If there's a game on the UND football team's 2021 fall schedule that fans might label a trap game, the Fighting Hawks' 4 p.m. Potato Bowl matchup Saturday at the Alerus Center against Drake could be the one.
To one side of the Drake game is UND's first FBS game in three years at Utah State (48-24 Aggies win last Saturday). To the other side of the Drake game is a bye week, followed by North Dakota State's first trip to Grand Forks since 2003.
Drake, which plays in the non-scholarship Pioneer League, lost 45-7 at Montana State last Saturday.
"Here at North Dakota, we take it week-by-week," UND senior linebacker Ty Shannon said. "We don't look at down the road. We look at the next opponent because anything can happen in college football ... crazy upsets like Montana and Washington. You have to take it week-by-week."
UND opened the 2019 season against Drake at the Alerus Center, winning 47-7 as Nate Ketteringham, Andrew Zimmerman and Noah Grover combined to throw for 295 yards.
"I think coach does a good job (emphasizing) day-by-day and going on an opponent-by-opponent basis," UND quarterback Tommy Schuster said. "Every game is important. I think it's just an opportunity to get another win and build. Every week you learn about your team and ways to improve. I think we'll be ready to go Saturday."
This isn't the first time the Drake matchup has carried trap game concerns. The same could be said in 2019 when UND opened the season with the Bulldogs before embarking on a heavy slate of FCS powers in North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Eastern Washington and UC Davis.
The Hawks have never lost to Drake but haven't always scored style points in the victory. UND beat Drake 21-18 in 2015, right after knocking off Wyoming in Laramie. UND beat Drake 16-0 in 2011.
This season, UND has dropped from No. 9 to No. 11 in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll following the loss last Saturday in Logan in which the Hawks were unable to build off a 21-7 first-quarter lead and a 21-20 halftime advantage.
"It's really disappointing after a game like that," Schuster said. "It hurts any time you lose, especially when you feel like you had the game and you let it slip. There's a lot to correct. At this point, we're over it. We're on to Drake. There's a 24-hour rule, so we're moving on.
"We're going to use it to learn and get better. We'll need it. It was good experience for us. We're focusing on this week. You can't let one game affect the next. It's a big game this week, so we're focused."
Schuster passed for a career-high 348 yards while completing 29 of 43 passes. He was also intercepted twice.
"Decision-making every single play and not losing focus is important for me," Schuster said. "Bad decision late in the first half, forcing it over the middle. Then late in the game, we were pushing down the field. I shouldn't have made the throw. The linebacker made a good play."