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UND FOOTBALL: Saturday's Gameday

AROUND THE BIG SKY UND safety Cole Reyes, who didn't play last Saturday in a win over Southern Utah, is questionable for today at Idaho State. Reyes, who is still third on the team with 39 tackles, practiced Wednesday and Thursday at the High Per...

AROUND THE BIG SKY

UND safety Cole Reyes, who didn’t play last Saturday in a win over Southern Utah, is questionable for today at Idaho State. Reyes, who is still third on the team with 39 tackles, practiced Wednesday and Thursday at the High Performance Center.


UND wide receiver Luke Stanley, who was injured on a catch against Southern Utah, is out for today’s game against Idaho State. Stanley, who has 26 catches for 381 yards and two touchdowns this year, didn’t practice this week. He was on crutches during practice.


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Northern Colorado standout running back Trae Riek didn’t travel last Saturday to UC Davis because of an injury, but Bears head coach Earnest Collins Jr. expects Riek to play today against Sacramento State.


UND’s opponent from last Saturday, Southern Utah, faces UND’s opponent for next week, Weber State, in Cedar City at 7 tonight. Weber State coach Jay Hill is 0-3 against in-state opponents and the Wildcats have lost six straight games to in-state opponents. Weber State has won four straight games and is 3-0 in Big Sky play.

Q&A, UND defensive end Brandon Dranka

Q. What was your first introduction to football?

A. I started in about fourth grade. I was a little heavier, too, so I played with the older kids and got beat up a little bit.

Q. What’s your hometown and what’s it like there?

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A. Huntley, Ill. It’s a northwest suburb of Chicago. It has a small-town feel, but by no means is it small. We had a graduating class of about 650 or 700.

Q. How did you land at North Dakota?

A. My head coach (at Huntley) was John Hart, and he had a lot of connections. He helped me a lot. I mostly got Division II looks at first. I had a big senior year but my junior year wasn’t as good. Southern Illinois was recruiting me, so I think coach (Eric) Schmidt pulled me off their board.

Q. What were your first thoughts about UND when defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt starts recruiting for North Dakota?

A. When he first came (to Huntley), I didn’t have much information. I started to look into it a lot, and I thought it was a great place and had a great time on my visit. I fell in love with the coaching staff … I think that’s what a lot of recruits find. We have a great coaching staff.

Q. What do you do to prepare for games?

A. The (defensive linemen) are a close group. We always hang out together and get our minds right. I don’t do anything superstitious, but I like to calm myself and keep myself from throwing up. Every game I have to hold it back; my whole life.

Q. What’s your favorite Big Sky Conference road trip?

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A. I like going to Montana, just for the mountains.

Q. What’s your go-to show on Netflix?

A. I’m getting more into series. I just watched Stranger Things. I’m into old movies, too. I’m into anything by Quentin Tarantino.

 


GAMEDAY MATCHUPS

Offense

UND’s offense has struck its best balance of 2016. UND has the second-best rushing offense in the Big Sky, behind only triple-option Cal Poly, with an average of 221.6 yards per game on the ground. UND’s stable of backs (John Santiago, Brady Oliveira, Austin Gordon and Kyle Norberg) has allowed the position to stay fresh and provide differing styles. The Fighting Hawks have also discovered a stronger passing game than the past two years. UND quarterback Keaton Studsrud is coming off a career-high performance against Southern Utah in which the junior threw for 282 yards and four touchdowns, each scoring pass to a different receiver. Idaho State, on the other hand, scored just seven points last Saturday in a lopsided loss to Northern Arizona, which was playing with its backup quarterback. The Bengals are ranked 12th in the Big Sky in scoring and total offense. UND’s balance on offense gives the edge over Idaho State, which is still searching for its identity.


Defense

UND leads the nation in interceptions with 13, led by the starting defensive backfield of Cole Reyes, Zach Arnell, Torrey Hunt and Deion Harris. Harris leads the team and is tied for the conference lead with three interceptions. The junior has taken two of those three interceptions in for scores. The defense has also been strong stopping the run, ranking second in the league in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense. Idaho State’s defense is led by linebacker Mario Jenkins, who leads the Big Sky in tackles per game with 9.8. He also has three sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss. As a whole, though, ISU is giving up 37.8 points per game and 473.8 total yards per game. UND, holding the edge in almost every defensive statistic, gets the edge over the Bengals.


