UND hopes to get rushing attack back on track

By Tom Miller

Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota football team will try to rediscover a high-powered rushing attack this Saturday, a week after running for just 55 yards against Utah.

The Fighting Hawks, who dropped to No. 11 in both FCS polls on Monday, Sept. 4, will try to get the ground game back on track against a Missouri State defense that surrendered 815 yards of total offense to Missouri in Week 1.

UND hosts Missouri State at 4 p.m. at the Alerus Center in the 52nd annual Potato Bowl.

“It was a big learning opportunity for us,” said UND junior John Santiago, who ran for 24 yards in the 36-17 loss to the Utes. “Utah has some big guys on their defensive line and linebacking corps. On the offensive side, I think we did fight hard and did our jobs for the most part. For a first game, there’s going to be a couple of mistakes and mishaps. We want to fix up some of the little details.”

In the three-plus years of UND’s offense under offensive coordinator Paul Rudolph, the Fighting Hawks have run for more than 200 yards 17 times and for more than 400 yards three times.

However, against Utah, UND’s total was the fewest rushing yards the team has had since running for 4 yards against North Dakota State early in 2015.

“We felt going into Utah the strength of their team was on the defensive front and that held true,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “The challenge was moving them. They’re physically strong, but we still felt we could have done better running the football.

“We were really close on a number of run plays when we needed to get our guys into open space. But they’re a fast football team. They could recover.”

UND’s challenge to run the football better moving forward will be hampered by the one major injury suffered in Salt Lake City.

Fullback Kyle Norberg suffered an upper-body injury in the first half and isn’t expected to return until a few weeks into Big Sky Conference play.

UND’s new depth chart now lists junior Tyler Coyne as the starter at fullback, followed by redshirt freshman Brett Finke.

“Losing Kyle is a concern because he’s really adapted well and taken pride in that position,” Schweigert said. “That’s why we have other guys to prepare. This is their time to get an opportunity to execute and work hard.”

Missouri State, which plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, gave up 294 rushing yards to Missouri of the SEC, including 7.2 yards per carry. The Tigers won 72-43 although Missouri led just 48-35 at halftime.

“(MSU) probably gave up more points than they’d like to but it’s a different animal when you play Mizzou,” Schweigert said. “We have to really focus on our preparation. We have an opponent coming in here with a lot of talent.”