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Sioux prepare for a rowdy crowd
UND, South Dakota should have a frenzied atmosphere for Great West Conference opener
A crowd of around 10,000 is expected for Saturday’s game between UND and South Dakota — two teams with a long history that both are in the formative stages of their transition to Division I football.
“It will be awesome on Saturday,” South Dakota coach Ed Meierkort said of the expected DakotaDome atmosphere. “It’s Dakota Days down here. It’s homecoming and I think the game is already sold out. But we’ll let everyone in.”
A buzz has surrounded the South Dakota program since its stunning 41-38 win at Minnesota two weeks ago.
The buzz will continue if the Coyotes can beat the Sioux, a team that has frustrated South Dakota for much of the past two decades.
Since 1990, the Sioux have lost only twice to South Dakota — in 1995 and 2005. What makes UND’s dominance hard to take for the Coyotes is the fact that the Sioux have won a number of close games.
Three of the last four games between the teams have been decided by seven or fewer points, including one overtime UND win.
“It’s been a phenomenal series,” Meierkort said. “We’ve won only one of five games against them since I’ve been here. That’s been frustrating for us.”
Opening league tilt
The game also serves as the Great West Conference opener for both teams, which are 2-2.
And, as transitioning teams to Division I FCS status, a conference championship is the season’s priority for both programs as neither will be eligible for postseason play until 2012.
South Dakota has played three of its first four games on the road, including stops at Central Florida, Minnesota and North Dakota State.
The environments at all three places were difficult, but also served as a learning tool.
South Dakota lost at NDSU 38-16 last week in the Fargodome, which perhaps was the most difficult of the three environments for the Coyotes, Meierkort said.
“It got loud in there,” Meierkort said. “It was much more of a home-field advantage there than it was at either Central Florida or Minnesota. But we’re getting better because of it.”
But both teams are used to playing in domes and the problems they may present.
So far this season, UND has played three of its four games in domes — two at home and one at Idaho’s Kibbie Dome.
The DakotaDome in Vermillion, S.D., however, provides different challenges, UND coach Chris Mussman said.
“The South Dakota fans are right on top of you,” Mussman said. “It’s a unique atmosphere. Ever since I’ve been in coaching, I’ve gone to Vermillion every other year. I always look forward to that trip.”
The game’s intensity the past few years has increased for another reason. The teams are now each other’s biggest rival and compete in the same conference.
“Our kids understand that if you pick a team from North Dakota to beat, it had better be UND,” Meierkort.
By Wayne Nelson, Grand Forks Herald