UND football: Thankful for the support

It hasn't happened with regularity, but the student section in the Alerus Center last week was full for the UND game against Northeastern State of Oklahoma.

It hasn't happened with regularity, but the student section in the Alerus Center last week was full for the UND game against Northeastern State of Oklahoma.

And no one appreciated the turnout more than the Sioux football players.

"There were a couple of games last year where we were a little disappointed with the lack of (student) support," Sioux linebacker Paul German said.

The full complement of students made for a better atmosphere in the Alerus Center, UND coach Chris Mussman said.

"That made a difference," Mussman said of the student noise. "When we have the students there and they're involved, it's an incredible atmosphere in the Alerus Center.


"The crowd noise plays to our advantage."

Another large student turnout and the resulting noise could provide UND an even bigger advantage Saturday when the Sioux play Northwestern State, a young team trying to find its way under second-year coach Bradley Dale Peveto.

Northwestern has played only three games indoors in its history, the last time coming in 2004 when the Demons lost 30-17 at North Dakota State. The other indoor game for Northwestern came against Southern University in 1994 in the New Orleans Superdome.

The Demons, who had one of the best Division I FCS recruiting classes in the country in 2009, have eight new starters on defense. Their offense is trying to find its way, too, but it did take steps forward, said Peveto, in a 17-14 win against Division II Tarleton State last Saturday -- a win that snapped a 13-game losing streak.

The Demons will be playing their northernmost athletic competition in school history when they take the field in the Alerus Center, where more than 9,700 fans turned out for last week's game.

The surroundings likely will be far different than most road trips for Northwestern.

"It'll be a neat experience for us," Peveto said. "We're looking forward to it."

New turf considered


UND came through its first two games of the season against Division I FBS programs Idaho and Northern Illinois in good health.

But the Sioux appeared to have more bumps and bruises after their game last week against Northeastern State.

Did the hard playing surface at the Alerus Center have anything to do with that?

It's hard to say, but UND may replace the AstroTruf Magic Carpet in the building. The Sioux have used the same artificial turf since they moved into the building to start the 2001 season.

In all, 62 UND games have been played on the surface, not to mention the area high school games that have been held in the building.

"The (Alerus Center) playing surface is unique," Mussman said. "There aren't many schools left in the country that play on that hard of a surface. It takes some getting used to."

But there is an advantage to the turf.

"It's a fast surface," Mussman said. "That's what we do like about it."


A new playing surface may be in the works, said UND athletic director Brian Faison.

The school will discuss options regarding a new turf next week, Faison said.

"It's served it's time," he said.

Special teams advantage

Mussman said special teams made the difference for UND in its 27-20 win last season at Northwestern State.

Through three games this season, the Sioux special teams have been productive as well.

UND's kick coverage team, led by linebacker Dan Hendrickson, has been noticed the most, mainly because of Hendrickson's punishing tackles.

"He's fun to watch," Mussman said. "I've never seen a football team stand up on the sideline waiting to see what's going to happen on a kickoff."


The Sioux kickoff team has been effective in another area, too. It has pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line a handful of times.

"If you pin a team inside the 20 in today's football after kicking off from your 30, that's impressive," Mussman said. "The rules of today's game are set up to generate more points."

Freshman kicker Zeb Miller has been effective on kickoff and he's also hit 3-of-4 field goal attempts.

UND's kick return team averages 20.1 yards per return, compared to its opponents' average of 19.5 yards. And the Sioux punt return team, led by Josh Murray's 10.5 yard-per-return average, is averaging 9.3 yards, compared to opponents' 8.6 yards.

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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