Inside the Huddle with Todd Hoffner: Looking ahead to Duluth

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 10:51 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2021 at 10:55 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — The Minnesota State Mavericks football team opened up the season with a thrilling victory over Northern State last Thursday.

KEYC News Now Sports Director Rob Clark interviewed head coach Todd Hoffner Wednesday to preview the team’s upcoming contest against Minnesota Duluth, which will be broadcast on KEYC at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Rob Clark: It wasn’t always pretty, but you guys got the job done and accomplished the goal of going 1-0  in game one.

Todd Hoffner: I think you hit the nail on the head. We had a lot of miscues, a lot of mistakes. Give Northern State credit, they came in here, played an exceptional game. Did everything to win it except for the finish. I thought it was a dramatic finish that 4,000 plus saw at Blakeslee Stadium. We’re just excited to try and get better and be a better team this weekend.”

RC: Obviously you don’t like playing from behind or having all those turnovers, but to see your team come back, battle back from the adversity, what does that mean for the squad moving forward.

TH: I think grit and resilience are two key factors that we had within us that were exposed. Your character and who you are gets revealed. We were in a situation where our backs were against the wall. Really proud of our student-athletes, coaches and how we responded. Being down 10 points with five minutes left and kicking a field goal as opposed to scoring a touchdown doesn’t look pretty. We got the job done and forced the game into overtime. Really proud of how our players played down the stretch.

RC: One player that played a key role on offense was Kaleb Sleezer. We saw what he did in 2019 in a reserve role. He really took the opportunity and seized it against Northern State.

TH: No doubt, we had 20-some broken tackles. We track missed tackles and broken tackles, and Kaleb was the bright and shining star when it came to breaking tackles. He had a double-digit performance, which is exceptional. We’re really proud of his development and how he surfaced and shined in a big-time game. His role increased in that game and it will evolve that way also if he continues to play that well. Have to give the credit up front, we rushed for over 200 yards. That’s not easy to do, but our guys in the trenches did a great job of stopping the run and being able to run the football. I think we’re in good shape when it comes to the line of scrimmage. We need to clean up some things on the back end and be more efficient on offense with less turnovers.

RC: Minnesota Duluth coming up on Saturday, what really sticks out to you about this team on film in 2021?

TH: I think they’re a storied program winning two national championships. I’m sure they’re starving to get back to that venue and status. We’re starving too, we’re embarrassed. We were put in a situation we shouldn’t have been as a team and we’re going to Duluth, a program that’s rich in tradition. Coach does a great job with his resources. We’re going to have our hands full. We’ll have to play a near-perfect game to go 1-0.

RC: I know a few years ago there was a wager with the team to shave your head if you guys beat Duluth, will that be the case this year?

TH: As a person, I’ll do anything for my players. None of them have approached me about that topic. One of them hinted around yesterday that, ‘Your hair is looking a little long, coach.’ I don’t know if that’s where he was going with that, but they haven’t said if this then that, that’s not the case right now.

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