UND FOOTBALL: Bring on the champs
UND's offense put up 20 points in the first half, a solid number for any team that advances to postseason play. But UND coach Dale Lennon said the Sioux had failed to deliver the knockout punch against perennial playoff opponent Winona State. The...
UND's offense put up 20 points in the first half, a solid number for any team that advances to postseason play.
But UND coach Dale Lennon said the Sioux had failed to deliver the knockout punch against perennial playoff opponent Winona State. The door to a possible Winona comeback was partially open.
UND slammed the door in the second half and dropped Winona for the last time.
The solid second half - coupled with a strong overall defensive game - led the Sioux to a 44-2 first-round NCAA Division II playoff win against Winona on Saturday before 5,370 Alerus Center fans.
The win advances UND to a second-round game next Saturday against two-time defending national champion Grand Valley State. The Sioux and Lakers will meet in the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
"We've developed a good relationship with Grand Valley over the years," Lennon said. "The respect is mutual. When you have the chance to play the top dog in Division II, it's pretty exciting. They have a great program, but we think we're pretty good, too."
UND's win, however, may have been costly.
The Sioux finished the game with their third-string tailback, Steven Battle, carrying the load for the last quarter and a half.
Ryan Chappell, who rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns, and his backup - Josh Murray - both had their day end early. Chappell suffered an apparent ankle sprain in the third quarter, while Murray left with a shoulder injury in the second quarter.
Their status for the Grand Valley game wasn't known shortly after UND recorded its 10th straight playoff win in the Alerus Center.
"We'll have to wait and see about the extent of the injuries," Lennon said. "It could be something fairly minor or it could be something that could keep them out next week.
"I'll keep my fingers crossed."
UND beat Winona for the fourth time in the playoffs since 2001. In the teams' last three meetings, which included a regular-season game, UND had outscored Winona 142-8. The Warriors knew a lot of things would have to go their way to stay with the Sioux.
"North Dakota is a better, faster football team than we are," Winona coach Tom Sawyer said. "For us to win, we needed to have everything work right. We never, ever got any momentum going."
Winona had a scoring chance on its first possession. The Warriors moved to the Sioux 35 but failed to convert on fourth-and-10.
Five plays later, UND led 7-0 on Chappell's 8-yard run. Four of the five plays produced first downs.
UND netted two touchdowns and two field goals on its first four possessions for a 20-0 lead. The Sioux defense never let Winona, which averaged 40.6 points and 482 yards, develop a rhythm.
"The key was our run defense," said UND cornerback Drake Otto, whose third-quarter interception in the end zone halted one drive. "Once we stopped them, they had no choice but to wing it around out there."
Still, Lennon said UND was not living in a comfort zone at halftime.
"It was a frustrating game," Lennon said. "Going into halftime, we didn't have a comfortable feeling. Things easily could have turned against us. But in the third quarter, we did a very good job of getting the margin of comfort we needed. And our defense played well all day."
Weston Dressler's 4-yard run on a reverse produced UND's first touchdown of the third quarter. Brandon Hellevang added his third field goal of the day early in the fourth quarter and quarterback Danny Freund's 5-yard touchdown run left the Sioux with a 37-2 lead midway through the final quarter.
"After the first half, we wanted to stick it to them," said Sioux receiver Brady Trenbeath, who caught six passes for 98 yards. "We didn't want to give them any hope."
The 10-1 Sioux finished with 530 yards of offense, compared to 236 for Winona. The Warriors' only points came on a safety, which resulted when Freund was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
Winona, which finished 10-2, won another Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title but failed in its attempt for a deep run in the playoffs by bigger, more powerful UND.
"North Dakota is always tough," Winona running back Alex Wiese said. "They put a lot of pressure on you and they throw a lot of speed at you."