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UND expecting another heavy dose of the run game in rematch with North Dakota State

The Bison ran for 316 yards against UND last spring in the Fargodome.

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Bison fullback Hunter Luepke punches through the Fighting Hawks defense for a second period touchdown Saturday, March 20, 2021 at the Fargodome. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

When UND and North Dakota State met in Fargo last spring, the Bison's first rushing attempt was a 55-yard Hunter Luepke touchdown run.

That set the tone for a 316-yard rushing performance in a 21-point NDSU victory over UND.

When the two teams meet Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Alerus Center, the Fighting Hawks expect another stiff challenge at stopping the run.

"I just think we need to go in the game and be more physical up front," UND nose guard Jalen Morrison said. "We need to buy in to what the coaches are teaching us this week and trust our fits. When we play NDSU and when we watch film, they're a really mean offensive line up front. We really emphasize being the most physical team, so we have a chip on our shoulder. We have to go in and play really tough. That's the plan."

In the spring, the Bison utilized fullback Hunter Luepke, who was playing in his first game of the spring season against UND. He ran 28 times for 190 yards and three touchdowns.

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It was a career performance for Luepke, who has never ran for more than 100 yards in a game after the UND game. In three games this season, Luepke doesn't have more than four carries in a single game.

But the Bison rose to an FCS power on dominating the line of scrimmage and that's no different this season. NDSU is outrushing opponents 1,045 to 130.

Dominic Gonnella has led the way with 238 rushing yards at 8.2 yards per carry. But six different backs have rushed more than 90 yards this season for the Bison.

"I think you're always going to have to stop the run against them," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "Inside, outside, they're multiple in the type of run plays you have to defend. They're good up front, so you have to be good with your fits and understand where you need to be on defense."

article7215572.ece Bison or Fighting Hawks: Who will win? UND Fighting Hawks or NDSU Bison : Who do you think will win? Bison Fighting Hawks

UND might have a little more firepower on defense than when the two teams met in Fargo. Morrison was injured in the first quarter against the Bison and didn't return, while starting safety Jordan Canady was injured just a few plays after Morrison.

UND hopes its nose guard depth has improved, too. After Morrison, UND now has redshirt freshman Craig Orlando available after he was injured last spring. Sophomores Elijah Beach and Chandon Pierre have also made strides in the lineup.

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But the Hawks will have a new Bison wrinkle to defend in the run game. Last spring, NDSU started quarterback Zeb Noland, who wasn't a serious running threat.

NDSU's quarterback this fall is Virginia Tech transfer Quincy Patterson, a 6-foot-3, 246-pound dual-threat quarterback.

In NDSU's three games, Patterson has 22 carries for 114 yards.

"They challenge you across the field, not only do they do it with the running backs but they add the quarterback run game to the attack," Schweigert said. "That creates challenges and you have to be really sharp. You rehearse it and rehearse it and try to be as prepared as you can be."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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