UND FOOTBALL: Consistency will be key to take ninth straight Potato Bowl win

A week ago, UND had Fresno State on the ropes before falling 27-22 against the Football Bowl Subdivision program from the Western Athletic Conference.

UND football helmets

A week ago, UND had Fresno State on the ropes before falling 27-22 against the Football Bowl Subdivision program from the Western Athletic Conference.

In the following days, UND was praised for its effort and also earned a No. 21 ranking in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches' poll -- a first for the transitioning Division I program.

On Saturday, the Sioux will play Black Hills State in the 46th annual Potato Bowl. Black Hills also is a transitioning program, making the jump from NAIA to Division II. That means the roles will be reversed at the Alerus Center, where the Sioux will be heavy favorites to win their ninth straight Potato Bowl.

The Sioux had little to lose last week; this week Black Hills is in a similar situation in playing up.

But a sense of urgency exists for UND. The mission for UND is to play a consistent four quarters, much like the Sioux did in California last week. Consistency is what UND is looking for as Great West Conference play is a week away.


"Our job as coaches is to beat it out of them as far as understanding what happened last week at Fresno is still a loss," UND coach Chris Mussman said. "It's the process of the preparation during the week that is important. The game will take care of itself."

The Sioux were two different teams in the weeks leading up to the Idaho and Fresno State games.

"Looking at the two weeks of preparation for those games, it wasn't close," Mussman said. "We didn't practice well during the Idaho week. In the week before Fresno, we were sharp on both sides of the ball. And it showed."

Against Idaho, UND led 14-10 at halftime before a poor second half led to a 44-14 loss.

At Fresno, UND gained more yardage and also enjoyed a healthy advantage in time of possession. The difference: Fresno scored two touchdowns on long pass plays and another was set up by a long punt return.

"We needed one more play to win it," Mussman said. "But we learned something about ourselves. If we do the things we're supposed to do and believe in it, we can be a pretty good football team.

"We have to find that level of consistency week in and week out. We haven't been able to do that."

In the poll


To some, UND's debut in the national football coaches' FCS poll came as a surprise. The 1-2 Sioux are ranked No. 21 this week, the first time in the program's short Division I history that it has made the poll.

"We don't care how we got in; that's for someone else to debate," Mussman said. "We can take some pride in it knowing that our seniors were part of a group that was the first nationally ranked FCS team in Fighting Sioux history.

"But it is what it is. It's a poll in September. It doesn't mean a lot at that point in time. We'll enjoy it later."

However, there is one advantage to the ranking.

"If our guys want to use the polls for motivation and stay there, the only way you can move up is by winning."

Injury update

UND's depth at running back could be thin for the Potato Bowl.

Starting tailback Mitch Sutton did not practice this week after pulling a hamstring at Fresno State.


That means Jake Miller, who rushed for 145 yards against Fresno, likely will get the bulk of the reps against Black Hills.

Jer Garman, a true freshman, also will be in the mix. Spencer Bickel and Adam Shaugabay also could see time at tailback.

"We're going to get Mitch back; that's the key," Mussman said.


- Black Hills State is 1-3; its win coming last week against rival South Dakota Mines. The Yellowjackets won 37-21, scoring 16 points in the final quarter to break a 21-21 tie.

- Freshman running back Trent Butler gained 146 yards for Black Hills last week.

- Former UND lineman Matt Field is listed as the starting left tackle for Black Hills. Field spent his redshirt year at UND before transferring to Black Hills.

- As a transitioning Division II program, scheduling has been difficult for Black Hills. The Yellowjackets will play a 10-game schedule this season. To fill out the schedule, Black Hills is playing Minot State and South Dakota Mines twice.


- Black Hills will join the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference next season.

- UND's 2001 national championship team will be inducted into the UND Athletics Hall of Fame. Individuals to be inducted include swimmer Michelle Puetz, wrestler Tim Briggs and golfer Greg Melhus.

Up next

Who: Black Hills State at UND.

When: 6 p.m. today, Alerus Center.

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

Records: UND 1-2; Black Hills 1-3.

Of note: UND has outscored its last eight Potato Bowl opponents 358-79.


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
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