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WAYNE NELSON: New coach Bubba Schweigert has plenty of work ahead of him

North Dakota State won the 1986 NCAA Division II football championship, pounding South Dakota 27-7 in Florence, Ala.

In 1986, UND was in a rebuilding mode as Roger Thomas coached his first season at Memorial Stadium. UND finished 2-9, with Morningside and St. Cloud State the lone teams North Dakota managed to beat.

As a footnote, UND’s defense surrendered 396 points in 1986 — 67 to Texas A&M-Kingsville and 62 to rival NDSU.

NDSU was on top of the small college football world in the mid-1980s. UND may not have been at the bottom but it was in the same zip code.

History has a way of repeating itself, and it’s possible the events of nearly 30 years ago could occur when the 2014 season roll around in four months.

NDSU, which has won the past three Division I FCS titles, clearly is on top of its football world. Even as Craig Bohl rode off into the Wyoming sunset, a coaching change at NDSU likely won’t prevent the Bison from another run at a national title.

UND, like it was in 1986, is looking up.

As in 1986, UND will have a new coach in 2014 as Bubba Schweigert has returned home to take over a football program that looks to be in worse shape than previously thought.

Graduation claimed the usual number of players after last season; a few underclassmen — some of them standouts — bolted after Chris Mussman was relieved of his duties in November; and a handful of other players that recently finished spring ball may not be back in the fall — by their choice or UND’s choice.

So, what is the state of UND football after its first two seasons in the Big Sky Conference?

Not great; but not horrible.

There is plenty of work to do at Memorial Stadium and Bubba knows that.

His remarks since taking over in January haven’t centered on wins or losses or even timelines as to when UND will compete for a Big Sky title or FCS playoff berth.

Instead, he’s taking a day-by-day teaching approach, one that stresses positivity and the basics. Perhaps more than anything, that’s the key to success at Memorial Stadium these days.

UND won’t be a wide-open, pass-happy team in 2014, which, as we’ve discovered, isn’t the way to win in the Big Sky. Yes, the Big Sky is more of a passing league than most, but there are a handful of brutish running backs in the league that have made the difference between wins and losses.

How many games UND wins in 2014 is anyone’s guess.

But there is one big thing to remember as Bubba begins his second stint at UND.

Bubba came to UND in 1989. A year or two after his arrival, UND began to turn the corner. By the mid-90s, UND was a playoff team. A few years after that, UND was on top of the Division II world.

It won’t be a coincidence if UND follows a similar path in the next few seasons.

After all, history has a way of repeating itself.

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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