UND looks to right the ship at UC Davis
By Tom Miller
Forum News Service
DAVIS, Calif. — The University of North Dakota football program flew to the West Coast on Friday afternoon, Sept. 29, but more accurately limped to California.
UND limped, both because the Fighting Hawks are trying to regroup from a pair of concerning lopsided losses but also because the team has a mounting list of injuries.
UND, unranked for the first time all season, will try to fight its way back into the Big Sky Conference race Saturday, Sept. 30, against University of California-Davis, a program that hopes to be on the rise under first-year coach Dan Hawkins.
The Fighting Hawks had a players-only meeting to kick off the week and senior quarterback Keaton Studsrud likes what he’s seen at Memorial Stadium.
“I thought we brought a lot more energy after the Sunday meeting, where we talked about what it’s going to take to make a run at the playoffs,” Studsrud said. “I think there’s more sense of urgency. I thought we had a good week and guys took some steps, especially the young guys.”
UND’s injury report lists at least 10 one-time starters, including three all-Big Sky Conference picks and two All-Americans.
Already missing All-American cornerback Deion Harris, who suffered a season-ending injury before the season started, UND’s secondary could be without Cole Reyes, who missed most of last Saturday’s home loss to Montana State.
On offense, UND’s latest concerning injuries have struck at tackle where UND’s Week 1 senior starters A.J. Stockwell and Mat Cox are questionable this week after missing the Bobcats game.
As a result, UND could start two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior up front — a unit that’s going to be asked to kickstart a struggling running game that still features the much-decorated duo of John Santiago and Brady Oliveira.
“We had a number of younger players playing in their first action extensively (against MSU),” UND head coach Bubba Schweigert said. “We expect them to improve this week. Usually you see big improvement from Game 1 to Game 2. For a lot of these guys, (the loss to MSU) was Game 1. We’re going to keep challenging our guys to get better and make our football team better.”
Defensively, UND is focused on stopping the run — a staple in the Schweigert Era that has been absent thanks in part to UND’s injuries at inside linebacker.
UND has given up more than 45 points each of the past two weeks.
“It’s uncomfortable for us,” Schweigert said. “We’ve been very good at defending the run here, and we haven’t given up points like this in back-to-back weeks in a long time. It can be frustrating. When you’re frustrated, you can lose focus. We discussed that with our team. We need to stay in the moment. We’re really preaching to our guys to stay focused on the task at hand.”