GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The Fighting Sioux return home for the Potato Bowl USA to face Black Hills State for the first time in program history on Saturday. It is also Hall of Fame Weekend as the 2001 Division II national championship football team along with swimmer Michelle Puetz, wrestler Tim Briggs and golfer Greg Melhus will be inducted in UND’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at the Alerus Center and the action can be viewed online at www.FightingSioux.com with the radio broadcast on the Fighting Sioux Radio Network serving as the audio. Live stats will also be available on the site.
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
Williston, N.D. KDSR 101.1 FM
POTATO BOWL USA
• Saturday’s matchup with Black Hills State is the 46th annual Potato Bowl USA. The Fighting Sioux will look to run their winning streak in those games to nine straight. UND has outscored its opponents 358 (44.8 ppg) to 79 (9.9 ppg) during that stretch. UND owns a 34-11 all-time record in the Potato Bowl USA. The first was played against Idaho State, a future Big Sky foe, in 1966 - the Fighting Sioux won that game 41-0.
NEWS AND NOTES
• For the first time since transitioning to the Division I level in 2008, the Fighting Sioux football team found its name in the Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll released on Monday. The panel of FCS coaches pegged North Dakota as the No. 21 team nationally after nearly pulling off an upset (27-22) of Football Bowl Subdivision member Fresno State on Saturday.
• The Fighting Sioux were also receiving votes in the Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 poll.
• All five of the Great West Conference members were either ranked in the poll or receiving votes: South Dakota (No. 20), Cal Poly (RV), Southern Utah (RV) and UC Davis (RV).
• Future Big Sky foes Montana State (No. 4), Montana (No. 9), Eastern Washington (No. 22), Sacramento State (RV) and Weber State (RV) were ranked or receiving votes as well.
• Sophomore running back Jake Miller had a career night on Saturday at Fresno State and for those efforts he earned Great West Conference Offensive Player of the Week and was an honorable mention College Performance Awards Running Back Performer of the Week honoree. Miller rushed 21 times with career highs of 145 yards and three touchdowns in the five-point setback.
• Miller has accounted for four of UND’s six touchdowns this season. Against Fresno State, he went 70 yards for a score on his carry. The 70-yard scamper was the second longest run by a Sioux rusher in the Division I era (since 2008). He also added touchdown runs of five and one yard.
• Miller’s third touchdown of the game - a 1-yard plunge with nine seconds left in the third quarter - provided a 22-21 edge for the Sioux. That marked the first time UND has taken a lead into the fourth quarter against a FBS opponents. The Bulldogs were the fifth FBS opponent for UND since moving up to the FCS level at the start of the 2008 season.
• Junior Ross Brenneman had a pair of sacks against Fresno State. It was his second multiple-sack game of the season. With four sacks through three games, Brenneman equaled his previous season high of four sacks set last season as a sophomore.
• Sophomore Dominique Bennett returned from a two-game suspsension and had two tackles, including one for a loss (seven yards) and had a pass breakup. Classmate Chavon Mackey also made his season debut and broke up a 2-point conversion attempt by Fresno State in the fourth quarter.
2001 TEAM ENSHRINED
• This weekend will be a special one for the 2001 Division II national championship team as that squad will be inducted into the UND Athletics Hall of Fame during a special ceremony on Saturday.
•Former head coach Dale Lennon led the Fighting Sioux to a 14-1 overall record during that memorable season, which brough the program its first and only national title with a 17-14 win over Grand Valley State in Florence, Ala.
• Two members from that team are currently serving as assistant coaches for current head coach Chris Mussman. Starting linebacker Josh Kotelnicki is in his fourth season back at his alma mater. He coaches his old position for the Sioux and also coordinates the special teams.
• Starting wideout Luke Schleunser, who caught the 58-yard pass that set up the game-winning touchdown over Grand Valley State in the national title game, is in his first season on the UND staff. Schleusner coaches the tight ends and fullbacks.
• One of Kotelnicki’s fellow linebackers from that team is also involved in coaching at the college ranks. Eric Schmidt is on Lennon’s staff at Southern Illinois, serving as the linebackers and defensive line coach.
Through three weeks of the season, the first two running backs on the UND depth chart have both been named the Great West Conference Offensive Player of the Week. Junior Mitch Sutton (Plover, Wis.) earned the honor after his 105-yard rushing effort in the season opener vs. Drake (Sept. 1). Sutton’s yardage total put him over the 1,000-yard mark for his career. The weekly GWC honor was the second of his career (Oct. 6, 2009; vs. South Dakota). Sophomore Jake Miller (Bismarck, N.D.) garnered this past week’s honor after his career night at Fresno State. Miller rushed for 145 yards and a trio of touchdowns in UND’s narrow 27-22 defeat to the Bulldogs. Miller had TD runs of 70, five and one yard in the contest.
