To explain the difficulties of stopping the University of Minnesota-Duluth running game, Minot State University defensive coordinator Joe Ford picked up a scouting report and rattled off the sizes of the Bulldogs' massive offensive linemen.
"6-6, 310; 6-4, 315; the center's 6-3, 280," Ford said. "Some big, tall, long kids. Really talented, a very exceptional, well-coached group, so we've got our hands full. The tight end's 6-6, 250 so he's basically another lineman."
The average size of Duluth's five starting linemen is a shade over 6-foot-4 and 296 pounds. They pave the way for a host of ball carriers who gain 240 yards per game.
University of Minnesota-Duluth sophomore running back Austin Sikorski leads a rushing attack that averages 240 yards per game. Photo courtesy of UMD sports information.
Whether the Beavers (1-5) can hang with No. 9 Duluth (5-1) today at Herb Parker Stadium will hinge largely on how well MSU can stop the run.
"You don't average (48) points by accident," MSU head coach Paul Rudolph said. "That's a good, quality offense. They can hurt you a lot of ways, but obviously those big o-linemen and their run game are a concern."
Duluth features three running backs who average more than 38 yards per game, led by sophomore Austin Sikorski (63 per game). In addition to throwing for 209 yards per game, senior quarterback Chase Vogler runs for another 53.
"Austin Sikorski has been kind of our top guy," UMD coach Bob Nielson said. "He did not play last week (due to a minor injury). He'll be back in the lineup this week, but we have three or four guys we all have confidence in and we'll continue to give them opportunities."
The plus-side for the Beavers? They've been strongest against the run this season, allowing an
average of 139 yards on the ground versus 261 through the air.
"It's a running game, and we're a run-stopping team," Ford said. "It gives us a chance."
Sophomore linebacker Casey Weinmann, the Beavers' leader in tackles, said the MSU front seven is looking forward to the test.
"They seem to just come out and run the ball at you," he said. "That's what our defense has really been succeeding at this year, is the run-stopping. Us backers and d-lineman, we're faced with a challenge this week. We've just gotta watch some film and get our assignments down."
Offensively, the play-making ability of MSU wideouts Porter Sturm, Glyn Borel and Wayne Peters have Nielson's attention.
"They certainly have big-play potential and have made a lot of big plays offensively," Nielson said. "You've gotta find a way defensively to contain that big-play potential."
The Beavers' to-do list for pulling the upset is a little longer.
"We're gonna have to do something to neutralize the line of scrimmage as best we can," Rudolph said. "We're gonna have to tackle well. We're gonna have to score some points. It's unrealistic to think that we're gonna shut 'em out."
Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.