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Scheduling creates headaches for UND
The University of North Dakota competes in a five-team conference. That’s reason No. 1 why football scheduling has been difficult for the Sioux during the past few seasons.
UND also is completing a difficult five-year transition to Division I athletics. That’s reason No. 2 why scheduling has been one of the biggest headaches in the Sioux athletic department. UND simply doesn’t hold a lot of cards as it tries to schedule suitable opponents.
The result of reasons No. 1 and No. 2? Less-than-ideal schedules that included back-to-back road games against FBS programs this season and in 2010. However, the headaches will ease next season when the Sioux join the Big Sky Conference.
The Sioux play at Fresno State on Saturday, a week after playing at Idaho. And Fresno, which had No. 11 Nebraska on the ropes last week, could be UND’s biggest test at the FBS level — even more demanding than the challenge the Sioux faced in 2009 at Texas Tech.
“Playing those games back-to-back is tough but we did it last year,” UND coach Chris Mussman said, referring to games at Idaho and Northern Illinois to open the season. “In a perfect world, we’d play one (FBS game) every year for a lot of reasons. No. 1, you put our kids in those environments and let them enjoy the atmosphere of playing up a level. Also, the athletic department needs to generate the revenue those games can bring in.”
UND will receive a $250,000 guarantee from Fresno State. The guarantee from the Idaho game was $125,000.
But the Sioux haven’t been deflated by the demanding road games.
“Our kids haven’t complained about it at all, even when we bused out to Northern Illinois last year,” Mussman said. “This is a good group of guys. They’re not going to complain. They’ll just come to work and give us everything they have.”
The Sioux will have to give everything they have against Fresno, which has a deceiving 0-2 record. The Bulldogs lost to PAC 12 member Cal before losing 42-29 at Nebraska.
“It’s probably the best football team we’ve faced in my time here,” Mussman said. “I would say they’re better than the Texas Tech team we played in 2009.”
It’s a game, however, that still intrigues a number of Sioux players, even though UND will be a huge underdog at Bulldog Stadium.
“It’s pretty much what I live for, the big crowd and stuff like that,” said Sioux sophomore cornerback Chris Hall. “I’m pretty excited about it and I can say that other guys are pretty excited, too.”
UND led Idaho 14-10 at the half, but a lack of execution by UND on both sides of the ball in the second half played a role in the Vandals’ 44-14 win in Moscow.
“It was a good lesson,” said Sioux junior safety Eric Mersereau. “We know we can play with these guys. We knew it from the start, but our first half (at Idaho) really reinforced that. Now we just have to stick to it and finish it out.”
By: Wayne Nelson, Forum Communications