Minot State football set for spring game

Through 14 spring practices, the Minot State football team has been under the direction of two different head coaches and one interim head coach.

It’s been a long spring.

The light at the end of the tunnel has been tonight’s intrasquad spring game, which begins at 7 at Herb Parker Stadium.

Despite the April coaching carousel, defensive coordinator Byron Thomas – who served as interim head coach for a short spell – maintains the Beavers have remained focused and unhindered by distractions.

“We’ve gotta prepare for the University of Sioux Falls. That’s our first game,” Thomas said. “Nothing has changed since then. One guy jumped ship and that didn’t stop us from preparing what we’ve gotta do to win. It’s different, but it doesn’t stop our main goal.”

On April 15, Todd Hoffner elected to be reinstated at Minnesota State-Mankato after 75 days as Minot State’s head coach. An arbitrator ruled on April 9 that he had been wrongfully fired from MSU-Mankato in May 2013, leaving him with the opportunity to return to his old post.

By April 19, Tyler Hughes was named MSU’s next head football coach. He arrived on campus April 21. Because of the timing, Hughes agreed to take the helm with the rest of the coaching staff – which Hoffner hired – already in place.

“That’s uncommon,” Hughes said. “Usually a new head coach doesn’t do that or doesn’t have to do that. I did a little research and tried to find out who’s been in a situation like that. It’s very rare.”

Hughes spent nine years at Snow College (Utah) – the first seven as offensive coordinator and the last two as head coach – helping lead one of the nation’s highest-scoring offenses at the junior college level. Last season, he served as a quality control assistant under Urban Meyer’s no-huddle, hurry-up offense at Ohio State.

At Snow, Hughes used a pro-style offense, which places the quarterback under center and mixes a balance of run and pass.

“We want to be very aggressive in all three phases of the game,” Hughes said. “I’m not a ‘sit back and react’ type of guy.”

Last season, the Beavers went 2-9 and averaged 15.18 points per game. In Hughes’ two seasons as Snow’s head coach, the Badgers posted 39.74 points a contest.

“Offensively, we have to do a couple of things,” Hughes said. “One, we have to protect the ball. Two, we have to generate big, explosive plays. The third thing is just being really fundamentally sound in everything that we do.”

On defense, Hoffner switched the Beavers from their 3-4 front of years past to a 4-3 formation. Thomas said those changes will remain, even though MSU’s current roster is stacked with linebackers and short on linemen.

“That’s kind of been a tough transition, but our guys are adapting to the system very well,” Thomas said. “They’ve embraced it and accepted the challenge and worked hard at it.”

Hughes said after the spring season is completed, he will determine who will hold play-calling duties. For the first couple of weeks, he’s avoided being too intrusive too quickly.

“Truthfully, I’ve tried to just let things flow,” he said.

Spring game rules

Tonight’s scrimmage will feature a unique scoring system

The offense receives one point for a first down, three points for a gain of 15-plus yards and seven points for a touchdown. The defense gets one point for ending a series, three points for a sack and seven points for a turnover.

Four 12-minute, running-time quarters will be played, with the clock haulting for official stoppages and in the last two-minutes of each half.

Fan festivities

In the parking lot east of the MSU Dome, a tailgate party will be hosted by Minot State Athletics, beginning at 5 p.m.

Free food and soft drinks will be provided while supplies last.

Entertainment will include bouncy houses for children along with music and tailgate games.

Following the spring game, fans are invited to an autograph session with the Beavers on the Herb Parker Stadium turf.

Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.