Sioux could set up conference title shot with win today at UC Davis

DAVIS, Calif. -- UND's burdensome trek to the land of Division I football is coming to an end. The journey hasn't been easy; there hasn't been much at stake since UND launched its transition to Division I in 2008.

UND football

DAVIS, Calif. -- UND's burdensome trek to the land of Division I football is coming to an end. The journey hasn't been easy; there hasn't been much at stake since UND launched its transition to Division I in 2008.

Today at Aggie Stadium, however, UND has a chance to set up a meaningful final week of the 2011 season -- the team's last in its five-year transition to become an established Division I Football Championship Subdivision program.

If No. 22 UND beats UC Davis, the Sioux can earn a share of the Great West Conference title a week from today with a win against South Dakota in its season finale.

"That would be a big step for this program," said UND senior quarterback Brent Goska. "It would be a big part of what we came here to do as a class and why a lot of people come to UND, and that's to win championships."

But first things first.


UND, 1-1 in the league and 6-3 overall, has to defeat UC Davis, a 3-6 team that picked up its biggest win of the season last week with a 27-24 win over rival Cal Poly.

UC Davis has had UND's number of late. The Aggies have won three straight against the Sioux, including last year's decisive 35-16 win at the Alerus Center.

UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright threw four touchdown passes against the Sioux last year and he's already thrown for nearly 2,000 yards this season. And UND's pass defense, of late, has been the big concern for the Sioux.

"We have to make them run the ball," said UND defensive end Ross Brenneman. "That's the big key."

UND's run defense is one of the best in the FCS. The Sioux allow 77.6 yards per game on the ground. And UC Davis rushes for only 85 yards per game.

UC Davis' win against Cal Poly last week rejuvenated UND as the Sioux now have a chance to earn a conference title with Cal Poly, which has completed its conference season at 3-1.

"The way Cal Poly was playing, they seemed to be living a charmed life," UND coach Chris Mussman said. "We're fortunate to be where we are."

There is additional motivation for the Sioux. As a transitioning Division I program, the Sioux have yet to win a football game in California.


Coyotes up next

UND will play South Dakota in the season finale a week from today. The final Great West Conference game may or may not have big implications for UND, depending on what happens today.

The Sioux and Coyotes have played 92 games dating back to 1903. But next week's meeting may be the last as UND heads to the Big Sky Conference next season while South Dakota will join the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

South Dakota coach Ed Meierkort, however, wants to keep playing.

"We'd like to play them next year," Meierkort said. "North Dakota and South Dakota should always play. We've gone hand-in-hand into this (Division I) transition. I respect and appreciate North Dakota making the jump with us. It would have been a lonely journey without each other."

UND, however, already has 11 games scheduled for next season.

Meierkort said South Dakota has an open date early next season.

Tough turf


UND will play today on Sportexe, the all-weather surface at Aggie Stadium.

Sioux players likely won't mind the surface after playing on the aging AstroTurf at the Alerus Center.

The AstroTurf is taking its toll on Sioux players.

"You get burned every week," UND running back Jake Miller said of UND's surface. "It takes a toll on you. When you're done (with the game), you're bleeding. But we've found a way to make it our home and do the best we can with it."

Brenneman agrees.

"I'm glad I don't practice on it all the time," Brenneman said. "My knees and back would be feeling it at the end of the year."

The Alerus Center turf is scheduled to be replaced. But there is no timetable.

Nelson reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1268; (800) 477-6572, ext. 268; or send e-mail to .

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
What To Read Next
Featuring area prep sports cancellations and postponements, local boys and girls basketball results, N.D. girls wrestling second edition coaches' poll and much more!
Featuring the prep honor roll, area college basketball conference standings, N.D. Class A and B prep basketball polls, and much more!
Featuring boys and girls hockey results from throughout the region, area prep basketball scores, boys swimming and diving results, and much more!
Manning needed 24 points to break the school record held by Kyle Sanden, who scored 1,549 points in the mid-1990s.