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UND football wants to change approach to shed bad taste of 2019 playoffs

Fighting Hawks are still searching for first FCS playoff win.

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UND lines up against Nicholls State on Saturday in a 24-6 loss in Thibodaux, La. Photo by Bert Miller/The Courier and Daily Comet.

For UND offensive lineman Ryan Tobin, the 2019 Fighting Hawks football season was tough to shake.

"The 2019 season really stuck with me, and it sucked to lose to Nicholls," Tobin said. "We went in to the offseason knowing to be able play, we have to run the ball. That's how our offense succeeds. Without that, we're just going to end up like that again."

UND is hoping for a better approach and a better result when the Fighting Hawks host Missouri State at 3 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the FCS playoffs.

"I think we have to have a better mindset," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We always want to learn from our experiences. We need to go into this game with an attitude of more hunger to advance. We've really got to be the most physical team on the field. We addressed that. We've got to learn from our past, but that experience -- we're hoping that helps us."

The glaring statistic from UND's loss at Nicholls State was the rushing disparity, where the Fighting Hawks were outrushed 316 to 44.

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So far in the spring of 2021, UND has shown to be a different offense from 2019. In 2019, UND finished the year averaging 121.8 yards rushing per game.

The Hawks also didn't have the services of starting running back James Johannesson in Thibodaux, La. Johannesson was hampered by an injury.

UND also didn't have sophomore Otis Weah, who was academically ineligible last year. With Weah in the lineup, UND is averaging 206.4 rushing yards per game this spring.

The Moorhead, Minn., native is second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 570 rushing yards while his seven rushing touchdowns are tops in the league.

Weah paced the conference and was sixth nationally with 114.0 yards per game and his 7.50 yards per carry also led the MVFC and sits fifth in the nation, leading the country among underclassmen.

As a team, UND finished third in the conference in rushing while leading the league in scoring and total offense.

UND is still in search of its first FCS playoff win. The Hawks lost at home to Richmond in 2016, then lost to Nicholls State on the road in 2019.

"We've got to be a much more consistent team on both sides of the ball," Schweigert said of his memories from 2019. "Our whole approach to the game needs to be better. We didn't get the results we wanted. Our preparation has to be raised to a higher level. The focus and the determination when we get to Saturday at 3 really has to be to a higher level."

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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