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UND Football: Southern Utah concerned with Hawks' run depth

In the Sacramento State press box last Saturday night, a Canadian Football League scout saw a first-half run from UND's John Santiago and predicted the Fighting Hawks could have three backs run for

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In the Sacramento State press box last Saturday night, a Canadian Football League scout saw a first-half run from UND's John Santiago and predicted the Fighting Hawks could have three backs run for 100 yards or more against the Hornets.

UND did have three backs (Keaton Studsrud, Brady Oliveira and Austin Gordon) run for more than 100 yards against the Hornets, even though Santiago, who was easing back into the lineup due to injury, wasn't one of them.

UND's ability to have three players run for more than 100 yards, despite the All-American Santiago not being one of them, highlights the depth the Fighting Hawks have in the backfield this season.

UND hadn't had three 100-yard rushers in the same game in 21 years. In 1995, Tony DelDotto (128), Mike Hoefs (117) and Phillip Moore (108) achieved the feat in a 63-0 win over Bemidji.

"We know what we're going up against in Grand Forks," said Southern Utah coach Demario Warren, whose team visits UND on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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With Santiago's recent ankle injury, classmate Brady Oliveira has rushed for more than 100 yards three straight weeks.

"You have to prepare for both of them," Warren said. "They're very different styles. They're two of the best running backs in the conference. It's definitely difficult to prepare for those two and now you have the element of the quarterback running, too.

"Their running attack is definitely a task for us. They also do a great job with play action off of those. It'll be difficult for our defense to corral those weapons."

UND, which is now ranked No. 22 in the latest STATS FCS poll, has had at least one 100-yard rusher in 14-straight Big Sky football games dating back to the 2014 season. The last game where UND failed to reach the century mark was Nov. 1, 2014, at Eastern Washington-Studsrud's first career start. Six different UND players (Jer Garman, Studsrud, Santiago, Oliveira, Gordon and Iwarri Smith) have reached the century mark in that span.

UND is 10-4 in the 14-game stretch and averaging 270.5 yards per game.

"We're spreading the ball a bit and sharing carries," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "If we play consistent up front, it doesn't really matter who's carrying the ball if we get those guys in space."

Studsrud, who ran for 100 yards for the second time in his career against Sacramento State, came into the game with a little more than 40 yards rushing on the season.

Schweigert said Studsrud's big day gives opponents something to worry about.

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"If we see it's there, we're going to run the quarterback," Schweigert said. "It's another dimension teams have to prepare for."

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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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