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UND FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Six things you may or may not have noticed in UND's opening win

UND's John Santiago rushes for yardage during the Fighting Hawks' win Thursday night over Mississippi Valley State. Photo/Nick Nelson, Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
UND's John Santiago celebrates a touchdown with Garett Maag in Thursday night's win by the Fighting Hawks at the Alerus Center. Photo/Nick Nelson, Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Ex-UND hockey standout Brock Boeser did the coin toss before Thursday night's UND-Mississippi Valley State game. Photo/Nick Nelson, Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

UND opened the football season with a 35-7 win over Mississippi Valley State University in the Alerus Center.

Here are six things you may or may not have noticed during the season-opening victory:

  1. Defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt moved from the press box to the sidelines.

For the first time, defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt roamed the sidelines during the game instead of sitting in the coaches box above the press box, where he spent the previous four seasons.

“We just decided we’d put one of the secondary coaches up top to watch a lot of the routes and coverages,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “I think having him on the sideline leading our defense is the right thing to do as far as when we’re making adjustments on the sidelines.”

Schweigert said they’ll likely stick with that setup the rest of the season.

“We liked it today,” he said. “We’ll talk about it tomorrow, but it’s something we’re going to do.”

  1. UND lost DT Tank Harris and LB Jade Lawrence to injuries in the first half.

After staying relatively healthy during fall camp, UND lost a pair of regulars on defense to injuries in the first half of its win over the Delta Devils.

Defensive tackle Tank Harris and linebacker Jade Lawrence each sustained injuries in the first half and watched the second half from the sidelines without their pads.

“Those weren’t good, we lost those guys really early,” Schweigert said. “Tank came back and played. Jade didn’t play afterwards. We’ll know more tomorrow. It was lower leg.

“Tank played about 12 plays after it happened. He just couldn’t go anymore. Hopefully, you get them back. You have a couple of extra days before your next game. That will help us a bit, but we sure hope they’re OK.”

Because of the Thursday game against Mississippi Valley State, UND now has two extra days before next Saturday’s game at nationally ranked Washington.

  1. UND introduced a new formation with all three of its highly touted RBs.

The Fighting Hawks showed a new offensive formation where they have all three of their highly touted running backs -- senior Brady Oliveira, senior John Santiago and junior James Johannesson -- in at the same time.

“You’ve got Brady and John, it’s like thunder and lightning,” UND quarterback Nate Ketteringham said. “Then you’ve got James, who is like a big freight train… the Fargo Freight Train. It’s good to have different looks and see people try to adjust to it.”

Schweigert said he’s not sure if that formation has an official name yet.

“It was good to get the three guys out there,” he said. “John was cramping up a little bit, so Teddy (Sherva) got in there and got a carry in that formation. It’s something we have to do. We have to get those guys on the field together and hopefully we can build off of that and do different things.”

  1. Special teams problems persisted for the Fighting Hawks.

UND opened the season with big question marks on special teams.

The Fighting Hawks trotted out a new long snapper, holder, kicker and punter. And those questions weren’t exactly answered Thursday.

Freshman kicker Brady Leach missed both of his field-goal attempts. He missed a 33-yard field goal wide left early in the fourth quarter and a 37-yard field goal wide right later in the fourth.

“We’ve got to improve,” Schweigert said. “We didn’t make the field goals. The last one he hit well, he just missed it. We’re going to see how our specialists react to that.

“A lot of kicking comes down to confidence. We were hoping he’d make one of these early for his confidence, but now we’re going to see how tough he is mentally, because that’s going to be a part of it.”

Freshman punter Cade Peterson had two punts that went for 25 and 26 yards. He pinned the Delta Devils inside the 20 on one, and got an unfriendly hop on the other to lose yards.

But Schweigert said his biggest concern in the special teams game was kick coverage.

UND allowed a 79-yard kick return to Mississippi Valley State’s Booker Chambers.

  1. A new touchdown song for UND?

UND introduced a new touchdown song -- one that’s familiar to sports fans.

For the first time, the Fighting Hawks used ‘Chelsea Dagger’ by the Fratellis -- the same song that’s played after the UND men’s hockey team scores goals.

  1. Special guests were in the house for the opener

A couple of special guests were on hand for the win over Mississippi Valley State.

Former UND hockey star Brock Boeser, who helped the team win the 2016 NCAA national championship, returned to do the coin toss.

Boeser, who won the MVP at the NHL All-Star Game as a rookie for the Vancouver Canucks last season, was wearing a replica of the jersey he used at the 2016 Frozen Four in Tampa.

Winnipeg Jets chairman Mark Chipman, a former UND quarterback, also attended the game.

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