UND FOOTBALL: Sioux look to stay sharp against Montana Western

UND has never played Montana Western. After Saturday's game against the Bulldogs, it's likely the Sioux will never think of Montana Western -- an NAIA program -- again.

UND football helmets

UND has never played Montana Western. After Saturday's game against the Bulldogs, it's likely the Sioux will never think of Montana Western -- an NAIA program -- again.

The Sioux struggled to schedule Football Championship Subdivision games this season, their last as a transitioning program to Division I athletics. Montana Western, Black Hills State and the University of Sioux Falls three non-FCS programs -- are on UND's schedule this season.

UND rolled past Black Hills; is heavily favored against Montana Western and will be favored to beat Sioux Falls next month.

The non-FCS games may make it difficult for fan appeal but they are important in one sense: UND doesn't want to take a step back in its play, especially after recording perhaps the biggest win in the school's Division I era.

UND's 26-20 win at Southern Utah last week put the Sioux in a good position to win the Great West Conference title. The win also is viewed as a momentum-builder for No. 20 UND as it prepares for the Big Sky Conference next season.


"We have an opportunity to get our fourth win in our first six games," UND coach Chris Mussman said. "We didn't win four in 11 last year. That's the significance (of Saturday's game).

"We have to set the tone right away and make sure we're setting the tempo of the game and not letting the game come to us. That's my biggest concern.

"We're coming off a big win; we're coming into a home game with the perception that it's a game you should win. We have to battle through that."

UND is 3-2; Montana Western, located in Dillon, is 1-4, its win coming last week against Montana Tech. Quarterback Zach McRae has thrown for more than 300 yards in the Bulldogs' last two games.

Montana Western was 1-10 last season. The Bulldogs went through a coaching change in the offseason as Ryan Nourse took over at his alma mater.

Nourse spent the last two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Truman State in Missouri. The previous five seasons, he was the offensive coordinator at Morningside.

UND returns to Great West play in two weeks against Cal Poly, a triple-option team. The Sioux strength through five games is their run defense. The Sioux rank third in rushing defense, allowing 66.2 yard per game.

But that game is in the distance as far as Mussman is concerned. And UND's win at Cedar City is history.


"I hope that's not the signature win," he said of the SUU game. "I hope it's a building block, a step forward. We've been in those games before, but not as a nationally ranked team. Something seemed to always happen and we lost those games.

"But (last week) we found a way to win. That's probably more important than the win itself. Our guys never got rattled. Maybe the experiences of last year are paying off."

Maintaining focus has been UND's challenge this week.

"I don't look down on any team," redshirt freshman cornerback Daryl Brown said. "We were 3-8 last year."

Injury update

The Sioux hope to get running back Mitch Sutton back for tomorrow's game.

He's missed the last two weeks with a pulled hamstring but the Sioux running game has been productive with Jake Miller.

UND's big concern is the health of defensive lineman Broc Bellmore, who left last week's game with an upper body injury.


He'll miss Saturday's game. No timetable has been set for his return.

Etc. etc.

- Montana Western plays in the six-team Frontier Conference. The Bulldogs play each league team twice during the season. Perennial NAIA power Carroll College competes in the Frontier.

- The big Great West game Saturday is Southern Utah at South Dakota. Southern Utah, last year's champion, can't afford another loss and South Dakota starting quarterback Dante Warren is questionable with an injury to his throwing hand.

- UND's win at Southern Utah last week snapped an eight-game road losing streak for the Sioux.

- During UND's last three games, Sioux sophomore running back Jake Miller has rushed for 487 yards and seven touchdowns.

- UND's defense held Southern Utah to 20 points last week. The Thunderbirds had averaged more than 40 points in their three straight wins before the UND game.

Up next


Who: Montana Western at UND.

When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Alerus Center.

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

Records: UND 3-2; Montana Western 1-4.

Of note: UND has a bye next week.

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

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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