Special teams

For the second week in a row, UND will face one of the best punters in the Big Sky. Idaho State’s Sean Cheney is second in the league with an average of 44.4 yards per punt, including nine placed inside the 20 and nine booted more than 50 yards. UND kicker Reid Taubenheim has had an up-and-down season, going 9-for-15 on field goals. Idaho State, meanwhile, has only attempted two field goals all season. Zak Johnson of Idaho State is 1-for-2 on the year with a long of 34. UND’s return game wasn’t allowed to break out last week against Southern Utah, a team ranked second in the Big Sky in touchbacks. Idaho State, however, is tied for last in the league with eight touchbacks this season and that could open the door for UND returner John Santiago, who had a kick return for a touchdown called back two weeks ago against Sacramento State. The potential for UND’s kick return game to play a factor, coupled with Idaho State’s limited kick usage this season, gives the Fighting Hawks the edge.

 


STATISTICS

2016 leaders

UND

Passing

Keaton Studsrud 108-179-1, 1,365 yards, 9 TDs


Rushing

Brady Oliveira 96-573, 6 TDs

John Santiago 98-498, 5 TDs

Austin Gordon 25-197

Keaton Studsrud 62-164, 4 TDs

Kyle Norberg 14-101


Receiving

Travis Toivonen 30-344, 2 TDs

Luke Stanley 26-381, 2 TDs

Noah Wanzek 15-223, 2 TDs

Demun Mercer 9-184, TD

John Santiago 8-80, TD

Luke Fiedler 6-50


Defense

Dylan Bakker 48 tackles

Connor O’Brien 41 tackles

Cole Reyes 39 tackles, INT

Zach Arnell 33 tackles, 2 INT

Jawon Johnson 30 tackles

Torrey Hunt 24 tackles, 2 INT

Donnell Rodgers 24 tackles, 3 sacks

Noah Johnson 21 tackles, sack

Tanner Palmborg 20 tackles

Jade Lawrence 19 tackles, sack

Tank Harris 19 tackles

Deion Harris 18 tackles, 3 INT


Idaho State

Passing

Tanner Gueller 140-231-8, 1,342 yards, 8 TDs


Rushing

Jakori Ford 83-388, 5 TDs

Michael Dean 15-207, 3 TDs

Ty Flanagan 22-85

James Madison 12-63

Tanner Gueller 38-32


Receiving

KW Williams 34-400, 4 TDs

Josh Cook 28-317, 2 TDs

Hagen Graves 23-174

Jakori Ford 23-98

Mitch Gueller 15-187, TD

Pat Carter 9-126, TD


Defense

Mario Jenkins 58 tackles, 3 sacks, INT

Joe Martin 48 tackles, INT

Hayden Stout 45 tackles

Taison Manu 31 tackles

Jayson Miller 20 tackles

Anthony Ricks 20 tackles

Chance Salutregui 19 tackles, 2.5 sacks

Lorenzo Terry 19 tackles

Micah Breland 17 tackles

Nikko Taylor 16 tackles, INT

Jake Pettit 15 tackles

Drew Sharkey 13 tackles


Predictions

Tom Miller

UND 42, Idaho State 25: The Bengals will get their plays, but the UND defense is better prepared for the attack this year.

NDSU 31, Western Illinois 14: Now that the tears have dried up, the Bison can move on with their winning ways.

Minnesota 35, Rutgers 21: Rutgers is exactly what Minnesota needed.

Vikings 42, Eagles 14: Mike Zimmer with two weeks to prepare for Carson Wentz? Look out.


Wayne Nelson

UND 35, Idaho State 17: UND had a bad loss to Idaho State last year, one that ultimately cost them a shot at the playoffs. Bubba probably has mentioned that a time or two this week.

Western Illinois 21, NDSU 17: Gasp, two losses in a row for the Bison? Yes, but it certainly won’t define NDSU’s season.

Minnesota 42, Rutgers 14: Rutgers should be the homecoming opponent for every Big Ten team.

Vikings 30, Eagles 20: Rough week for Bison fans. Rougher week for the Eagles.

Related Topics: UND FOOTBALL
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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