UND football: Sioux seek more late-game heroics

VERMILLION, S.D. -- UND coach Chris Mussman doesn't believe his football team has South Dakota's number. "The thing that we've been able to do is hang in there most of the time for four quarters," Mussman said. The past few years, UND has figured...

VERMILLION, S.D. -- UND coach Chris Mussman doesn't believe his football team has South Dakota's number.

"The thing that we've been able to do is hang in there most of the time for four quarters," Mussman said.

The past few years, UND has figured out how to pull out wins late in its games against South Dakota.

Whether that happens again today remains to be seen as UND will meet rival South Dakota in the DakotaDome before approximately 10,000 fans.

It's Dakota Days in Vermillion, which is the South Dakota homecoming game. It's also the Great West Conference opener for both teams, a five-team league that provides little -- if any -- room for error in winning a league title.


UND has won 18 of its last 20 meetings against South Dakota, including the last three. In 2008, UND beat South Dakota 34-31 in overtime and in 2007 the Sioux made late defensive stops near their goal line to win 31-27. Both games were in Vermillion.

"They have treated us pretty poor lately," South Dakota coach Ed Meierkort said. "We have only one win in the last 15 years. We have to figure out a way to end that (today).

"Our guys understand they're going to have to play extremely hard. Somehow, we have to figure out a way to get a win."

That's what UND has been doing in the past few years.

"We have to make sure we make it a four-quarter game," Mussman said. "That's our chance to win the game."

The Sioux expect a fan-fueled South Dakota surge early.

The Coyotes are 2-2 but there is a significant buzz surrounding the program this season as South Dakota beat the Minnesota Gophers in Week 2.

South Dakota quarterback Dante Warren had a lot to do with that win. The redshirt junior is a run-pass threat, racking up 208 rushing yards and 769 in the air.


Warren is UND's big concern, considering the Sioux had difficulty containing Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish in a 23-17 loss.

"Running quarterbacks haven't been our strong suit," Sioux senior safety Kris Ankenbauer said. "Warren is athletic. He can move the ball and throw the ball. He fits their offense really well. We'll have to lock down and come ready to play."

Meierkort said UND, especially its defense, has been ready to go the past few years.

"Defensively, they play with toughness and a sense of reckless abandon," Meierkort said.

The South Dakota coach added a buzz for the game in Vermillion existed as early as Monday.

"It's been a phenomenal series since I've been here," said Meierkort, now in his seventh season. "But it's one that's been frustrating."

Sutton likely out

Sioux running back Mitch Sutton likely won't play today as he's recovering from a concussion suffered two weeks ago.


That leaves the bulk of the rushing duties in the hands of Josh Murray.

Murray is second in all-purpose yards for the Sioux with 482. He's rushed for 326 yards, caught passes for 54 and returned punts for 102.

True freshman Jake Miller again will be Murray's backup in the absence of Sutton.

Cornerback Mitch Kudrna is not expected to play as he's recovering from a concussion. And return specialist Erik Merserau will be out with a shoulder injury.

Quiet but productive

Redshirt freshman receiver Greg Hardin has been UND's go-to player through four games. He's caught 18 passes for 448 yards and five touchdowns. He's also rushed for a 63-yard score.

But it's hard to get the receiver from Bellevue, Neb., to say much.

"All these accolades, he doesn't like them," Mussman said. "He's been on TV the last three weeks. But he's uncomfortable with it. He can't stand it.


"I kind of like that. He just wants to go to work and help the team win football games."

Hardin's early success hasn't surprised Mussman.

"He's deceptively fast," the Sioux coach said. "You don't think he's going to run by you then he does it."

Similar philosophy

Only one Great West Conference team is ranked this week. Cal Poly is ranked No. 15 this week but the Mustangs are in the demanding portion of their season. They have five straight road games. The third of those five in a row comes today at Fresno State, a two-hour bus ride from San Luis Obispo.

Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh has the same philosophy as UND does today at South Dakota.

"(Fresno coach) Pat Hill does a great job of coaching toughness," Walsh said. "We're going to try and hang with them early and move the chains. We want to get the game to the fourth quarter and see if we can win it."

Last week, Cal Poly beat McNeese State 40-14 on the road. The Mustangs and their triple option dominated the first half, running 50 plays to McNeese's 21.


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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