UND football: Remembering the past

UND doesn't know much about Northeastern State of Oklahoma, today's opponent in the 45th annual Potato Bowl. What the Sioux know is that the NCAA Division II RiverHawks are 1-1 and haven't had a winning season in nine years. The Division I FCS Si...

UND doesn't know much about Northeastern State of Oklahoma, today's opponent in the 45th annual Potato Bowl.

What the Sioux know is that the NCAA Division II RiverHawks are 1-1 and haven't had a winning season in nine years.

The Division I FCS Sioux also know that if they don't take care of business they'll again feel the sting of losing to a lower-level opponent -- the same kind of pain they felt last season when NAIA member Sioux Falls stunned UND in the Alerus Center.

"Everyone remembers Sioux Falls," UND defensive lineman Ross Brenneman said. "We're not going to take Northeastern lightly at all. I'm excited to get out there and pound the rock a little bit and be aggressive on people."

UND's focus this week at Memorial Stadium has been on consistency, the kind that surfaced in the second half of last week's game at Northern Illinois. UND's second-half showing in DeKalb was markedly better than its performance at Idaho a week earlier and it nearly resulted in the Sioux pulling off an upset win over the Huskies.


"Last year, it was a rollercoaster for us," UND coach Chris 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 want to force teams to play at our level. We're not there yet, but that's been our focus this week."

Last season was an up and down ride for the Sioux.

They lost to Sioux Falls, the eventual NAIA national champion before struggling to beat Southern Oregon, another NAIA member.

But the season also included a win against Cal Poly, a team that was ranked in the FCS Top 25 poll. It also featured a win at Central Arkansas, where the Sioux captured a 17-16 win to wrap up their seventh straight winning season.

The Sioux also had a chance to claim a Great West Football Conference title late in the season with a win at UC Davis.

As UND continues with its transition to full Division I FCS status, the Sioux will likely play games against opponents like Northeastern State. There is no history between the programs and it's likely they won't meet again.

That's why UND's focus has been on its game and what can happen if it takes an opponent from a lower level for granted.


"We're learning as coaches, too," Mussman said. "We have to make sure the intensity level is there."

Special teams concern

UND coach Chris Mussman has been surprised and pleased with the play of the Sioux special teams through two games.

The teams were a concern entering the season but they've been the most consistent part of the three phases of UND's game through the first two weeks of the season.

But UND's special teams could get a good test from the RiverHawks.

"Their punt team has like 15 different formations," Mussman said. "We spent a lot of time on special teams this week."

But the RiverHawks also need to improve their special teams, particularly the punt team.

Abilene Christian blocked three Northeastern State punts last week.


UND, meanwhile, blocked a field goal attempt and a punt at Northern Illinois.

"Those are the plays that tilt the field in your favor," Mussman said. "I'm increasingly impressed with our special teams."

Physical toll?

One of UND's concerns entering the season was its back-to-back games at Idaho and Northern Illinois.

Would the games against FBS programs take its toll physically on UND?

They didn't.

UND enters today's game in pretty good health.

The Sioux also could get senior receiver Jarrel Davis back today. He's been out with a foot injury suffered in fall camp.


A few players were asked how physical the games were at Idaho and Northern Illinois.

Broc Bellmore, who most teammates believe is the strongest Sioux player, said he's competed in more physical games than what he experienced the first two weeks of the season.

His most physical game?

"South Dakota, last year," he said. "Their offensive line was huge."

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

Today's game

Who: Northeastern State at UND.

When: 4 p.m., Alerus Center.


TV/radio: No TV; the Fox (96.1 FM), Dan Hammer play by play; Mike Berg analysis.

Records: UND 0-2; Northeastern State 1-1.

Of note: UND is 33-11 all time in Potato Bowl games.

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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