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UND football Week 2 primer: How to watch, injuries to know and how the No. 14 Hawks match up to No. 3 South Dakota State

UND, which went from unranked to No. 14 in the FCS, will host No. 3 South Dakota State at noon Saturday at the Alerus Center in a different kind of measuring stick.

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UND plays it's first Missouri Valley conference game Saturday against Southern Illinois University at the Alerus Center. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The UND football program might have been the talk of the FCS with an eye-opening win in the Fighting Hawks' first Missouri Valley Football Conference game last Saturday.

Yet there hasn't been a lot of time to gloat at the High Performance Center this week. After all, the No. 3-ranked team in the country is coming to town.

"It doesn't matter who you have the next week, you have to put the game behind you," UND freshman quarterback Tommy Schuster said. "But it definitely helps to have a team like South Dakota State coming to town."

UND, which went from unranked to No. 14 in the FCS in the latest poll, will host No. 3 South Dakota State at noon Saturday at the Alerus Center in a different kind of measuring stick.

The Fighting Hawks might've showed last weekend against Southern Illinois that the program belongs in the MVFC, but now it'll see whether it belongs in the conversation of the top tier of the entire FCS.

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"This is a season that is far from over," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We've played one game. This will be a great challenge for us. We think we need to be better if we want to move the ball and score points."

South Dakota State represents an upper echelon of the FCS. The Jackrabbits have now appeared in the Top 25 of 107 consecutive media polls dating back to October 2012.

SDSU is one of only two FCS programs (North Dakota State being the other) to reach the playoffs each of the last eight seasons, including making consecutive national semifinal appearances in 2017 and 2018.

That's a pretty easy way to get UND's attention.

"You get over the result, which we challenge our team to do every week," Schweigert said. "You learn from your performance -- what did you do well and how do you correct mistakes? How do you improve? That's our focus each and every week. You do that by practicing at a high level. We hope to improve as a team this week."

One of the key areas UND feels it can improve on is the vertical passing game. Against Southern Illinois, Schuster finished 15-for-23 for 118 yards and three touchdowns. But his longest pass of the day was a 31-yarder to Garett Maag.

Both Schuster and backup quarterback Quincy Vaughn missed on deep shots down the field to Maag.

"You always feel like you can get better," Schweigert said. "We feel like we can improve in the passing game. We were efficient and Tommy played well in his first start. He comes to work every day."

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Defensively, too, UND feels like it wasn't sharp on two particular drives -- one to open the game and one to close the first half against Southern Illinois. This, despite the defense forcing five turnovers and giving way to reserves for the fourth quarter with a comfortable lead.

"You can see a lot of positives but there are negatives, too," said UND cornerback Evan Holm, who had one of two UND interceptions. "We have a much higher ceiling, and we could've played an even better game.

"Every team, every week is going to be a tough one, but we're excited for South Dakota State. We're always looking forward to the next challenge."

No. 14 UND vs. No. 3 South Dakota State

Kickoff: Noon.

Where: Alerus Center.

TV: MidcoSN (Alex Heinert on play-by-play, Ryan Kasowski analyst)

Radio: 96.1 FM (Jack Michaels on play-by-play, Tom Dosch analyst)

Streaming: The game will available on ESPN-Plus .

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Betting line: South Dakota State -7.5, over-under 47.5, per Bovada.

Injuries: One of the benefits of a blowout win in Week 1 is UND's ability to play a deep lineup. The Fighting Hawks surprised many by scratching quarterback-wide receiver Brock Boltmann in Week 1 and Schweigert said after the game that Boltmann's injury news is encouraging but only because he'll be back this spring. That indicates Boltmann, who at the very least is one of UND's top three receivers, is expected to miss multiple weeks to start the year. The only other injury UND appeared to suffer against Southern Illinois was to backup inside linebacker Hayden Reynolds, who drew a penalty when he was illegally blind-sided on a special teams play. Reynolds' status is unclear, although the Hawks' two-deep depth chart lists him as available for Week 2.

The Fighting Hawks will win if: UND is truly much improved at the line of scrimmage. UND freshman quarterback Tommy Schuster continues to be the low-mistake, high-efficient version fans saw against Southern Illinois. The Fighting Hawks' offensive line protects Schuster again and clears a path for an emerging Otis Weah and Luke Skokna, the backs with more than 7.0 yards per carry last week. The defense continues to stop the run, behind the play of transfer Devon Krzanowski, the MVFC's Defensive Player of the Week. South Dakota State's new freshman quarterback is rattled by a small but rowdy Alerus Center crowd, which is hungry to return to past successes.

The Jackrabbits will win if: UND's season opener was a mirage, created by a Southern Illinois program that was decimated by injuries at quarterback and running back, all while unsuccessfully trying to practice through a bad weather situation in a strange spring season. UND continues to be a program troubled by sustaining momentum from one week to the next, in over its head with a South Dakota State team that prides itself on similar staples such as running the football and stopping the run -- just at a higher level than a new-to-the-Missouri Valley UND. SDSU running back Pierre Strong Jr., a junior from Little Rock, Ark., with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, shows UND he's a much bigger load to handle than SIU running back Javon Williams Jr.

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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