Throughout the summer, the UNDSports.com staff will take a deeper look into the 2012 opponents for the North Dakota football team as it embarks on its first season in the Big Sky Conference.
The North Dakota football team will return to the Alerus Center on the final Saturday in September for what will be the program's inaugural Big Sky home game. The opponent will be a familiar one, however, and one that the team shared the 2011 Great West Conference Championship with — Cal Poly.
The Mustangs will bring their potent ground attack back to the Peace Garden State for a second consecutive season, but head coach Tim Walsh will have to replace the GWC's top rusher in Jake Romanelli (1,105 yards, 7 TDs). Romanelli was the only 1,000-yard rusher in the league last season, as he went on to earn All-GWC first team honors.
Fortunately for Walsh, but unfortunately for the Mustangs' opponents, a player the fourth-year head coach will not have to replace is the leader of CP's triple option — quarterback Andre Broadous. The senior signal caller went 12-for-21 for 162 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 36 rushing yards in the Mustangs' 23-19 win over UND in 2011.
Broadous threw only one interception a year ago and accounted for 27 touchdowns (18 rushing). His 664 rushing yards were the fifth most among GWC players. The UND defense held both the ground game and Romanelli below their season averages a year ago, but a strong first half performance through the air by Broadous was too much to overcome.
Senior linebacker Kennith Jackson anchors the Cal Poly defense. He had seven solo tackles and an interception last season against UND and earned All-GWC first team honors for his play throughout the season (80 tackles, 40 solo).
Just like the offense, the defense took a significant hit via graduation with the loss of All-America cornerback Asa Jackson. The dynamic defender inked a four-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens after being selected in the fifth round by the club in the 2012 NFL Draft. Jackson finished his CP career with 199 tackles and eight interceptions.
Walsh has another key defender back along the defensive front. Junior Sullivan Grosz will be back after registering a team-high 6.5 sacks a season ago. He was named to the College Football Performance Awards Defensive Line Watch List earlier this summer. Grosz and company limited opponents to just 128.8 yards rushing per game, which was the 28th best nationally in 2011.
History of Series
The Mustangs evened the all-time series at 2-2 after dealing UND its only loss in the team's final eight games of the 2011 season. CP defeated UND 23-19 at the Alerus Center on Oct. 22 before the Green and White would win four straight to close out the year. The visitors jumped out to a 23-6 advantage and held on for the four-point victory after UND had two chances at potential game-winning touchdown drives thwarted late in the fourth quarter.
The teams played three times as Great West Conference foes with UND winning the initial contest 31-17 at home in 2009 before falling by a point at Cal Poly in 2010 (22-21).
The 2009 meeting was the first between the two clubs since 1972 when UND trumped the higher-ranked Mustangs 38-21 in the 12th annual Cameila Bowl in Sacramento. The victory clinched the NCAA West College Football Championship for the Fighting Sioux.
Did You Know?
- The last two meetings between UND and Cal Poly have been decided by a total of five points. The clubs make up half of the GWC quartet that will be moving to the Big Sky Conference for the 2012 season (Southern Utah and UC Davis).
- Senior Mike Deutsch was named the Most Valuable Offensive Player in the 1972 Camelia Bowl. The senior rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown in the contest.
- Junior Greg Hardin had a season highs for catches (nine) and receiving yards (108) against Cal Poly in 2011. In two career games against the Mustangs, Hardin has 15 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
- Senior Mitch Sutton had one of the best games of his career against Cal Poly in 2009. The then-freshman running back rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the 31-17 victory. Sutton has scored multiple touchdowns twice more in his career.