• Through three games this season, the Sioux special teams have already registered three blocked kicks.
• Senior Broc Bellmore and junior Devin Benjamin blocked the opening field goal attempts Drake and Idaho, respectively, in the first two games of the season. For Bellmore, the block was the seventh of his career, while Benjamin batted away his second.
• Sophomore Cordero Finley registered his first career blocked kick, deflecting a PAT in the third quarter at Idaho (Sept. 10).
• Since moving up to the FCS level beginning with the 2008 season, the Fighting Sioux have blocked 19 total kicks. Senior Broc Bellmore has seven of those, including one in this year’s season opener vs. Drake (Sept. 1).
• Belmore owns UND single-game (two; twice) and single-season records (four; 2009) for blocked kicks. Against Central Arkansas in the 2009 season finale, Bellmore blocked two field goals in the same game, tying a FCS single game record. His second block came on the final play, preserving a 17-16 victory for UND.
BELOTTI NAMED TO ALLSTATE AFCA GOOD WORKS TEAM
University of North Dakota senior safety Justin Belotti (Kenosha, Wis.) found out on Tuesday that he is going to spend the first couple of days of the 2012 calendar year participating in one of his favorite pastimes – serving others. Only this time instead of helping out his local Grand Forks community, Belotti will be joining up with 21 fellow football student-athletes in New Orleans conducting a service project as a member of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®.
Allstate Insurance Company and American Football Coaches Association officials announced the 2011 team on Tuesday, which will be honored at halftime of the 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl. Belotti is part of a select group of college football players that earned one of the most prestigious off-the-field honors in the sport. For the past 20 years, the award has recognized these student-athletes who have shown a commitment to making a difference in their communities.
A program record 132 players were nominated for the award this summer. From the nominations, a special voting panel, including former Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® members and current college football broadcasters, selected the 22 players from across the country to be a part of this year’s team. There is a pair of 11-member teams, one comprises players competing in the NCAA® Football Bowl Subdivision and the other, of which Belotti is a part of, is a combined team representing the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Divisions II, III, and the NAIA.
“It is hard to really put into words what receiving an award of this magnitude means for Justin and this program,” UND head coach Chris Mussman said. “Of the thousands of college football players across the country, he is one of 22 to be named to this team. That is extremely impressive, but more importantly, it is well-deserved.”
Belotti has spent countless hours volunteering with a number of different organizations around the Grand Forks community, including the Special Olympics of North Dakota and the Circle of Friends Humane Society. He also lends a helping hand in yearly flood relief efforts around the area. Besides those ventures, Belotti will also lead the UND football program’s yearly fundraiser this December called ‘Holiday Magic from Markus’. Sioux football players will conduct the event for the ninth time this year in honor of Markus Bryant, who was a young Fighting Sioux football fan that unfortunately lost his battle with cancer in December of 2002.
Belotti was the 2010 recipient of the Markus Bryant Memorial Scholarship, which is given annually to a Fighting Sioux player based upon his teamwork, leadership, dedication, character and spirit.
NOTING THE YELLOW JACKETS
The Yellow Jackets are coming off their first win of the season - a 37-21 triumph of rival South Dakota Mines on Saturday. BHSU scored five touchdowns in the contest, which was the total from its first three games of the season (all losses).
This is BHSU’s first season of transition to the Division II football level. Freshman running back Trent Butler had the best game of his young career against the Hardrockers rushing for 146 yards and a touchdown in the victory. The Hornets scored 16 fourth-quarter points to break a 21-21 tie and post the win.
Sophomore quarterback Wes Kragt has thrown for 568 yards and five touchdowns through four contests in his first year as the starting signal caller.
Senior Daniel Hancock was the top returning receiver from the 2010 squad after catching 35 passes for 437 yards and five scores. Through four games in 2010, Hancock has netted 220 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Former Sioux offensive lineman Matt Field is listed as the starting left tackle for the Yellow Jackets. Field spent his redshirt freshman season at UND before transferring to BHSU.
