No. 5 Sam Houston State presents major opportunity for UND
Last Saturday, the UND football team played the highest-ranked opponent (No. 9 in the FBS) in program history in front of the most fans (more than 68,000) than any game in program history.
The Fighting Hawks' Week 3 opponent, however, presents perhaps an even more important challenge.
UND (1-1 overall) travels to Huntsville, Texas, to play No. 5 Sam Houston State (1-0)—a game that could insert the Hawks into the national picture and build an important bullet point for a playoff resume.
UND and Sam Houston are scheduled to play at 6 p.m. on Saturday at 12,593-seat Elliott T. Bowers Stadium, a place where the Bearkats have won 21 straight times.
"A win from this week would be big for the playoffs," UND defensive end Mason Bennett said. "A win here would really benefit us for the future."
UND head coach Bubba Schweigert wouldn't put extra emphasis on the Sam Houston matchup.
"I think every week there's a lot on the line in FCS football," Schweigert said. "When it comes down to it, every game is a playoff game. We don't talk about it a whole lot because we're focused on this week."
After games against opponents on different ends of the Division I spectrum in Mississippi Valley State (35-7 win) and Washington (45-3 defeat), Schweigert was asked if the Bearkats game is a good measuring stick.
"Every week is a measuring stick," Schweigert said. "Our opener is a measuring stick. You see some areas you need to improve a great deal and see areas you build on. This week we will prepare hard, polish the plan off and go on the road against a very good team. That's the mindset we need to have."
Led by coach K.C. Keeler, the Bearkats of the Southland Conference have been one of the FCS elite the past eight years.
Sam Houston advanced to the national championship game in both 2011 and 2012, losing to North Dakota State both years.
The Bison have been a thorn in Sam Houston's side, knocking the Bearkats out of the playoffs four of the past seven seasons.
Last year, Sam Houston beat South Dakota 54-42 in the second round of the FCS playoffs and eventually lost to NDSU 55-13 in the semifinals.
The Bearkats' recent success was fueled by the two-time Walter Payton Award winner, quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe, who was a senior last season.
Sam Houston State, known for a high-powered offense, started this year with a 41-32 win over Prairie View A&M.
Bearkats quarterback Michael Dare, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound junior college transfer once at Rutgers, was 20-for-40 for 169 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in his SHSU debut.
The Bearkats' run defense, however, has been a question mark in previous FCS playoff runs. SHSU allowed Prairie View's Dawonya Tucker to run for 245 yards on 21 carries. He had an 11.7 yards per carry average and two touchdowns.
No. 5 Sam Houston State
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where: Huntsville, Texas
TV/Radio: WDAY'Z XTRA, ESPN3, 96.1 FM
Records: UND 1-1; Sam Houston 1-0
Of note: The teams have never met.