UND FOOTBALL: Vikings to get a new home Augustana hopes to top stadium announcement with a win Saturday against Sioux
It was a big day Wednesday at Augustana, where plans were announced to build a long-awaited on-campus football stadium. "It will be exciting to play on campus and have a place you can call your own," Augustana coach Brad Salem said. It will be an...
It was a big day Wednesday at Augustana, where plans were announced to build a long-awaited on-campus football stadium.
"It will be exciting to play on campus and have a place you can call your own," Augustana coach Brad Salem said.
It will be another big day Saturday if underdog Augustana beats No. 2 UND in the Alerus Center, where more than 10,000 homecoming fans are expected to watch one of the most prolific offenses in Sioux history play a team that has given them fits in recent years.
The North Central Conference game between one of the largest schools in the league and the smallest could be another down-to-the wire meeting. UND won 24-21 in overtime last season.
In four of the last five games between UND and Augustana, no more than 10 points have separated the teams.
Augustana's home for years has been Howard Wood Field, a 10,000-seat public facility that's been used by virtually every high school and college program in Sioux Falls.
Augustana hopes its new venue - expected to be finished in time for the 2009 season - will give it a better home-field advantage, one the Vikings hope will be a factor when the small, private school joins the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference next season.
After the stadium announcement was made, it was back to work for the Vikings - a 2-3 team that is finding its identity week by week.
The Vikings are relatively young this season, but their quarterback is beginning to grasp the offense - one that always has featured talented skill players.
"We're getting there," Salem said. "This is our third year here. It's a day-by-day, week-by-week process for us. But our kids are playing hard."
It's apparent the Vikings are improving. They opened with a seven-point win at Mary before losing at home against Concordia-St. Paul. But Augustana's performance against national power Nebraska-Omaha last week opened a few eyes.
Augustana led 17-7 in the first half. And the Vikings were within seven points before Omaha went on a 14-play touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to secure the win. In typical fashion, Omaha used its powerful running game to score and take time off the clock.
"They just pounded it at us," Salem said. "We played well. You feel good when you're in a big game like that. But you want to finish it."
Daniel Millus has taken over at quarterback for Augustana. He played at Riverside (Calif.) Community College last season and also was a starter at Division I-AA Texas State before landing in Sioux Falls.
For years, Augustana's strength has been its intricate passing game. However, through five games, Millus has completed 83 of 146 passes for 999 yards and five touchdowns. Millus has been intercepted six times.
But the Vikings do have one of the league's top playmakers in receiver Tommy Ellingworth, who has caught an NCC-best 39 passes for 544 yards. As Augustana waits for its passing game to improve, it has actually rushed more (175 attempts) than it has passed (151 passes).
"Any time you get a new kid in the system, there are issues you have to battle through," Salem said. "It's verbiage, formations and learning where to throw the football. But (Millus) is getting more comfortable.
"He throws it well. He's a smart kid."
Defensively, the Vikings are led by safety Brian Baumgartner, who made 21 tackles against Omaha. Also, defensive back Dustin Rice has two interceptions so far.
"We're a little better defensively as far as team speed goes," Salem said.
Salem is in his third season at Augustana. There is no timetable, however, for the program, he said.
"There are so many pieces to the puzzle," he said. "There are a lot of variables in football."
But the Vikings gained control of one variable with their announcement of a new stadium.
"That will create a great college atmosphere," Salem said.
Reach Nelson at 780-1268, (800) 477-6572 ext. 268 or firstname.lastname@example.org .