UND hoping to avoid a letdown
GRAND FORKS — When looking at the University of North Dakota football team’s grueling early-season schedule this year, the discussion always targets the stretch of North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Eastern Washington and UC Davis.
Now that those four games are in the rear-view mirror, a new concern emerges: a letdown.
That’s especially true considering the Fighting Hawks finished the gauntlet of FCS blue bloods with a thrilling 38-36 victory over No. 12 UC Davis — the highest-ranking opponent UND has beaten in the Alerus Center in the Division I era.
UND will try to turn the page Saturday against Idaho State at 2:05 p.m. at Holt Arena in Pocatello.
“We always have a concern about a letdown because we have to handle our emotions after a win,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “There were lots of ups and downs and excitement.
“After a game that’s really exciting, it’s like everybody else, there’s a 24-hour rule. We better get over it and move on with our preparation. I saw good signs (Monday) at practice, but that needs to continue throughout the week. We need to respect this opponent. They’re a very good football team.”
If Schweigert needed any help keeping his team humble, the national Top 25 polls gave him some assistance when they were released Monday.
The Fighting Hawks are not in the Top 25 in the coaches or media poll. Strangely enough, UND has beat both the No. 24-ranked team (UC Davis) and the No. 25-ranked team (Sam Houston State) in the STATS FCS media poll.
The Hawks should also be dialed in on an opponent that seemingly always gives UND fits.
UND and Idaho State have played five times in the Division I era (2008, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018). UND has won all three games in Pocatello, and the Bengals have won the two in Grand Forks. None of the matchups have been decided by more than one score.
Idaho State put a damper on UND homecoming a year ago with a 25-21 win in the Alerus. UND led 14-3 in the first quarter and didn’t trail until the last eight minutes of the game when Mitch Gueller caught a 67-yard touchdown pass from brother Tanner Gueller for the final margin.
The Bengals appear to be a dangerous team again in 2019, despite a 2-3 record. Idaho State eventually lost to No. 6 Montana 59-20 last Saturday but the Bengals led 17-0 early.
Idaho State’s losses have been to FBS Utah, No. 10 Northern Iowa and the Grizzlies.
The Bengals have a new quarterback this season in Matt Struck, who has thrown for 773 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception in three games. Veterans return at the offensive skill spots with running back Ty Flanagan (304 yards) and wide receiver Michael Dean (300 yards).
“They gave us trouble last year on homecoming so it’s expected now … a dogfight,” UND quarterback Nate Ketteringham said. “We have to play the way we did in the first half against Davis.”