Role reversal: Sioux know what it's like to be the underdog
When he was a freshman, UND senior tight end Noah Dombrovski remembers traveling to Northern Iowa to play the Panthers -- a Division I FCS program. The Division II Sioux were underdogs, considering UNI was one of the top teams in the Missouri Val...
When he was a freshman, UND senior tight end Noah Dombrovski remembers traveling to Northern Iowa to play the Panthers -- a Division I FCS program.
The Division II Sioux were underdogs, considering UNI was one of the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference and had been to the FCS playoffs the previous season.
"We weren't supposed to win," Dombrovski said. "We heard all week that we were supposed to go in there and be their welcome mat. We wanted to prove that we belonged with the big guys."
UND surprised Northern Iowa 35-31, a win that proved the Sioux were ready to make the move to Division I.
The tables will be turned Saturday in the Alerus Center, where the University of Sioux Falls -- an NAIA school that has done exceptionally well nationally -- takes on Division I UND in a game Sioux Falls has everything to gain and the Sioux everything to lose.
Sioux Falls, the defending NAIA national champion, has won 20 games in a row. They've been untouchable again this season in the NAIA, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 347-33 through six games .
On paper, UND is heavily favored.
But the Sioux, having played the Northern Iowa game in 2006 and playing Big 12 Conference member Texas Tech earlier this season, are well aware that the game is decided on the field, not on paper.
"This is a big game for them," Dombrovski said. "We expect their best effort. They're an NAIA team, but I don't think they're that big of an underdog because they have a pedigree of winning, just like we do."
UND -- on paper -- was a decided underdog at Texas Tech.
But the Sioux played well in Lubbock, losing 38-13 to a team that was ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP Top 25 last season.
"They'll come in here like we came in at Tech," Sioux defensive back Joel Schwenzfeier said. "What's the worst that can happen? They'll lose a game they were expected to lose.
"But it's going to be fun playing them. They're winners. It'll be a challenge for us because they know nothing but winning."
UND coach Chris Mussman was the program's offensive coordinator when the Sioux beat Northern Iowa.
He remembers what UND's mindset was like when the Sioux traveled to Cedar Falls, Iowa.
"Anything goes," Mussman said. "That's the thing that sometimes is difficult to defend. When we went to Northern Iowa, we threw everything we possibly could at them offensively," Mussman said. "I'm sure we'll see some of that Saturday.
"We'll be on high alert for fakes and reverses, anything that can get their heart started or give them a spark.
"That's the danger with these types of games."
Nelson reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1268; (800) 477-6572, ext. 268; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .