UND seeks to regroup, continue Big Sky win streak against Montana State
GRAND FORKS — Simply put, the University of North Dakota football team — a top 10 team at the time — got smacked in the mouth last week.
South Dakota put a 45-7 drubbing on UND, which came into the game ranked No. 10 in the FCS.
It was supposed to be the FCS game of the week in the country. It wasn’t even close.
So, where does that leave UND heading into today’s Big Sky Conference opener against Montana State at the Alerus Center?
“We need to regroup,” said UND coach Bubba Schweigert. “It’s the start of the conference race; you want to get out front. The conference is a big deal. We make a big deal of winning the league because if you win the conference, you’re in the tournament.”
UND has won 11 straight Big Sky games dating back to 2015. Win No. 12 won’t be easy against an 0-2 Montana State team looking to make its mark in the Big Sky.
And the Bobcats want to emulate what UND has done the past two years in building a dominant league team. Montana State is a combined 9-13 the past two seasons after going 8-5 in 2014.
Jeff Choate is in his second season as Montana State’s coach and he watched UND’s ground game have the upper hand in last season’s 17-15 win in Bozeman. UND running backs John Santiago and Brady Oliveira have created headaches for MSU the past two seasons.
“We know these guys run hard,” said Choate. “Stylistically, it’s really different. If (Santiago is) in the backfield and you load up on him too much, he’s going to make you miss. If you don’t load up enough on (Oliveira) he’s going to make you pay the price.
“Those guys are a good complement to one another. When I look at what North Dakota’s done, I think this is Bubba’s fourth year there, you can just see how they’ve recruited to the style they want to play on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. Being a physical, run-oriented team suits them well and you can see the maturity of their program in that regard.”
A big key for UND today will be a good start and discipline.
“We need to stay disciplined,” said Oliveira. “We have to stay away from penalties; that’s hurt us. We have to be assignment-sound and pay attention to details.”
Last week at South Dakota, UND had six first-quarter penalties.
“That really affected us,” said Schweigert.
But the bad stats and bad play were checked at the Memorial Stadium door on Monday.
“The start of the game will be real important,” added Schweigert. “And we want to perform with consistency. That’s been one of our issues this year.”