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UND seeded No. 7 in first-ever trip to FCS playoffs

In Week 3 of the season, UND was 0-2 and trailed South Dakota 27-14 at halftime. The prospects of a successful football year were shaky at best. But UND rallied for a double-overtime win over South Dakota and the Fighting Hawks haven't looked bac...

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Austin Gordon, left, and Beady Oliveria talk before the playoff announcement at Buffalo Wild Wings in Grand Forks, ND on Sunday Nov. 20, 2016. (Joshua Komer/ Grand Forks Herald)

In Week 3 of the season, UND was 0-2 and trailed South Dakota 27-14 at halftime. The prospects of a successful football year were shaky at best.

But UND rallied for a double-overtime win over South Dakota and the Fighting Hawks haven’t looked back.

On Sunday, UND received the No. 7 seed in the FCS playoffs and will host the Richmond-North Carolina A&T winner on Dec. 3 at the Alerus Center.

UND’s first-ever Division I playoff berth was met with a roar of approval from the Fighting Hawks at Buffalo Wild Wings when the announcement was made on ESPNU.

UND finished the regular season 9-2 and won a share of the Big Sky Conference title with an 8-0 record. UND was one of four Big Sky teams to make the 24-team playoff field. Eastern Washington, which shared the Big Sky title with UND, received the No. 2 seed. Cal Poly and Weber State also made the field.

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UND’s character never wavered despite its 0-2 record to start the season.

“Our guys are believers,” said UND coach Bubba Schweigert. “They believed we could somehow get it turned around and win football games.

“Our day-by-day approach really helped us. We were disappointed early but we didn’t get too low. When we came back and won our first game we didn’t get too high. We kept things in check and we’ve been pretty even-keel throughout the year.

“We put together a good resume after a tough start. The guys hung in there and played some tough football against some good opponents.”

North Dakota State, the five-time defending FCS champion, received the No. 1 seed. The Bison and South Dakota State shared the Missouri Valley Football Conference regular-season title. Two other MVFC teams -- Youngstown State and Illinois State -- also made the field.

“The Big Sky is definitely one of the best conferences in the FCS,” said UND linebacker Connor O’Brien. “It’s cool to be part of a 24-team bracket and to have four Big Sky teams in it is a good feeling.”

The first-round bye also gives UND an advantage when it comes to health.

“Having a bye is a pretty big deal,” said O’Brien. “We can get some guys back who are banged up.”

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Other teams to receive first-round byes were Jacksonville State (No. 3), James Madison (No. 4), Sam Houston State (No. 5), The Citadel (No. 6) and South Dakota State (No. 8).

UND’s home playoff game on Dec. 3 is set for a 5 p.m. kickoff. Tickets will go on sale Monday morning at 10 a.m. at the Ralph Engelstad Arena and Alerus Center box offices as well as online at UNDsports.com/tickets.

All seating is reserved and ticket prices are $25 for adults, $12 for youth (12-and-under) and $5 for students with a valid student ID.

Football season-ticket holders have until Wednesday at 6 p.m. to claim their seats for the game.

Season-ticket holders can reserve tickets online through their “My North Dakota Account” at UNDsports.com or in-person at the Ralph Engelstad Arena box office. All seats not claimed by the deadline will be released for sale to the general public.

UND will practice three days this week before launching its normal game-week preparation.

“We worked hard all year for this,” said UND running back John Santiago. “We just have to keep it rolling.”

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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 wnelson@gfherald.com.
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