UND football: Cougars ready to hit Sioux with their best shot

In Kalen DeBoer's 15 years with the University of Sioux Falls as a player and coach, the NAIA Cougars have never played an NCAA Division II program -- let alone a Division I FCS team like UND.

In Kalen DeBoer's 15 years with the University of Sioux Falls as a player and coach, the NAIA Cougars have never played an NCAA Division II program -- let alone a Division I FCS team like UND.

They've never played in front of 10,000 fans, either, despite the fact Sioux Falls has won a couple of national NAIA titles in recent years.

But DeBoer and his Sioux Falls program will play UND on Saturday before approximately 10,000 fans in the Alerus Center -- a game in which the Sioux have everything to lose and the Cougars everything to gain.

"The percentages are against us to win the game, but I think we can compete," said DeBoer, a 34-year-old who is in his fifth year as the Cougars' coach. "My goal isn't to walk out of there with our heads between our legs having embarrassed ourselves."

The unlikely game benefits both UND and Sioux Falls.


As UND continues its transition to Division I football, scheduling games -- especially during the middle of the season -- has been difficult for the Sioux, who play in a five-team conference.

For Sioux Falls, the game challenges a program that has dominated NAIA football in recent years. The Cougars are 6-0 this season, and a loss to the Sioux isn't expected to diminish their chances at making the NAIA tournament field.

"I hope we can make it a physical game for them," DeBoer said. "When I think of Sioux football, I think of a physical team."

The pressure, for a change, isn't on the No. 1-ranked NAIA team.

"In a lot of ways, there is nothing to lose," DeBoer said. "You aren't expected to win. We've played in so many games in which the pressure has been on. It's always been do-or-die time.

"In this game, we'll live to see another day no matter what happens."

The timing of the game helps Sioux Falls.

"If we get through this game in good health, we'll be a better team," DeBoer said. "This game will set us up for the toughest part of our schedule."


After UND, two of the four remaining games for Sioux Falls will be against Morningside and Northwestern Iowa, two teams that usually challenge the Cougars for the Great Plains Athletic Conference title.

The Cougars are led by quarterback Lorenzo Brown, who has a pass efficiency rating of 193.3. He's completed 104 of 146 passes for 1,438 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.

Sioux Falls averages 522.7 yards offense per game while giving up 143.7 yards.

No team has come within 23 points of Sioux Falls this season.

Saturday's game against UND, however, will be on a much higher level for the Cougars.

DeBoer said Sioux Falls won't change much.

"Our feeling is that when we are facing the best teams in the playoffs, you have to go with what you know best," DeBoer said. "When you starting thinking too much, you won't be able to make the plays.

"We have enough veterans to where we can put a few wrinkles in. But you just have to do the things you normally do in all phases of the game."


UND is scheduled to play Sioux Falls again in 2011. By that time, Sioux Falls will be a Division II program. Sioux Falls, which will receive $60,000 to play UND, will play an NAIA schedule next season before becoming a full-fledged Division II program in 2011.

Sioux Falls, with its $4.4 million athletic budget, is hoping to land in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, which recently announced that it will consider expanding the league to 16 teams, up from 14.

"That's our hope," DeBoer said of the NSIC. "I think we have a lot to offer."

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

Saturday's game

Who: Sioux Falls at UND, 1 p.m.

Where: Alerus Center.

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM) noon pregame show; FSSN (Channel 23, GF).


Records: UND 3-2; Sioux Falls 6-0.

Of note: Sioux Falls is scheduled to play UND again in 2011.

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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