UND back in the playoffs

By Tom Miller

Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS — For just the second time in the Division I era, the University of North Dakota football program is in the FCS playoffs.

The Fighting Hawks (7-4) will play Nicholls State (8-4) on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Thibodaux, La., in a first-round matchup.

The game will be shown on ESPN3.

“We’ve got to work hard to learn what we can about where we’re going and most importantly about Nicholls,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “I followed their game the other night, and it sure seems they’re very explosive. We have a lot of work to do.”

The winner of UND and Nicholls State will play at No. 1 North Dakota State.

UND’s coaches, administrators and support staff watched the bracket reveal in a private event at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

“I’m really excited to be in and happy for our players and really happy for our staff,” Schweigert said. “Those guys work really hard. As I said yesterday after the game, seven weeks ago was a low spot and valley in our season. We had to pull together, believe in each other and keep growing and maturing as a team.”

A group of UND players went to Buffalo Wild Wings in Grand Forks and erupted in cheers when the Hawks were announced.

“It felt great,” UND senior linebacker Donnell Rodgers said. “It was fun. We’re excited. A lot of these guys are my brothers. The seniors have been together for so long that we’ve really became family. We’re all ecstatic.”

On Saturday, UND beat Southern Utah 36-18 to finish the regular season 7-4 and 6-0 in the Alerus Center.

The Fighting Hawks have only played in the FCS playoffs once, losing to Richmond in a second-round game at the Alerus in 2016.

Nicholls State won the Southland Conference title with a wild 28-27 road win at Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday night.

Nicholls and UND have one common opponent. Both teams played Sam Houston State.

Nicholls lost to Sam Houston 17-0 in Huntsville, Texas. UND beat Sam Houston for the second-straight year with a 27-23 win over the Bearkats on Sept. 14 in Grand Forks.

The Colonels are led by senior quarterback Chase Fourcade, who has thrown for 2,720 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s also ran for 749 yards and 11 touchdowns.