Cory Sauter is in his 10th season as head coach at Southwest Minnesota State University in 2019 and has built a program that competes yearly among one of the top Division II conferences in the country.
Sauter has compiled an overall record of 40-60 in nine seasons on the sidelines, including 39-58 in NSIC play. Sauter’s victory total ranks second in team history and twice during the past six seasons he has led the Mustangs to two of its best seasons in program history. Since 2013, SMSU has recorded numerous memorable victories which includes a postseason appearance, a school-record victories at the Division II level and the program’s first-ever win over a Division II Top 25 team.
Sauter was named the 10th head coach in program history on March 29, 2010, after serving a month as interim head coach. Prior to becoming head coach, he spent two seasons as an assistant coach at SMSU. Sauter brings six years of professional football playing experience in both the National Football League and NFL Europe, along with both collegiate and professional football coaching experience to the Mustang program.
Last season, SMSU recorded four victories but were competitive in numerous games including suffering three losses by nine or less points. Quarterback Blake Gimbel completed a record-breaking career under Sauter in 2018, as he finished his career setting school career records in completion percentage, passing yards, pass completions and second in passing touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Daniel Davis earned first team All-NSIC South and third team All-American honors following a season in which he led the conference in both receptions and yards. SMSU ranked eighth in Division II passing yards and ranked 31st in fewest penalty yards per game.
Off the field of play, senior Jon Dicke was named to the 2018 AFCA Good Works team, was honored with the NSIC Glen Galligan Award and was a CoSIDA Academic All-American for the second straight season.
In 2017, SMSU suffered numerous key injuries following a 2-1 start to the season. Despite the losses, SMSU had several highlights during the year, including senior wide receiver Nate Huot setting the SMSU and NSIC career record for receptions with 269.
During the 2016 season, SMSU recorded five victories, including a four-point win over No. 19 Minnesota Duluth, the program’s first-ever victory over a nationally-ranked Division II team. Mustang running back Max Simmons was named NSIC Newcomer of the Year and ranked first among all freshman in NCAA football with 18 rushing touchdowns. SMSU finished 19th in the country in passing offense and 34th in scoring offense.
The 2015 Mustangs put together one of the best seasons in program history, reaching heights never seen before in team history and just missing a spot in the NCAA playoffs. SMSU recorded an 8-3 mark, finishing fourth in the NSIC. The eight victories set a school record for wins in a season at the Division II level and marked just the third time ever an SMSU squad has won eight or more games in a season.
For the first time in school history, SMSU was twice ranked in the NCAA region rankings, including No. 9 in the final regular season poll. The team also received votes in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Top 25 weekly poll on three occasions—the first time SMSU received votes in the poll since 2008.
The Mustang offense was high-powered again in 2015, leading Division II during the regular season with 312 first downs, while scoring 366 points—the fifth highest total in school history.
SMSU running back Davontay Stevens led the conference in rushing in 2015, racking up 1,066 yards and becoming just the sixth player in school history to reach 1,000 yards in a season, while quarterback Blake Gimbel completed a school record 66.4 percent of his pass attempts.
The 2015 season also saw success off the field of play for the program. Seniors Davontay Stevens and Donovan Woods were both named CoSIDA first team Academic All-Americans.
In 2014, SMSU had several close games, losing three by three points or less, but still featured a potent offense and a disciplined team. The Mustang offense, despite five new starters on the offensive line, ranked among the top 80 nationally in both rushing offense and passing offense, while the squad finished second in the NSIC and 13th in Division II in fewest penalty yards per game. Punter Mike Wenk was named first team All-NSIC and was also a second team All-American honoree.
In 2013, SMSU put together a record-breaking campaign, setting 13 single-season team records and playing a postseason game for the first time since 1990. The Mustangs finished with seven victories and placed fourth in the 16-team NSIC. It was the highest finish for the Mustangs in the NSIC since 1999, and also qualified for the Mineral Water Bowl for the first time in program history, appearing in just the third postseason game in team history.
Running back Tyler Tonderum set a school record in 2013 with 2,145 yards rushing—ranking second in Division II—and became the first player in program history to be named a national finalist for the Harlon Hill Award, which is given to the top player in Division II.
The SMSU offense set a school record with 6,295 total yards, averaging a school record 524.6 per game and also set the NSIC single-season record with 5,892 yards in NSIC games.
During Sauter’s first season as head coach in 2010, the Mustangs started the season 2-0 and were 4-4 after eight weeks, before suffering several injuries to key positions and finishing 4-7 overall. Seven Mustang players earned all-conference honors, including quarterback Ryan Ratekin, who became the first SMSU offensive player to earn first team All-NSIC honors since 2006.
In 2011, SMSU finished with a 3-8 overall record and had eight players earn All-NSIC honors. Junior quarterback Tyler Peschong led the NSIC in passing and total yards and was named second team All-NSIC South Division. The Mustang offense finished the season ranking third in the conference in passing and eighth in scoring.
In his third season at the helm in 2012, Sauter helped oversee an offense that set a school record with 23 rushing touchdowns, while rushing for 1,888 yards, the second highest total in program history. The Mustang offense – which scored 30 or more points six times - ranked 62nd in the country in scoring and 65th in total offense. Senior running back Warren Matthews was named first team All-NSIC, while senior running back Gannon Moore was named second team All-NSIC.
Prior to becoming head coach, Sauter spent two seasons (2008-09) helping lead a high-powered Mustang offensive attack as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
Serving as offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator in 2009, SMSU averaged 36 points per game, the third highest in school history, and also scored 30 or more points in eight games tying a school single-season record.
Junior quarterback Ryan Ratekin was named the 2009 NSIC Offensive Newcomer of the Year, setting a school record with a 63.9 percent completion percentage, while passing for 2,963 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Quarterback Josh Shudlick had a record-breaking season during Sauter’s first season on the sideline in 2008. Shudlick set a conference record for passing yards, tied the league record for touchdown passes and finished first in the league in both passing yards per game and total offense.
Prior to SMSU, Sauter spent several years coaching at both the collegiate and professional levels. In 2006, he served as quarterbacks/receivers coach for the Hamburg Sea Devils in NFL Europe and was also a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota. In 2007, he was quarterbacks coach for the Berlin Thunder.
A native of Hutchinson, Minn., and a 1997 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Sauter had a record-setting career at quarterback for the Golden Gophers and spent six seasons in the NFL from 1998-2003. He played four seasons for Minnesota (1994-97), including starting the final 34 games of his collegiate career and playing in the Blue-Gray All-Star Football Classic following his senior season. He finished his career as the school's all-time career record holder for pass completions, pass attempts and passing yards. Sauter earned his master's degree from the University of Minnesota in 2003.
Following his collegiate career Sauter spent six seasons in the NFL from 1998-2003. He signed as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals in 1998 before spending time with the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts. He appeared in one regular season game in his career completing 6 of 9 passes for 59 yards in a 2002 game with the Chicago Bears. Sauter also played one season for the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe.
Cory and his wife Amy, live in Lynd, with their daughters, Berlin and Estella.
|Sauter Coaching Experience|
|2006||Hamburg Sea Devils (quarterbacks/receivers)|
|2006||University of Minnesota (defensive backs)|
|2007||Berlin Thunder (quarterbacks)|
|2008-09||SMSU (quarterback/pass game coordinator/offensive coordinator)|
|2010-19||SMSU (head coach)|
|Sauter Playing Experience|
|1993-97||University of Minnesota|