GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The North Dakota football team wraps up non-conference play this Saturday as they travel to Vermillion to take on South Dakota in what will be the only matchup of ranked opponents in the FCS this weekend.
UND moved back into the top 10 of the STATS FCS and FCS Coaches’ polls, landing in the No. 10 spot in both. South Dakota charged into the polls for the first time since the final week of the 2011 season compliments of a 2-0 start, including a 35-27 win at FBS-foe Bowling Green last Saturday. The Coyotes were ranked No. 23 in both polls this week.
Kickoff at the DakotaDome for the 95th meeting between these border rivals is scheduled for 2 p.m. UND owns a 10-7 record against the Coyotes at the indoor stadium that was built in 1979 and leads the all-time series 61-29-5.
• UND was the only Big Sky team to pick up a win in the first weekend of the “Challenge Series” created between the Big Sky and Missouri Valley Football Conference prior to the season. The MVFC won four of the five matchups, which all came on the road.
• The Fighting Hawks saved the league from being blanked in the win column thanks to a shutout of their own as they mashed Missouri State 34-0 in the 52nd-annual Potato Bowl.
• Four games remain in the series with two taking place this week. Besides the UND-USD matchup, Northern Iowa also travels to Southern Utah. The Panthers picked up a 45-38 overtime road win at Cal Poly last Saturday as part of the series.
• With the win over the Bears, UND now owns an 82-23 record in the 16-year-old history of the Alerus Center. The Fighting Hawks are 14-4 at home under fourth-year head coach Bubba Schweigert.
• The blanking of Missouri State was the first for Schweigert as UND’s head coach. He returned the favor from a 38-0 loss dealt to him by the Bears during his first season back in 2014. For the program, the shutout was the first since the 2012 season opener against South Dakota Mines (66-0).
• UND is now 10-0 in home openers during the Division I era, including a 47-44 double-overtime victory against South Dakota in last season’s Potato Bowl. The overall streak is currently at 31-consecutive victories with the last loss coming in 1986 to Texas A&M-Kingsville (67-44).
LAST TIME OUT: (11/11) NORTH DAKOTA 34, MISSOURI STATE 0
In Bubba Schweigert’s third game as head coach at North Dakota back in 2014, UND was on the receiving end of a 38-0 Missouri State victory. Schweigert and the Fighting Hawks exacted a decisive measure of revenge on Saturday afternoon, pounding the Bears 34-0 in the 52nd annual Potato Bowl game.
Eleventh-ranked UND (1-1) broke things open with a 21-point outburst in the second quarter when sophomore wide receiver Noah Wanzek hauled in a pair of touchdown catches and John Santiago added a rushing score. That turned a 3-0 game into a 24-point lead for the home team, sending the Fighting Hawks to their fourth straight Potato Bowl win and their first Potato Bowl shutout since 2004.
The Bears had one serious scoring opportunity, but that was denied by senior Chuck Flowers, who stripped a Missouri State running back at the one-yard line and junior Tanner Palmborg was there to recover the loose ball.
DID I CATCH A NINER IN THERE?
Through two games of the 2017 season, the trio of De’mun Mercer, Travis Toivonen and Noah Wanzek all share the the team lead with nine receptions a piece.
Wanzek was the key figure in the passing attack during the 34-0 blanking of Missouri State, finishing with career-highs in receptions (7), receiving yards (117) and receiving touchdowns (2). The 100-yard receiving game was also the first of Wanzek’s career. He added a career-long, 47-yard catch to help set up his second scoring grab of the game that put UND ahead 17-0.
Wanzek leads the team with 167 yards, while Toivonen has 115 yards to his credit and Mercer has 86. Toivonen led the team with 39 receptions as a true freshman in 2016, while Mercer was the team’s top yardage producer, turning his 28 grabs into 553 yards (19.8 ypc).
NOT THE FIRST TIME
Saturday’s matchup won’t be the first time these two teams have played against each other as ranked foes at the Division I level. Six years ago, both teams were ranked in the FCS Coaches’ poll and playing for a Great West Conference title in Grand Forks in the final regular-season game of the campaign. Ranked No. 22, UND staged a thrilling comeback to knock off the 24th-ranked Coyotes 38-37. The home team scored three unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to erase a 20-point deficit.
The Coyotes fell to 7-4 and 2-2 in league play and have not been ranked in either national poll unti this week. UND finished 8-3 and 3-1 in Greate West Conference play to share the league title with Cal Poly.
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN/TRACK
TV: Midco Sports Network
UND Radio: 96.1 FM (Grand Forks)
Live Video Stream: ESPN3
Live Audio Stream: www.UNDSports.com and UND Sports Mobile
Live Stats: www.GoYotes.com
POTATO BOWL USA HISTORY
• The Potato Bowl was created in 1965 by then UND Athletics Director Len Marti, head coach Marv Helling, assistant football coach Jerry Olson and sports information director Lee Bohnet.
• UND blanked Idaho State 41-0 in the first Potato Bowl game back in 1966 and posted their seventh overall shutout in the 52 years of the contest thanks to a 34-0 victory over Missouri State in this year’s Potato Bowl. The Fighting Hawks now own a 41-11 all-time Potato Bowl record.
• The 47-44 double-overtime victory over South Dakota in the 2016 Potato Bowl marked the first overtime affair in the event. The Fighting Hawks erased a 20-point deficit in the final 18 minutes of the game to force the extra session.
• UND has won four-consecutive Potato Bowls and 21 of the last 24 games dating back to 1994.
UND returns returns home to face Montana State in what will be the program’s final Big Sky opener on Saturday, Sept. 23. The Fighting Hawks held off the Bobcats in last year’s league opener in Bozeman, escaping with a 17-15 victory. After dropping their first three Big Sky games to the Bobcats, UND has won back-to-back in the series that resumed in 2012. The teams had last played in 1983. UND will be an Independent, but play a Big Sky schedule in 2018 and 2019 before joining the Missouri Valley Conference in 2020.
BACK TO NORMAL
A week after allowing Utah to rack up 272 rushing yards in a season-opening loss, the UND defense surrendered only 79 yards to Missouri State in the 34-0 Potato Bowl win.
The fact that Utah rushed for that much yardage was surprising on many fronts. Even though it was an FBS offense, the Utes became just the fourth team since head coach Bubba Schweigert took over the program in 2014 to rush for 200-plus yards in a game. Utah’s 272 is the most rushing yards allowed during his tenure and was the most since Missouri State put up 235 ground yards in the 2014 meeting.
UND is usually the team putting up 200-plus ground yards in a game as Paul Rudolph’s offense has now reached that plateau 18 times over the past three-plus seasons, including a 253-yard effort against the Bears. Those 18 contests include a trio of 400-plus rushing yardage outputs. The Utes’ defense limited UND’s vaunted rushing attack to just 55 yards in the opener -- it’s fewest yards rushing since putting up 67 in last year’s season opener at Stony Brook. Junior Brady Oliveira posted his sixth 100-yard rushing game wit a team-best 164 yards vs. Missouri State. He averaged 10.2 ypc and had a long of 57 yards.
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