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UND FOOTBALL: Season finale Saturday against UC Davis at Aggie Stadium

DAVIS, Calif. -- For UND senior safety Will Lewis, a Californian playing football nearly 2,000 miles from where he grew up, there is nothing better than going home.

UND Football

DAVIS, Calif. -- For UND senior safety Will Lewis, a Californian playing football nearly 2,000 miles from where he grew up, there is nothing better than going home.

The same holds true for the six other players from California who will play in UND's season finale Saturday against UC Davis at Aggie Stadium.

"It'll be nice to be in warmer weather for a little bit; see our families and enjoy the atmosphere for a little while," said Lewis, who is from Pittsburg, Calif., roughly 60 miles from Aggie Stadium.

However, that may be the only silver lining left in UND's football season, one that fell far short of its goal and has turned out to be one of the more disappointing years since the mid-1980s.

UND and UC Davis both are 3-7 overall. UND is 2-5 in the Big Sky Conference while Davis is 3-3. A UND win would leave the program one win short of its overall victory total of 2012 -- North Dakota' first season in the Big Sky.

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On paper, a 4-7 record wouldn't look disastrous. In reality, however, UND was less competitive in the Big Sky than last year. North Dakota suffered blowout losses against the league's power brokers -- Eastern Washington, Montana State, Montana and Northern Arizona. And a 31-7 home setback against middle-of-the-pack Sacramento State didn't help matters.

And its two league wins came against Idaho State and Northern Colorado, which ranks last among the 252 Division I schools in RPI rankings.

Still, there is a game to play Saturday and UND wants to close on a positive note -- one that its younger players could use to build for the 2014 season.

"We want to make a statement; UND is here to compete in the Big Sky and we're not here to be on the bottom," said Lewis.

To avoid the bottom, UND needs to play like it did in the second half against Northern Colorado. North Dakota trailed 21-6 in the third quarter but rallied for the win.

"That's the way we need to play at all times," said UND coach Chris Mussman of the rally.

Run game woes

UND has struggled to run the ball throughout the season. Last week, UND rushed for four total yards against Northern Colorado.

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In UND's nine games since its opener against Valparaiso, North Dakota has had only one rush of more than 18 yards -- that coming from punter Mitch Meindel, who scampered 24 yards on a botched punt attempt at Idaho State.

UND has rushed for only 831 yards this season.

Saturday, UND may try a few different personnel looks in the run game against the Aggies.

"That was a source of focus the last couple of days," Mussman said of UND's run game. "How can we effectively run the football, particularly on first down? We have to be much better running the football.

"That will be a concern this week and going into the offseason as well."

Notes, etc.

For the second time in three weeks, UND will play a team coming off a bye week. UND, meanwhile, is playing its eighth game in eight weeks. UND's bye week comes during the final week of Big Sky play ... UND is the only team in the Big Sky with three receivers ranked among the top 10 in the league in catches per game -- Kenny Golladay (64), Greg Hardin (56) and Jameer Jackson (50) ... Saturday's game will be the final one for senior linebacker Garrison Goodman, who leads all active UND players with 168 tackles. Goodman is from San Ramon, Calif.

Nelson reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1268, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1268 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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