraid to yap
If you haven't yet heard, second-year Mavericks coach Todd Hoffner sent a blast Hillsdale's way soon after the playoff field was finalized Sunday.
"I am sure Hillsdale is not going to travel very well...coming from Michigan. We would love to dominate the noise and put a lot of pressure on the visiting team,” he said during an interview with a local media outlet in Mankato.
Puffing your chest out like that usually means you can afford to do some yapping because you know you can back it up. But upon further review, Hoffner has done very little to prove he's even the kind of coach who should be confident in his own ability to win in the postseason.
In Hoffner's seven seasons as the head coach at Wisconsin-Eau Claire (1999-2005) he had his team nationally ranked in D III five of those years, as high as sixth once, but he never once got his team to the playoffs. In 2001 his team would've been in with a win, but their season ended with a loss.
Then as the offensive coordinator at D II South Dakota, Hoffner guided an offense that was ranked in the Top 10 in total offense two consecutive seasons, but the program had a single playoff win, a 31-28 victory over Northwood, during his tenure.
And last year the Mavericks were bounced in the first round, so to be talking smack after losing your last game of the regular season this year seems to be more laughable than anything.