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Doubts? Not Bubba, not UND

OK, I admit it. I had doubts. And most of the 9,000-plus fans at The Alerus Center had doubts, too. C'mon admit it. You didn't think UND could pull it out and neither did I. In the biggest game in its Division I football history, UND--with a beat...

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University of North Dakota tight end Luke Mathewson (45) holds up the Big Sky Football Championship trophy high while the team celebrates on the field after a 38-31 victory over Northern Arizona University at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D. (Jesse Trelstad/Forum News Service)

OK, I admit it. I had doubts.

And most of the 9,000-plus fans at The Alerus Center had doubts, too. C'mon admit it. You didn't think UND could pull it out and neither did I.

In the biggest game in its Division I football history, UND-with a beaten and battered starting quarterback-trailed Northern Arizona 31-10 with 9 minutes to play in the third quarter.

At stake? A Big Sky Conference championship.

An hour later, who would have thought the Big Sky Conference banner and championship trophy would be on display at midfield? Who thought 300-pound nose guard Tank Harris would be doing a cartwheel at the 35-yard line? Who thought UND quarterback Keaton Studsrud-with a banged-up shoulder, could somehow muster enough energy to lead an incredible comeback?

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Apparently UND coach Bubba Schweigert did.

As a result, UND players celebrated a title after staging a rally for the ages in pulling out a 38-31 win Saturday.

UND's win now puts the Fighting Hawks in contention for a top-eight seed in the upcoming FCS playoffs. They were No. 10 in last week's FCS Playoff Selection Committee rankings. They certainly should be a top-eight seed-and the first-round bye that goes with it-after what they accomplished this season.

They finished 9-2 overall and 8-0 in the Big Sky-one of the top FCS leagues in the country. Realistically, they're two plays away from being 11-0.

Bubba has poured his heart and soul into this program since he arrived at Memorial Stadium in January of 2014. After the hugs and celebration at midfield, Bubba showed some emotion while addressing the media.

"I'm so proud of our guys," he said before a long pause. "Anyone know any jokes?"

In Bubba's first season, UND finished 5-7. The Hawks were 7-4 last season and robbed of a playoff berth. After last season, Bubba's day-by-day motto had a sidekick-Leave No Doubt.

And the Hawks left no doubt this season in making their case for the playoffs.

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"These guys battled and believed," said Bubba. "The senior class we have; they went through a (coaching) transition and we asked those guys to be selfless, to give up their starting jobs or go play other positions for the good of the team.

"So much work went into this. We had a belief in the vision. We could have laid down but our guys decided at halftime that we were going to come out and compete. We showed a lot of spirit and heart. That says a lot about this team."

Studsrud, with a banged up shoulder, led the comeback. He was knocked down time after time. Yet, he got up time after time, somehow managing enough fortitude to throw for 252 yards, most of it in the final two quarters.

"It matters when you see your leader gutting it out and continuing to play," said Bubba. "I'm sure a lot of guys didn't feel any pain when they saw what he was going through. He just wouldn't quit."

And neither did Bubba's team.

From what we saw Saturday, Bubba's program hasn't taken a day off since January of 2014.

"Day by day is pretty much how we do it," said Bubba. "We get up early and stay as late as we have to in order to do a good job.
"This is special. We believed this was going to happen."

Related Topics: UND FOOTBALL
Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.


He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.



He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.



Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or wnelson@gfherald.com.
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