UND FOOTBALL: As season winds down, UND promises to keep things interesting

CEDAR CITY, Utah -- Now what's in store for UND football? UND's performance at Southern Utah on Saturday wasn't pretty. After a couple of weeks of a promising glow surrounding the program, UND took a step backward in its 35-17 loss against SUU --...


CEDAR CITY, Utah - Now what’s in store for UND football?

UND’s performance at Southern Utah on Saturday wasn’t pretty. After a couple of weeks of a promising glow surrounding the program, UND took a step backward in its 35-17 loss against SUU - a struggling team far removed from the playoff participant it was in 2013.

And UND likely lost more than the game. It appears starting quarterback Joe Mollberg will miss significant time after he was injured early in the game. UND still hasn’t outlined the severity of the injury, but it’s clear Ryan Bartels will be in charge of the offense as the program hits the stretch run of the season.

Regardless, there are plenty of story lines remaining in the next month to keep things interesting.


One: The program’s toughness should be defined after the SUU game. UND coach Bubba Schweigert’s comments after the game were interesting. He said it takes a “tough, tough person” to play the game. He wants toughness for UND football. Signs of toughness have been seen throughout the season, just not on a consistent basis.

Two: Can UND win games on the road? Clearly, that’s been difficult for UND since it moved to Division I. UND has won only two Big Sky Conference road games since North Dakota joined the league in 2012. And UND’s next game is Saturday at Eastern Washington, where the highly ranked Eagles were upset by Northern Arizona on Saturday. EWU star quarterback Vernon Adams is still out with an injury, but after that loss, it would be hard to imagine the Eagles not pushing hard for the league’s best player to get healthy ASAP.

Three: The big picture. After UND’s win over Portland State and its near-win against Montana, North Dakota may have provided its fan base a false sense of what’s in store for the rest of the season and how far the program has come since Bubba took over. Talk of a 7-5 or 6-6 record surfaced after those two weeks. The reality is this: UND is rebuilding, and nothing comes easy in the first season of such a project.

But this can’t be taken away from Bubba and his staff: UND already has matched last season’s win total. That’s progress, not speculation.

Speculation may be fun, but it’s not practical for a program that’s rebuilding.

So, UND now heads for the red Inferno at Eastern Washington. The red turf in Cheney, Wash., is interesting, and it has been good to the Eagles, who are 30-3 at home since the red look came about in 2010.

It takes toughness to go to Cheney and win.

And whether UND responds with some toughness in Cheney on Saturday may be the biggest story line to follow as the season winds down.

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
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