Minnesota State-Mankato entered Saturday averaging more than 42 points and 450 yards per game. They didn't come close to hitting either average in the Division II national championship, as Colorado State-Pueblo stormed the Mavericks for a 13-0 victory.
Meeting at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday's tilt was the first Division II national championship game for either program. The win gave CSU-Pueblo not only its first football national title, but its first national championship in any sport.
The ThunderWolves won by mimicking a brick wall on defense, holding MSU to 265 yards of total offense, nearly 195 yards below their average and only 105 rushing yards, less than half their season average.
Chris Bonner threw for 191 yards, including five connections for 84 yards and the game's only touchdown to Paul Browning, and Cameron McDondle ran for 113 yards to power the ThunderWolves' offense.
Every national championship is monumental for a head coach, but this one is especially head coach for CSU-Pueblo's John Wristen. He played quarterback at the school, then known as Southern Colorado, in the early 1980's, then watch the program get disbanded in 1985. Wristen resurrected the program in 2007 and has served as its head coach ever since, leading the ThunderWolves step by step and inch by inch until taking the ultimate step on Saturday.
"Our defense was outstanding. Our offense made the plays they needed to," Wristen said. "I was convinced if we understood the process, played as hard as you can and play for each other -- and not being perfect, but fixing your mistakes -- we had a chance to be here."