Grand Forks, N.D. - Fourteen Fighting Sioux seniors will begin their final collegiate football season on Thursday night as UND opens its campaign with a tilt against the Drake Bulldogs. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at the Alerus Center as the Sioux open at home for the first time since the 2008 season.
LIVE FROM GRAND FORKS
The season opener vs. Drake will be available for fans in a multiple number of formats. The contest will be televised live by the Fighting Sioux Sports Network, Midco Sports Net3 (Channel 323 in North and South Dakota) and Fox College Sports Central (check your local listings). The FSSN broadcast will also be streamed live on www.FightingSioux.com. Fans not able to watch the contest can tune into the Fighting Sioux Radio Network as all 10 stations will carry the play-by-play of all the action vs. the Bulldogs.
FIGHTING SIOUX RADIO NETWORK
FIGHTING SIOUX RADIO NETWORK
Bismarck, N.D. KFYR 550 AM or KXMR 710 AM
Beulah, N.D. KDKT 1410 AM
Devils Lake, N.D. KDVL 102.5 FM
Dickinson, N.D. KTLC 1460 AM
Fargo, N.D. WDAY 970 AM
Grand Forks, N.D. KQHT 96.1 FM
Mahnomen, Minn. KRJM 101.5 FM
Minot, N.D. KRRZ 1390 AM
Thief River Falls, Minn. KKAQ 1460 AM or KTRF 1230 AMWilliston, N.D. KDSR 101.1 FM
NEWS AND NOTES
• The Fighting Sioux went 3-2 at home last season in the Alerus Center. In those three victories, UND averaged 45 points per game, including scoring a season-high 55 points in a 41-point victory over Northeastern State (Sept. 18).
• Drake will be the first Pioneer Football League opponent the Fighting Sioux have faced since their move up to the FCS level.
• Now in its 11th season playing home games at the Alerus Center, UND owns a 57-11 record at the venue. That tally includes a 10-0 mark in Division II playoff games.
• Four Fighting Sioux teammates garnered preseason All-Great West honors in Phil Steele’s 2011 FCS College Football Preview magazine earlier this summer, while another quartet was named to the publication’s second team. UND’s first-team honorees were junior defensive lineman Ross Brenneman, senior defensive back Dominique Hawkins, senior linebacker Dan Hendrickson and sophomore wide receiver Greg Hardin. The four honorees on the second team were senior defensive lineman Broc Bellmore, senior linebacker Mitch Goertz, sophomore cornerback Chavon Mackey and junior tight end Seth Wisthoff.
• Hawkins, Hardin and punter Brett Cameron received preseason recognition from College Football Performance Awards. The organization named each member of the trio to their respective position’s watch list. In Hawkins’ case, he was recognized on the kick returners list after leading the GWC with a 28.4 average per kick return. Hardin led the Sioux in receiving and scoring a season ago. He caught 41 passes for 736 yards and scored 10 touchdowns (nine receiving, one rushing). Cameron averaged 39.1 yards per punt and had 24 downed inside the 20-yard line.
• Senior Justin Belotti was one of a record 132 collegiate football players nominated for the 2011 Allstate/AFCA Good Works Award. Twenty-two of the nominees will make up this year’s team, which features 11 players from Football Bowl Subdivision teams and 11 from Football Championship Subdivision, NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and NAIA teams across the country.
• Junior running back Mitch Sutton needs only 23 rushing yards in the opener vs. Drake to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark for his career. The Plover, Wis., native racked up 689 of those in 2009 en route to earning Great West Freshman of the Year honors.
• The 2011 season marks the 10-year anniversary of the 2001 team’s Division II national title. The squad will be formally inducted into the UND Athletics Hall of Fame during the Potato Bowl weekend when the Sioux will take on Black Hills State at 6 p.m. on Sept. 24.
UND IN SEASON OPENERS
• The Drake Bulldogs visit the Alerus Center for the 117th season opener for the North Dakota football program. The Fighting Sioux have posted an 85-29-1 (.743) record in those contests dating back to 1894. Thirty-nine of those victories have been shutouts.
• This will be the first time since the 2008 season (40-14 victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville) that UND will open its season at home.
• UND has reeled off 21 straight wins when opening a season on its home turf, including all five season openers at the Alerus Center. The last home opener defeat was in 1986 to Texas A$M-Kingsville by the score of 67-44 (Sept. 13; second game of the season).
• The Sioux had won 15 straight season openers overall before falling at Texas Tech, 38-13, to open the 2009 season. UND will look to snap a brief two-game skid in season openers - only twice before have the Sioux dropped three consecutive season openers (1919-21 and 1947-49).
• The 2010 season opener at Idaho ended in a 45-0 setback after UND trailed by 14 at halftime. It marked just the ninth time the Sioux had been blanked in a season opener and just the second time since 1949.
• The most points scored by a UND team in a season opener is 59, occuring twice as the 2003 squad shut out Minnesota-Crookston and the 2007 squad blanked Humboldt State.
NOTING THE BULLDOGS
The Bulldogs have finished third in the Pioneer Conference with identical 6-2 records each of the last two seasons. That is the same place the coaches slotted them to finish this season in their preseason poll that was topped by reigning league champion Jacksonville.
Senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski returns along with 16 other starters for head coach Chris Creighton. Ten of those are on an offense that saw Piatkowski throw for 1,854 yards and 15 touchdowns last season in leading the unit to a 26.3 ppg average.
The Bulldogs’ defense is anchored by senior linebacker Tyler Moorhead, who led Drake with 62 tackles a season ago and was named a first team All-PFL performer.
Drake will come to the Alerus Center with one game under its belts after participating in the 2011 Global Kilimanjaro Bowl in Tanzania this past May. The Bulldogs defeated an all-star team from Mexico’s CONADEIP Conference, 17-7, in what was the first American football game played on African soil. All healthy team members climbed to the peak of the famous 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro also while they were in Africa.
THE HEAD COACH
Head coach Chris Creighton is entering his fourth season guiding the Bulldogs’ football program. He has posted a 21-12 (.636) in his three seasons at the Des Moines, Iowa university and is 116-36 (.762) in 14 years as a collegiate head coach.
Creighton has also served as the head coach at Ottawa College (NAIA; 1997-2000) and Wabash College (Division III; 2001-07).
Creighton’s 2010 Bulldogs featured a defense that ranked sixth in the nation among FCS schools (2nd PFL) in rush defense (94.2 ypg), eighth (3rd PFL) in sacks (3.0/g) and 18th (2nd PFL) in tackles for loss (7.4/g).
Last year’s squad also featured eight players named to the Academic All-PFL team (three 1st-team, five 2nd-team) and a school-record 55 earning a place on the PFL’s Academic Honor Roll.
DRAKE'S KEY RETURNERS
Mike Piatkowski, QB
(161-for-278, 1,854 yards, 15 TDs)
Drew Blackmon, WR
(41 receptions, 535 yards, five TDs)
Tyler Moorehead, LB
(62 tackles, 1.5 sacks)
Michael Lahart, CB
(51.5 tackles, 11 PBUs)
-- Go Sioux --