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UND FOOTBALL: Looking for a share of the title

A year ago, UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright threw for 286 yards and four touchdowns against UND in a 35-16 win at the Alerus Center. A few days ago, Wright threw for 129 yards and no touchdowns in UND's 14-7 win at UC Davis.

UND football

A year ago, UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright threw for 286 yards and four touchdowns against UND in a 35-16 win at the Alerus Center. A few days ago, Wright threw for 129 yards and no touchdowns in UND's 14-7 win at UC Davis.

Of particular note at UC Davis was UND's 11 pass breakups -- a season best by the Sioux defense. UND's secondary, maligned at times during the season, had five of the breakups. The Sioux defensive backs played their best game of the season at UC Davis and it was one their best in recent years.

Talk about perfect timing.

The secondary again will be challenged Saturday as No. 22 UND plays No. 24 South Dakota, perhaps for the last time in what has become the biggest game of the season for both teams. The winner will earn a share of the final Great West Conference title with Cal Poly.

"We played lights out as a secondary," said UND senior safety Dominique Hawkins, who has three of the breakups. "Our coaches put us in the right coverage. We just executed and took away their big play, which UC Davis has been known for all year.

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"It'll be the same thing this week. We have to stop South Dakota's big play."

TThe driving force

The secondary's strong showing complemented the rest of UND's defense, which has become the team's strength down the stretch.

"Our defense continues to amaze me, how well it's playing," UND coach Chris Mussman said. "We're playing team football right now. We may not be winning flashy games. But we're getting turnovers on defense and taking advantage of them, for the most part, on offense. That's why we're winning games.

"If you get us in a fourth-quarter game, I'll put money on us. I like where our mentality is right now."

A confident secondary could play a big role against South Dakota, led by quarterback Dante Warren -- a player that hurts opponents with his arm and legs. Warren has rushed for 382 yards and passed for 1,504 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Hawkins has been on the field more than any defensive player the past four seasons. He started three seasons at cornerback before making the switch to safety this season. The secondary unit he leads hopes to finish with a flurry.

"As a secondary player, you just have to have the mindset of one play at a time," he said. "If a team makes a good play against you, you just have to erase it. We try to keep that in mind and keep going."

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

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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