BLACK HILLS STATE HEAD COACH
Head coach Jay Long is entering his ninth season with the Yellow Jackets and third as the head coach. He spent his first six seasons with the program serving as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
KEY YELLOW JACKETS (2011 stats)
Joey Brown, CB/KR (13 kickoff returns, 328 yards (25.2 ypr))
Trent Butler, RB (22 carries, 162 yards (7.4 ypc), 1 TD)
Wes Kragt, QB (48-for-107, 568 yards 5 TDs, 3 INTs)
Drew Nielsen, RB (50 carries, 89 yards (1.8 ypc), 2 TDs)
Daniel Hancock, WR (16 receptions, 220 yards (13.8 ypc), 2 TDs)
Randall Hill, LB (27 tackles, 5 sacks)
Trent Turbiville, LB (27 tackles)
Sterling Boylan, DE (15 tackles, 2.5 sacks)
Great West Conference
Mitch Sutton, RB (9/4)
Jake Miller, RB (9/18)
College Performance Awards
Placekicker Performer of the Week
Zeb Miller, honorable mention (9/5)
Punt returner Performer of the Week
Erik Mersereau (9/12)
Running back Performer of the Week
Jake Miller, honorable mention (9/19)
College Sports Madness
GWC Player of the Week
Zeb Miller, PK (9/5)
UND Coaching Staff
Mitch Sutton, RB (vs. Drake)
Greg Hardin, WR (at Idaho)
Jake Miller, RB (at Fresno State)
Dan Hendrickson, LB (vs. Drake)
Mitch Goertz, LB (at Idaho)
Ross Brenneman, DL (at Fresno State)
Daryl Brown, DB (at Fresno State)
Special Teams POW
Brett Cameron, P (vs. Drake)
Erik Mersereau, PR (at Idaho)
Spencer Bickel, RB (at Fresno State)
Block of the Week
Joe Kleason, OL (vs. Drake)
Catlin Solum, FB (at Idaho)
Emmett Lynch, OL (at Idaho)
Ian McGurran, OL (at Fresno State)
Catlin Solum, FB (at Fresno State)
Hit of the Week
Dan Hendrickson, LB (vs. Drake)
Myles Jablonski, LB (at Idaho)
Johnnie Daniels, LB (at Fresno State)
Broc Bellmore, DL (FG vs. Drake)
Devin Benjamin, DL (FG at Idaho)
Cordero Finley, LB (PAT at Idaho)
Offensive Scout of the Week
P.J. Sparks, RB (vs. Drake)
Jameer Jackson, WR (at Idaho)
Casey Young, WR (at Fresno State)
Defensive Scout of the Week
Will Ratelle, LB (vs. Drake)
B.J. Fifita, DB (at Idaho)
Caleb Nelson, DL (at Fresno State)
• Junior Erik Mersereau was named the College Football Performance Awards FCS Punt Returner Performer of the Week (Sept. 12) after his 79-yard return for a touchdown at Idaho (Sept. 10).
• Mersereau’s punt return was the third longest in UND history and fifth longest in the Great West record books. It was the first for UND since Josh Murray took a punt back 60 yards last season vs. Northwestern State (Sept. 25).
• Sophomore Greg Hardin hauled in his 10th career touchdown reception last Saturday at Idaho (Sept. 10). Just 13 games into his career, the 5-foot-10 wideout is only four TD receptions away from cracking UND’s career top 10 list. The 54-yard reception was also the first touchdown pass of classmate Joey Bradley’s career.
• Senior Johnnie Lee Daniels racked up seven tackles and a sack in his first career start at Idaho (Sept. 10). Daniels had eight tackles in his 10 previous appearances for UND.
• The shutout of Drake was the first since the 2007 season for the Fighting Sioux defense (Sept. 29 vs. Augustana; 37-0) and first during head coach Chris Mussman’s tenure at UND.
• The blanking was also the only one of the opening weekend put up by a FCS school against a fellow FCS school. FCS members Morehead State, Nicholls State and Portland State also posted shutouts, but those were against NAIA opponents.
• The Fighting Sioux were the only GWC squad to win its season opener and UND’s remaining 10 opponents also went winless during the opening weekend of the college football season.
• While placekicker Zeb Miller was busy getting his second collegiate season off to a solid start, no other GWC team attempted a field goal during the opening weekend of play (vs. Drake, Sept. 1). Miller drilled all three of his attempts, connecting from 41, 22 and 32 yards out. His three makes equaled his career high set vs. UC Davis (Nov. 6, 2010).
• Miller’s efforts earned him honorable mention placekicker performer of the week honors from College Football Performance Awards. College Sports Madness named the 6-foot-2 kicker its Great West Conference Player of the Week.