I have probably never researched a team quite like I have Winona State as they are very interesting. Back in 2014, this was a 4-7 team, and now they are a 10-1 team hosting a national playoff game. I had some thoughts last night, so let’s get to a more in-depth analysis.
Going back to 2012 I looked at the records.
2012: 10-2, Mineral Water Bowl Champions
2013: 6-5, No Postseason
2014: 4-7, No Postseason
2015: 5-6, No Postseason
2016: 8-3, No Postseason
Offense-One of the things about teams that play in the Midwest is that for the most part, they have not led the spread offense craze permeate their college teams. This is evident if you watch Big 10 football. Most of the teams that way are run first teams anyway and they are usually teams filled with corn-fed boys who like to run over and through opponents. I watched film and as a passer, I am not super impressed with WSU QB Darren Beenken as a frequent passer, but the guy has a cannon for an arm and he can take some very deep shots and land them with accuracy.
What you are going to see is Winona State line up and run it at the Lions. They are a Power I team all the way and that is their plan of attack. Russell McLean made a great point last night about perhaps walking up a strong safety to help with run support and force Winona State to make you beat them with their passing game, which is not strong. Also, the Warriors are not used to driving long fields. They are used to getting good punt returns and creating turnovers that create short fields. If the Lions play good kick and punt coverage and do not turn the ball over, that will go away, effectively neutralizing Winona’s offensive attack, assuming the Lions can do those things and move some personnel around.
Defense-WSU has a good defense and they have been creating turnovers left and right. Make no mistake, the Warriors are great on defense, but I am interested in seeing how they are going to match up against the Lions. I can tell you this, the Lion WR crew is probably the best they have faced all season. One thing that does concern me is how well WSU defends the run, and with the cold weather coming I am wondering how much will influence the play calling to run the ball and not wanting to risk turnovers. That would play well into The Warriors hands.
Special Teams-Winona State is a very good return team on both punts and kickoffs, and that is something that has to be stressed as special teams play such a big role in winning a big game. From the stats, they do not really allow much in terms of letting the other teams return. Michael Russell, the punter for WSU averages about 35 yards per kick, while kickoff man Carter McCauley averages 58 yards per kickoff. That is about as solid as you can ask for in Division II. Jake Baillu returns kicks for WSU and averages almost 30 yards per return. This is the strongest group of the the three units based on my analysis and I believe the game will be won or lost in this category.
By The Numbers:
|TEAM STATISTICS||WINONA STATE UNIV.||OPPONENTS|
|Points Per Game||35.82||14.09|
|Yards gained rushing||2161||1623|
|Yards lost rushing||241||339|
|Average Per Rush||4.5||3.2|
|Average Per Game||174.5||116.7|
|Average Per Pass||7.24||5.38|
|Average Per Catch||13.53||10.61|
|Average Per Game||178.36||178.36|
|Average Per Play||5.6||4.3|
|Average Per Game||352.9||295.1|
|KICK RETURNS: #-Yards||31-837||54-954|
|PUNT RETURNS: #-Yards||36-538||13-121|
|INT RETURNS: #-Yards||24-496||13-115|
|KICK RETURN AVERAGE||27.00||17.67|
|PUNT RETURN AVERAGE||14.94||9.31|
|INT RETURN AVERAGE||20.67||8.85|