GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The 20th-ranked Fighting Sioux return home on Saturday to face Montana Western in a 1 p.m. start at the Alerus Center. As part of a continued effort to help the flood victims in nearby Minot, fans wearing a Fighting Sioux Flood Relief T-Shirt to Saturday’s “Flood Relief Bowl” will receive a free ticket with the purchase of one at regular price.
LIVE FROM GRAND FORKS
The contest will be streamed live over the internet at www.FightingSioux.com (UND Insider subscription required) and fans around the area can listen live on the nine-member Fighting Sioux Radio Network. Jack Michaels will handle the play-by-play and Mike Berg will provide the color analysis. Live stats and a live chat will also be availalbe for free at the home of all Fighting Sioux sports on the world wide web.
NEWS AND NOTES
• The matchup with Montana Western will be the first in program history as the NAIA squad pays a visit to the Alerus Center. The Bulldogs are 1-4 on the season, but are coming off a 55-16 victory over Montana Tech in which they scored 42 unanswered points in the second half.
• UND offensive coordinator Greg Breitbach will be calling plays against his alma mater on Saturday. The Montana native played for the Bulldogs from 1991-92 and graduated from the Dillon, Mont., institution in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in business education.
• The Fighting Sioux are 2-0 at home this season and allowing only 9.5 ppg to their opponents in those wins.
• UND will be looking for its first three-game winning streak since head coach Chris Mussman opened his rookie season in 2008 with four consecutive triumphs.
• The Fighting Sioux will be looking to ride the momentum from a 26-20 road victory over Southern Utah in the Great West opener for both schools. The victory marked the first time since joining the GWC in 2008 that UND won its league opener.
• The win over the defending GWC champions was also the first on the road against an FCS ranked opponent since UND made the transition to Division I in 2008. It also snapped an eight-game road losing streak dating back to 2009 when the Sioux closed out that campaign with a victory at Central Arkansas (Nov. 28).
• With the victory, UND moved up four spots in the FCS Coaches Poll released on Monday. The Thunderbirds, who were ranked No. 19 in the coaches’ poll and No. 17 in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Poll, fell to No. 22 in each of the national FCS polls. The Fighting Sioux nearly gained enough steam to crack the TSN/Fathead.com poll, but were next in line, leading the other teams receiving votes with 334 tallies.
• Sophomore Jake Miller (Bismarck, N.D.) was named the GWC Offensive Player of the Week for the third consecutive week. He is the first player in league history to achieve that feat. Miler ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 32 carries. Miller also earned College Sports Madness GWC Player of the Week accolades for his efforts. It was the third straight 100-yard rushing game and multiple touchdown game for the shifty tailback. Over the past three weeks, Miller has racked up 487 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
• With 543 rushing yards through five games, Miller leads the GWC with a 108.6 ypg clip. He owns a 209-yard advantage in the race for the GWC rushing title over Jake Romanelli of Cal Poly, who ranks second with 334 yards.
• Miller, who did not start the first three games of the season, also leads the GWC in scoring with eight TDs.
• Senior Dan Hendrickson (Minot, N.D.) earned the second GWC Defensive Player of the Week honor of his career on Sunday after his career-high 13 tackle performance against the Thunderbirds. Eight of those stops were solo as Hendrickson and the Sioux defense limited SUU to just 27 yards on the ground.
• Classmate Justin Belotti (Kenosha, Wis.) was also busy on the defensive side, posting his career high in stops with eight (five solo).
• Redshirt freshman Daryl Brown (Plymouth, Minn.) sealed the victory over Southern Utah with his team-leading second interception of the season. Brown’s pick of Brad Sorensen in the end zone stalled a potential game-winning touchdown drive by the T-Birds with 11 seconds remaining on the clock.
• The Sioux defense held the SUU offense to a season-low 20 points after the T-Birds had averaged more than 40 points per game during what was a three-game winning streak.
• A season long 63-yard punt by Brett Cameron (Winnipeg, Manitoba) helped set up the first safety by UND since registering a pair against Northwestern State in 2009. Cameron finished the game with six punts for a 43.3 average. He downed four inside the 20-yard line and was named a punter performer of the week honorable mention honoree by College Football Performance Awards.
