UND football: Learning from past heartaches
UND players addressed the media Tuesday before Sioux coach Chris Mussman. They knew what to say even though practice for the week had not yet begun. The players said there is no looking past NCAA Division II Northeastern State of Oklahoma, the te...
UND players addressed the media Tuesday before Sioux coach Chris Mussman. They knew what to say even though practice for the week had not yet begun.
The players said there is no looking past NCAA Division II Northeastern State of Oklahoma, the team that will meet the Sioux on Saturday in the 45th annual Potato Bowl in the Alerus Center.
The Sioux learned a harsh lesson last season after their home loss against the University of Sioux Falls, the eventual NAIA national champion.
From now on, it doesn't matter what level of competition UND faces.
"We can't have that happen again," Sioux defensive lineman Broc Bellmore said. "You really can't put what happened last year out of your mind. We just have to come out and do what we need to do.
"There are a lot of good athletes on every team. The level (of competition) doesn't really matter. It's all about who wants it more in college football. You have to come out ready to play."
Northern Illinois was well aware of that fact after the Division I FBS program held on to beat the Sioux 23-17 last week in DeKalb, Ill. It was the second straight game for the Division I FCS Sioux against a team from the top level of college football.
After a 45-0 loss at Idaho to open the season, the Sioux were within one play of upsetting the Huskies of the Mid-American Conference.
The Sioux hope to build on their performance at Northern Illinois.
"Our kids just kept battling," Mussman said. "It was a lot of fun to be a part of that game. On the flip side, you put the pieces together on the bus ride home and start thinking we should have won that game. But at the end of the day, it's still a loss.
"Our concern now is to make sure we play at a consistent level. We prepared the way we were supposed to prepare last week. We were disciplined. We can't let that slack."
The biggest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 came on offense.
The Sioux racked up 334 yards of offense against a team that ranked 30th in FBS team defense last season. The Huskies returned 11 starters from that defensive unit.
After five turnovers at Idaho, the Sioux offense committed one at NIU, and that was Jake Landry's interception near the Huskies' end zone on the game's final play.
It was a steady overall performance for the Sioux before more than 18,000 NIU fans.
"Last year, it was a roller coaster for us," Mussman said. "One week we were at one level. The next week we were at another level. We have to get this program to where we play consistent football and play at our level.
"We're not there yet, but that's our focus this week."
Northeastern State is 1-1 after falling to Abilene Christian 43-13 on Saturday in Tahlequah, Okla., where the RiverHawks had three punts blocked. Northeastern opened the season with a 31-23 road win at Tarleton State of Texas.
The RiverHawks of the Lone Star Conference finished 2-8 last year but brought in nine transfers this season for immediate help.
That doesn't matter to the Sioux, not after last season's loss against Sioux Falls and a narrow win against Southern Oregon, another NAIA school.
"We learned our lesson last year," Sioux center Ian McGurran said. "We can't take anything for granted."
Nelson reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1268; (800) 477-6572, ext. 268; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .