UND football notebook: Sioux run game strengthened

The helmet-to-helmet blow that UND's Mitch Sutton took three weeks ago could have been worse, the kind that could have left the Sioux perilously thin at the running back position with half a season to play.

The helmet-to-helmet blow that UND's Mitch Sutton took three weeks ago could have been worse, the kind that could have left the Sioux perilously thin at the running back position with half a season to play.

"The hit that Mitch took could have been serious," Sioux coach Chris Mussman said.

Sutton, however, was cleared to play this week after missing the last two games with a concussion.

His return will strengthen the Sioux running game today as UND takes on Southern Utah at the Alerus Center. UND's homecoming game also is a must-win for the Sioux if they are to have any shot at winning the Great West Football Conference title.

The Sioux are 0-1 in the league and 2-3 overall. In a five-team league, one loss could be too many to win a conference title. Southern Utah, 1-4, is playing its Great West opener today.


UND has two quality running backs with Sutton and Josh Murray, who carried the load and took a beating in last week's 27-17 loss at South Dakota.

"There definitely is a void when Mitch isn't in there," Mussman said. "We need both of those guys for this football team to have success."

With Sutton, Murray will get more rest. At South Dakota last week, Murray was the team's leading rusher (102 yards) and receiver (6 catches, 37 yards). The Sioux junior also survived a crunching hit while returning a kickoff.

"He got airplaned on that hit but he's fine," Mussman said.

Murray is a north-south runner, while Murray is the explosive back.

Murray also is UND's leader in all-purpose yardage. He's averaging 138.8 yards per game.

"He's pretty special for us," Mussman said. "If he can get the touches, it opens things up in the passing game. That's why you've seen kids like Greg Hardin make big plays."

Hardin is the team's leading receiver but was held to a quiet three catches for 30 yards last week at South Dakota.


Murray is racking up the yardage this season but he's also paying the price. That's why UND is glad Sutton is back for today's game.

Both are all-conference backs.

Still strong

Southern Utah is 1-4, with losses against Wyoming, San Jose State, Texas State and Northern Arizona. The losses against FBS programs Wyoming and San Jose State were by a combined 13 points.

Last week, SUU lost a heartbreaker at home against Northern Arizona. SUU coach Ed Lamb was worried how his team would play against its rival after a tough start.

"It's hard to read young guys," he said. "But they put in a great effort and practiced well. I was worried how we'd play but we prepared well, played hard and came up just short."

UND has lost only eight home games since moving to the Alerus Center in 2001. One loss came against Southern Utah in 2008.

"They have something like a .900 winning percentage there. But one of their losses was to us two years ago so our guys know we can get it done."


Lamb, a former BYU linebacker, also is impressed with UND's offense.

"They run a very creative system," he said. "They're pretty true to the pistol offense as Nevada's doing it, which is a totally different system than what defenses are designed for. You have to really break down your defense and make (adjustments) in the way that you read and key, and hopefully our defense will be able to learn enough to play really fast and not be thinking too much."

Around the Great West

South Dakota will play at UC Davis today, the first time the Coyotes have played the Aggies on the road. UC Davis and UND are the only two teams to beat South Dakota in the DakotaDome in coach Ed Meierkort's six-plus years in Vermillion. ... Cal Poly plays at Old Dominion today in a nonconference game. Old Dominion is in its second year of football but already is an established FCS program. Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh said the Virginia school "is recruiting California pretty hard." ... UC Davis will play FBS programs Arizona State and Hawaii next season.

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

Up next

Who: Southern Utah at UND.

When: 4 p.m. today, Alerus Center.


TV/radio: FSSN, Midco Sports Network (Channel 27, GF), DirecTV (channel 617), Fox College Sports Atlantic; The Fox (96.1 FM), Dan Hammer play-by-play, Mike Berg analysis.

Records: UND 2-3; Southern Utah 1-4.

Of note: Today is UND's 92nd homecoming game.

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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