• Classmates Joey Bradley (Issaquah, Wash.) and Greg Hardin (Bellevue, Neb.) connected on a passing touchdown for the second time this season in the first quarter against SUU. This time, the scoring strike went for 26 yards as Hardin equaled his career high with six catches for 66 yards. Hardin’s career total for touchdowns moved to 11 with that score.
• After allowing only 27 rushing yards to the Thunderbirds, the UND defense moved up to a tie for third in the FCS in rushing defense (66.20 ypg). That number is nearly 86 yards better than the next closest GWC team.
• The Sioux defensive unit also leads the GWC in total defense, surrending 325.6 ypg and in opponent first downs, allowing only 18 per contest. The UND defenders are also the stingiest at allowing red zone success as opponents have only scored on 12 of 19 trips inside the 20-yard line.
Through five weeks of the season, the first three running backs on the UND depth chart each have at least 90-plus yard rushing game to their credit. Junior Mitch Sutton (Plover, Wis.) earned GWC Offensive Player of the Week honors 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.) has garnered the last three GWC offensive weekly honors after rushing for 145 yards and three scores at Fresno State (Sept. 17), 181 yards and two scores vs. Black Hills State (Sept. 24) and 161 yards and two scores at Southern Utah (Oct. 1). With Sutton sidelined against the Yellow Jackets, true freshman Jer Garman (Marion, Iowa) saw the most extensive action of his young career, rushing 16 times for 93 yards and his first two collegiate touchdowns. He had four carries for nine yards against SUU.
• Through five games this season, the Sioux special teams share the FCS lead in blocked kicks with five (Old Dominion).
• Senior Broc Bellmore (West Fargo, N.D.) and junior Devin Benjamin (Minneapolis, Minn.) blocked the opening FG attempts by Drake and Idaho, respectively, in the first two games of the season. For Bellmore, the block was the seventh of his career, while Benjamin’s was his second.
• Sophomore Cordero Finley (Kenosha, Wis.) registered his first career blocked kick, deflecting a PAT in the third quarter at Idaho (Sept. 10).
• Against Black Hills State, Benjamin and Finley were back at it, adding two more blocks to the season total. Benjamin blocked the Yellow Jackets initial field goal attempt, while Finley deflected a PAT in the fourth quarter that he scooped up and ran back 80 yards for a defensive PAT (2 pts).
• Since moving up to the FCS level beginning with the 2008 season, the Fighting Sioux have blocked 21 total kicks. Bellmore has seven of those, including one in this year’s season opener vs. Drake (Sept. 1).
• Bellmore 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.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
The Fighting Sioux offense has ventured into the red zone on 17 occasions through five games and has come away with points on 15 of those trips (88.2 percent). UND went for a fourth-down against Southern Utah, which was the first legitimate failure of the season. The first came against Drake when the Sioux ran out the clock late in the game after getting inside the Bulldogs’ 20-yard line.
NOTING THE BULLDOGS
UMW snapped a four-game losing streak to open the season last Saturday by knocking off Montana Tech, 55-16. Trailing 16-13 at halftime, the Bulldogs scored 42 unanswered points in the second half to post the first win of head coach Ryan Nourse’s career.
Senior quarterback Zach McRae has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of the last two games as the Bulldogs are averaging 47 ppg in those tilts. In the victory over Montana Tech, McRae thew for 301 yards and three touchdowns, while adding one more score on the ground. Sophomore Casey Lamping has been McRae’s favorite target, hauling in 21 catches for 251 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Kasey Griffith leads the team with 43 tackles and seven tackles for a loss. Fellow linebacker Will Fields is tops on the team with four sacks.
MONTANA WESTERN HEAD COACH
Head coach Ryan Nourse is in his first season leading his alma mater’s football program. He spent the 2010 season at Morningside College where he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Nourse spent two seasons at Truman State (2008-09) as the defensive coordinator after holding that same position during his first stint at Morningside College from 2003-07.
