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NCAA DIVISION II QUARTERFINALS MSU MANKATO 17, MISSOURI WESTERN 10

Up next: MSU Mankato vs. Valdosta State in semifinals, Saturday • Time, site TBD

Keeping focus on football, Mankato advances

  • Article by: JON KRAWCZYNSKI
  • Associated Press
  • December 2, 2012 - 8:38 AM

MANKATO - It's been a season of heartbreak and hope, adversity and achievement, stunning in both the worst and best of ways. And it's not over yet for Minnesota State Mankato.

The team, which saw its season begin with its coach being arrested on child pornography charges, advanced to the NCAA Division II semifinals with a 17-10 victory over Missouri Western on Saturday. A day earlier, exiled coach Todd Hoffner was cleared of the charges and pronounced himself ready to return to work.

With the circumstances surrounding the program off the field never more unstable, the Mavericks on the field have never been better. They are 13-0 and one win away from playing for the first national title in the program's history.

Said athletic director Kevin Buisman: "They just bowed their backs and got after it and worked a little bit harder and believed in each other. That's what makes this a pretty special group."

Minnesota State held Missouri Western star running back Michael Hill to 50 yards rushing and Connor Thomas rushed for 159 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown with 3:15 to play that put the Mavericks in the semifinals. That touchdown capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive in which Thomas ran for 46 yards.

The Mavericks will play Valdosta State in the semifinals at a site to be announced.

"A team that didn't have the same kind of focus and commitment could have been distracted," Buisman said. "... I know that when they're in this building and when they take the field and when it needs to be about football, it's all about football."

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