HOLMGREN: Despite 0-4 mark, MSU shows signs of improvement

Of 167 Division II football teams, only 21 are winless.

Minot State is one of those struggling programs. But I’m telling you to remain positive for two reasons:

1. Because the Beavers are making as much progress as any team in the country. Probably the most.

2. Because MSU has opened with as tough a set of first four opponents as anyone else. MSU’s losses have come to teams with a combined record of 14-2 (and Wayne State realistically should be 3-1 if it hadn’t lost a gimme at home to Minnesota State-Moorhead 40-36).

To begin the year, the Beavers’ running game and defensive secondary were their gaping weaknesses. After putting up just 11 rushing yards on Saturday, MSU’s rushing average plummeted to 43.8 yards per game – second-worst nationally. Thats not good. But the defense has made major strides.

Against Wayne State, which entered the weekend with the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference’s top passing attack (and the nation’s 16th-best), MSU held its ground. The Wildcats amassed just 217 passing yards – 111 below their average. And after scoring 10 touchdowns through the air in the first three weeks, Wayne State didn’t score any.

“We asked our corners to hold up their man coverage and they did,” MSU coach Tyler Hughes said. “We generated some pressure when we needed to.”

Despite missing two returning starters in senior linebacker Casey Weinmann and sophomore running back Jarvis Mustipher both due to injury, the Beavers found a way to stick around against a middle-of-the-pack Wayne State club. If not for a missed block and a fumble on MSU’s final offensive possession, it might have pulled out a win.

Hughes set out this year hoping for a winning season. That’s beginning to appear extremely unlikely, with two of the last seven games coming against traditional NSIC powers St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth.

But the wins will come eventually.

After a tumultuous offseason, it’s a miracle that this team is still motivated.

And trust me, motivated they are.