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UND FOOTBALL: Another game, another road trip

NACOGDOCHES, Texas -- One of UND's costs of moving to Division I football was difficult scheduling. Early-season home games for UND -- a given in the Division II days -- have been replaced by demanding road trips. Bus rides have been replaced by ...

NACOGDOCHES, Texas -- One of UND's costs of moving to Division I football was difficult scheduling.

Early-season home games for UND -- a given in the Division II days -- have been replaced by demanding road trips. Bus rides have been replaced by charter flights. MapQuest is now bookmarked on UND coach Chris Mussman's computer.

UND will play its third straight road game to open the season today at Stephen F. Austin, a Southland Conference school located 1,269 miles from the UND campus.

By the time tonight's game wraps up in the Texas heat, UND will have traveled nearly 8,000 miles to play three nonconference games.

The Sioux, however, could come out of the three-game stretch with a 2-1 record with a win tonight. When UND released its 2009 schedule, the Sioux -- a second-year FCS program -- were put in the demanding position of spending September playing on the road at Texas Tech of the Big 12, Northwestern State of Louisiana and Stephen F. Austin.

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"It would be a huge boost for us to come out of this stretch at 2-1," Mussman said. "But Stephen F. Austin has a great team. It's not going to be an easy task. We just want to battle and play the best we can. And if we're getting better each week, the wins and losses will take care of themselves."

UND has never opened the season with three straight road games. However, a stretch like that could happen again as the Sioux continue their Division I transition while trying to find a long-term home for their football program.

In the meantime, UND's approach of playing opponents anywhere at anytime continues.

Tonight, the Sioux will face a program that is in a rebuilding mode. Stephen F. Austin went 0-11 two seasons ago and 4-8 last year.

The Lumberjacks are 2-1 this season, including last week's impressive road win at Western Illinois. SFA opened the season with a 31-23 loss at SMU of Conference USA, a game that saw the Lumberjacks win the statistical battle.

"Stephen F. Austin is talented on both sides of the ball," Mussman said. "Offensively, they're similar to Texas Tech but they run their offense at a faster pace. They don't take much time at the line."

UND isn't taking much time, either, in becoming adjusted to FCS life. The Sioux played well at Texas Tech and at Northwestern State. A win against SFA would give UND considerable momentum heading into the season's next portion -- a stretch of three straight home games.

"This is a great opportunity for us," Sioux linebacker Ryan Kasowski said. "To come out of this 2-1 would be huge but we're not overlooking anyone. We'll have to play our best football."

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Kasowski, however, is ready for a home game.

"You want to get home once in a while," he said. "Road trips are fun but three in a row gets to be a little much."

Pass, pass, pass

Sioux starting safeties Kris Ankenbauer and Joel Schwenzfeier are the team's leading tacklers. Ankenbauer has 15 total tackles this season, Schwenzfeier -- a former Kittson Central standout -- has 12 stops.

The two likely will be near the top of tonight's defensive statistics as SFA will throw a lot of passes in their direction.

"They spread it around a lot," Schwenzfeier said. "They get the ball out quick. They do run some deep routes but it's more like they grab it and fire it out there.

"We'll have to be sharp. It's more about us and what we do. As long as we don't break down mentally, we should be OK."

For Ankenbauer, it will be the second game of the season in his home state. SFA's offense is similar to the spread formation run by Texas Tech.

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"Every team has different wrinkles to the spread," Ankenbauer said. "It's really athlete versus athlete. You just have to match up and do your best. But you have to limit the big plays and keep the ball in front of us."

A tough schedule

A week ago, Northwestern State of Louisiana coach Bradley Dale Peveto said he'd like to see another FCS team with a tougher schedule than the one his Demons will play this season.

He should talk to UC Davis coach Bob Biggs.

UC Davis, a Great West Conference school that will play UND on Nov. 14, has Fresno State, Montana and Boise State on its 2009 schedule.

Next year, UC Davis will play Cal and San Jose State.

Biggs said the games against FBS programs are necessary.

"From a financial standpoint, you have to do it and that's just the reality of it," Biggs said of playing guarantee games. "Our goal is to get better every year. You play these teams as a benchmark for you to see what kind of athletes you need to compete at that level."

Cal Poly, another Great West member, has Ohio and San Jose State on its schedule. And the Mustangs' first-year coach, Tim Walsh, said he looks forward to FBS competition.

"Any time we can play a FBS California team, we'll do it and that goes from Cal on down," Walsh said.

Great West member Southern Utah plays at Utah State of the Western Athletic Conference tonight.

SUU coach Ed Lamb said ideally he'd like his program to meet either BYU or Utah, both in-state FBS powerhouses.

"That would be our first priority," Lamb said of scheduling FBS teams. "But we've been told by both that we'd have to raise the level of our play to get on their schedules. That's a long-term goal for us and we would like for that to happen."

Injury update

UND heads into tonight's game in relatively good health.

Senior receiver Ryan Konrath, who suffered an internal injury at Texas Tech, is expected to play. He is projected as one of UND's top receivers this season.

"He's good to go," Mussman said. "We'll probably limit some of the stuff he does because he's still probably not in the best shape."

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

Tonight's game

Who: UND at Stephen F. Austin, 6 p.m.

Where: Nacogdoches, Texas.

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM), 5 p.m. pregame.

Records: UND 1-1; SFA 2-1.

Of note: UND's first home game will be next Saturday against South Dakota.

Related Topics: UND FOOTBALLUND SPORTS
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 wnelson@gfherald.com.
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