KEY PLAYERS (2011 Stats)
Charlie Dotson, RB (81 carries, 267 yards, 4 TDs)
Will Fields, LB (32 tackles, 7 TFLs, 4 sacks)
Kasey Griffith, LB (43 tackles, 7 TFLs, 1 sack)
Casey Lamping, WR (21 receptions, 251 yards)
T.J. Leep, RB (33 carries, 151 yards, 4 TDs)
Zach McRae, QB (68-for-114, 850 yards, 6 TDs)
Rashad Peniston, WR (13 catches, 152 yards)
MUSSMAN NOMINATED FOR LIBERTY MUTUAL COACH OF THE YEAR
Head coach Chris Mussman has been added to the more than 100 FCS football coaches vying for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Yearh honor. Created in 2006, the award recognizes one college football coach from each division (I-FBS, I-FCS, II and III), rewarding them for their sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility and excellence. Winners will receive $50,000 to donate to a charity of their choice, a $20,000 grant to each school’s alumni association and the Coach of the Year trophy.
September 1 – December 3: Voting open to all fans at www.coachoftheyear.com. The top 15
coaches with the most fan votes in each of the four college football divisions – FBS, FCS, Division
II, and Division III – advance to an evaluation process using an objective scoring model endorsed
by the College Football Hall of Fame to measure coaching excellence, sportsmanship, integrity,
academic success and community commitment.
December 6: Finalists are announced – 10 coaches from the FBS and five coaches each from the
FCS, Division II, and Division III.
December 6-22: Finalist voting open to all fans at www.coachoftheyear.com. Votes are also cast
by two select panels – one representing the College Football Hall of Fame and one comprised of
select members of the media. Members of these panels include: Archie Manning, Lou Holtz, Vince
Dooley, Ronnie Lott, Archie Griffin; and famed sports analysts including, Kirk Herbstreit, Stewart
Mandel and Tim Brando. Winners are ultimately determined using the following voting weight:
Fans 20%, College Football Hall of Fame 55%, and Media 25%
January 9: The 2011 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award winners will be announced in advance of the BCS championship game in New Orleans.
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.
2001 TEAM ENSHRINED
• September 24th was a special day for the 2001 Division II national championship team as that squad was inducted into the UND Athletics Hall of Fame during a special ceremony at the Alerus Center.
•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 TD 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.
• UND’s 53-point outburst against Black Hills State in the Potato Bowl exceeded its point total of 52 from the first three games of the season. It is also the highest-scoring output by a GWC team in a contest this season.
• Junior Erik Mersereau (Port Washington, Wis.) ranks second nationally in punt return average at 22.4 ypr. He had five for 94 yards against Black Hills State, including a 40-yarder that he nearly sprung for his second return touchdown of the season. He had a 79-yard punt return for a score at Idaho (Sept. 10).
• The seven touchdowns (six rushing, one defensive) against Black Hills State also surpassed the team’s total of six from the first three games.
• Senior Johnnie Daniels, Jr., (Miami, Fla.) returned a fumble 28 yards for a score on the first play from scrimmage, marking the second straight week a touchdown had been scored on the game’s first play. Fresno State connected on an 86-yard pass play (Sept. 24).
• The fumble return for a score was the first for the Sioux since the 2007 season when Curtis Dublanko ran one back five yards for a score against St. Cloud State.
• Junior Erik Mersereau (Port Washington, Wis.) 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).
• Just 15 games into his career, Hardin is only three TD receptions away from cracking UND’s career top 10 list. He has two on the season and his first - a 54-yard reception at Idaho - was also the first touchdown pass of Bradley’s career.
• 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 (Ankeny, Iowa) 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.
• Miller is a perfect 6-for-6 on field goals this season.
• Eight Fighting Sioux players made their first career starts in the season opener vs. Drake (Sept. 1): Damon Andrews (LB), Justin Belotti (SS), Joey Bradley (QB), Daryl Brown (CB), Darren Deneui (LT), Cordero Finley (LB), Brandon Quesenberry (RT) and Kenny Watkins (CB). Andrews and Brown were single-handedly responsible for UND’s two turnovers in the contest. Andrews recovered a fumble in the third quarter and Brown added an interception in the fourth. Both were the firsts of their respective careers.
• Johnnie Daniels (LB), Chris Hall (CB), Blair Towsend (WR) joined the list of first-time starters at Idaho, while Jake Miller (RB) earned his first career start in the victory over Black Hills State.