Sioux focus on reality
In some respects, UND will be in a no-win situation today when the Sioux meet defending NAIA national champion Sioux Falls in the Alerus Center. UND -- a Division I FCS program -- is perceived to be considerably better than an NAIA program. But p...
In some respects, UND will be in a no-win situation today when the Sioux meet defending NAIA national champion Sioux Falls in the Alerus Center.
UND -- a Division I FCS program -- is perceived to be considerably better than an NAIA program.
But perception is not reality, and that's the message Sioux coach Chris Mussman has been delivering all week.
"On the outside, the perception is that you can't win this game by enough," Mussman said. "But in reality, this is a pretty good football team we're playing. They know how to win. They expect to win.
"You can't undervalue their winning and how much they're accustomed to it. Winning breeds success and confidence. We know there is a confident group of players coming up here."
Sioux Falls is 6-0 and has outscored its opponents 347-33 this season. But the Sioux Falls opponents include the likes of Nebraska Wesleyan, Dana College and Doane -- lightweights even by NAIA standards.
The game will answer a question that has lingered in Sioux Falls for a number of years: Just how good are the Cougars?
It's a question that's been debated in South Dakota's biggest city for a while. The success of Sioux Falls at the national NAIA level has left many wondering whether the Cougars could compete with the likes of Division II Augustana and South Dakota -- a new FCS program like UND.
The perception is that an NAIA school can't compete with a Division I FCS program.
But the Massey Ratings -- a respected rating service that factors into the BCS formula -- suggests otherwise.
The Massey Ratings has Sioux Falls at No. 223 this week. UND is at 150. South Dakota is at 177, while North Dakota State is 184. All teams are ranked in the Massey Ratings regardless of division.
Sioux Falls coach Kalen DeBoer said his team will have to adjust early to the pace of the game.
"The toughest thing for us will be adjusting to the speed of our opponent," DeBoer said. "Our last three games were against the bottom teams in our conference. We can't sit around and wait too long to make the adjustment. We have to be ready right away."
A big key will be the play of Sioux Falls quarterback Lorenzo Brown. He is an accurate passer, athletic and has the ability to make plays by scrambling.
The Sioux, meanwhile, will focus on a fast start. They want to avoid the sluggish start they had last week against Stony Brook.
"We want to play our brand of football from the get-go and not be sleepy like we were last week," Mussman said.
UND may have another advantage.
Sioux Falls has yet to be tested. The Cougars have not sweated out any of their wins so far.
"They're well rested," Mussman said. "They've routed everyone they've played. Their starters will be fresh. But they haven't played four quarters yet. We've been tested in every game we've played. Hopefully, that will play to our advantage."
Sioux players also have something to prove.
"Just as much as they want to prove they can compete on our level, there are guys on our team that want to prove this is a different level. That's been motivating us this week."
Pink is today's color
October is breast cancer awareness month.
To promote breast cancer awareness and education, Sioux Falls and UND players will be wearing pink armbands and pink tape during today's game.
UND also is asking fans to wear pink.
A limited edition of pink Sioux Strong t-shirts will be available at the Alerus Center with a donation to the Altru Cancer Center.
Pink also is an official UND color in honor of the state flower -- the prairie rose.
Injuries a concern
A handful of players are questionable for today's game.
Leading rusher Mitch Sutton has been bothered by a hamstring injury and his status is up in the air.
UND's big concern is on the defensive line.
Ty Boyle, the anchor of the line, is battling a knee injury. Broc Bellmore also is bothered by a nagging injury and Kyle Krusenstjerna also has missed playing time.
At the start of the season, the defensive line was one of UND's strengths.
While UND and Sioux Falls have never played, the teams should know their opponent's defense well.
Both the Sioux and Cougars use a 3-4 defensive alignment.
"We should be prepared for a 3-4 defense as much as anyone," Mussman said.
The Sioux defense also wants a fast start today.
"We'll come out after them," Sioux safety Joel Schwenzfeier said. "We want to get on them early because they haven't been down before."
Nelson reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1268; (800) 477-6572, ext. 268; or send e-mail to email@example.com .
Who: Sioux Falls at UND, 1 p.m.
Where: Alerus Center.
Radio/TV: The Fox (96.1 FM), noon pregame; FSSN (Channel 23, GF).
Records: UND 3-2; Sioux Falls 6-0.
Of note: UND's career football record is 598-355-30.